I don’t want it make it a thing that I have to explain why I was in the McDonald’s. The short version is that my upstairs neighbour finally got a password for her wifi and McDonald’s has free newspapers. I used to go to the diner, Vesta Lunch on Dupont, but everybody always tries to talk to you, and it’s just a bunch of old fucks who I don’t want to know, and the one Dominican guy who works there started to remember my name and I didn’t like that.
That day I was waiting in line, hoping to get in before the breakfast switch. Except this is the Galleria Mall McDonald’s so it isn’t a line, just a bunch of people trying to cut ahead whenever they can. You gotta be careful because there are a lot of old guys who just do not give a shit. They waited 70 years for their turn so they don’t give a fuck about yours.
So, I’m in line and there’s this one big dude, a real fat motherfucker, in a nice suit ordering. Stuck out, you know? He’s the type of guy who makes so much that he doesn’t give a shit if anybody gives a shit about him eating at McDonald’s. He gets a coffee and his food and he puts it down to get some napkins and shit and this other dude, out of nowhere, comes by, grabs Fattie’s bag of food and just bolts out the fucking door. Nobody’s really sure what the fuck just happened. It just buzzes through the place and we all look over to the guy who just looks like he pissed himself. And he starts to cry.
Now, I wanted to laugh, and I did. I felt bad and other people were doing the same thing, turning away and trying not to laugh, but laughing anyways, and trying to find other people to laugh with. And the lady at the counter says that he can have another one, it’s okay, and she gets it ready, but the guy is just there, crying, his face is all wet and snot is starting to run and it’s just fucking gross and I just stopped laughing. Like a minute passes. Nobody was smiling. People tried to make the guy feel better, but he just wouldn’t fucking stop crying.
Nobody is looking at nobody. Finally somebody gets another meal for him and walks out from behind the counter and hands it to him. And he just kinda takes it and stands there for a few seconds, heaving, taking in air, trying to right himself, taking those ragged ass breathes kids take when they’ve been crying forever. He just shuffles out of the place and the second he’s out we’re all still quiet wondering what the fuck and people start to laugh again. It was fucking weird.
I get my food and my paper and try to sit down, but everybody in the place is tense. And new people start to come in, and they’re not tense, but they can feel it, and they get tense too. It just got to be too much. I took the paper and left.
When we were kids we used to call this place the Diarrhea Mall. Down the street you had The Mall and Galleria was where you went to get shit if you were poor. We’d go down to Dufferin and we could check out HMV to see what the new shit was, or we’d go to Foot Locker and plan out the kicks we’d buy when we had good ass jobs. We were all broke as fuck, and Galleria just brought that shit back up.
I told Ze once that I hated going to the Galleria because it feels like somebody built the place and just said, “Fuck it,” and left. It’s all dim like the lights have never been changed. The game where you grab shit with the claw is full of old candy they don’t make anymore. There’s no sound when you go in, only the echo of old people walking around. They have a trading card machine that has Upper Deck packs from ‘95. So whenever I come to see Ze or Richie I wait outside until they’re ready. Going inside just makes me fucking tired.
“Do you guys have envelopes?”
“We have them in packs of 50.”
“I just need one, do you got one?”
“No sir, just in packs.”
“You’re a post office. You don’t—you don’t just have one I can buy?”
“I’m sorry, sir, all we have are the packs.”
“How much is that?”
“50 for 4 dollars.”
“Fuck it, fine.”
“Debit only on purchases more than $5.”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
“You can get two packs.”
“I don’t want 100 fucking envelopes! I just want 1! Fuck this!”
“You read this? They’re saying it’s been 28 months since it last snowed. They’re calling it the Neverending Spring.”
Ze looked up from his jeweler magnifying glass.
“Why everyone worry? It’s July.” He picked up one of the necklaces I nabbed and put it on his scale. His office is tiny, just enough room for his desk full of tools, a safe, and a fuckton of framed photos of his fuckton huge family. There’s a big box of wine too on the safe and he always has a glass of it on the table. He offers me some, but I can’t stand the shit. Most of the deals happen outside with Anna, his daughter, but I’ve known Jose since I was a pup, so he lets me in. He was old even when I was a kid. Now he’s ancient, but he’s still alright, just with a bad back, no fucking hair, and shaky hands.
“I don’t read Canadian newspapers. Everybody so worried.”
I pointed to a laminated plaque on the wall. “What about that one?” I leaned it and started reading, “Looking for squid, octopus, pro—pro…”
“Pro-whatever, pig’s ears, or fresh sardines? You’ll find them all at North America’s first ethnic food plaza in Toronto’s west end.”
Ze looked up at the thing. “A present. Newspaper from 1972. About Gallerias. From my daughter’s husband. He don’t know me very good.”
Ze went back to looking at the odds and ends I brought. It was good stuff, and I knew that Ze only fucked me a bit on this. If I wanted top dollar I could play the Bathurst boys off each other, let spite get me a good deal, but that “Fistful of Dollars” shit takes up my whole day.
“You were around then?”
“Same house on St.Clarens. It’s a nice house.” Ze set up three piles. He’d pick up something from the first pile and move it to the rejects or the good shit. By now I know a few things about jewelry so I tried not to waste Ze’s time with gold plated knockoff shit.
“Sell it Ze. Retire.”
Ze started to laugh, one of those laughs where the other guy knows more than you. “Look in the papers. How is Portugal?” He looked straight at me. “What would I do there?” He looked at a pair of earring, and tossed them into the junk pile.
“Go to the beach or some shit. They got topless beaches there, right?”
“How old are you Danny?”
There were only two piles now. “Not me. I have an old heart. $5000.”
“Fuck you Ze. 8.”
Ze sighed and looked at the pile again.
Ze lifted his phone and pressed a button. He talked Portuguese and slammed the phone down. “Anna will have it for you at the front.”
He started shoo-ing me away with his hand. “Yes, yes. 6500.”
“Thanks Ze.” I stuck out my hand and he stood up, shook it, and got his tired ass back down.
“Don’t forget your newspaper.”
I grabbed it off his desk. “You should get out of this fucking place. Just saying, topless beaches are better than gold.”
“I like gold because it doesn’t rot. Only gets better with time.”
I pointed to his glass. “What about wine?”
He picked it up in his shaking hand. “Even wine, if you wait long time, turns to piss.”
“Alright,. Got some cash. I’ll take a pack.”
“That will be $4, sir.”
“Sir, I can’t take a $100 bill.”
“It’s money. What do you mean you can’t take it?”
“I just don’t have that sort of change, sir.”
“Isn’t it illegal for you not to take it?”
“Sir, sir, I cannot break a hundred. I just don’t have that sort of money.”
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
I went to the LCBO and grabbed a few tallboys of Coors Light and waited on a bench out back for Richie. He was working at the bank until one so I had a few beers to kill the time. It was quiet. There was nobody on the soccer field behind the mall, and the parking lot my eyes were on was empty. The wind was chill and the chain fence behind me was the only noise you could really hear. Tall security dude eyed me every once and a while, but he left me be. I was just drinking.
Richie got out of there just about when he was supposed, all business professional, and sat down on the bench.
I passed him a paper bag with a beer and the cash.
“Jesus. Did you wrap this is newspaper? You didn’t have an envelope?” He slid the can out and tossed it back.
“Bitch at the post office wouldn’t sell me one.”
“You know who has envelopes? The bank. Whatever.” He slid the can out of the bag, and tossed it back. “I’m good.”
“I thought you’d need one after working in the pit.”
I could tell he needed it more than wanted it. He grabbed it back, popped it in the bag and snapped it open. Then he looked in. “Holy shit. How much is it?”
“Altogether it came to 8, so your cut—”
“2000. Got you. Fuck. Didn’t think she had that much in her.”
“ Jewelry. The rest of the shit in her place was alright, but that’s what got us paid.”
He counted the hundreds in the bag before moving them into his suit jacket inside pocket. Richie and I grew up together. Both went to St. Sebastian’s and we both got along because we weren’t Porkchops. Then we went to St. Mary’s. We didn’t get much farther than that. He got the job at the bank straight outta school, and I just floated around.
“$2000. More than I make at this fucking place.” He took a sip. “The branch is so busy that businesses don’t want to deal with the lines and go to other branches or just go to other banks all together. The only new blood are people in the crack towers down the way looking for nickle and dime accounts. You remember what Bloor was like 10 years ago?”
I nodded. “It was shit then.”
“Yeah, exactly, and now it isn’t and we could’ve been on that instead of holding on to a bunch of old people holding on to a bunch of money.”
“Like a bunch of fucking…pharaohs in ancient Egypt. They’d be buried with their gold.”
Richie just looked at me. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Not a lot.” I wasn’t really lying either.
This is all we ever talked about. How it used to be shit and it’s still shit except the parts that ain’t shit. It was weird that Richie seemed to be the only other guy from the neighbourhood who could see it. Everybody else just seemed to be okay with it. There was a way things were.
I turned to Richie and asked, “So is there any more work? It’s July, right? Lots of these people go on vacation back to the old country. Any addresses?”
Richie drank a bit and just stared out, not looking at me straight.
“I’m thinking I might cool it for a bit.”
I didn’t know exactly what to think of that. “Where is this coming from?”
He still wasn’t looking at me.
“I’m going to post out. Get out of this branch. Might not happen today or tomorrow, but soon. I’m getting out of this place. I’m sick of being here. This branch is going to die one day, and I don’t my career to go down with it.”
I leaned back on the bench and I don’t know what pissed me off more. I didn’t get why he wanted to fuck with a good thing.
“What the fuck does that have to do with us? How does any of that matter? You just give me the address and I knock the place and we both get paid. It’s good, clean work.”
He shouted, “I don’t want it to come back to me!”
I stood up and kinda staggered a bit, everything rushing to my head. “It ain’t coming back to you. How the fuck does it come back to you? I’m the one who’s doing everything. You get paid, paid pretty fucking good, for your information. That’s all you fucking do.”
“I just don’t want to do this. I’m just over it.”
“Over it? Over it? What the fuck does that mean?”
“It’s just not…” He stops and he turns away from me and says, “It’s just not me anymore.”
Something just got me then. “You too good for this?” I pushed him. “Huh? Are you? It ain’t enough that I’m doing the work?” I pushed him again and spilled some beer out. “Gimme back the fucking money.”
He got up and tried pushing me back. “Fuck off.”
Neither one of us can fight, so we just pushed each other, spilling our beer, and crashing into the fence. I tried to reach into his suit jacket, trying to get the cash back. I was so fucking angry and I don’t know why. Richie took a swing and hit my shoulder, and I dropped the Coors, cracking it open on the asphalt.
“Heyheyheyheyhey, break it up!” The tall ass security guard yanked me back, almost ripping my t-shirt at the collar. I fell on my ass. Guard turned to Richie. “Is this guy bothering you?”
We were both panting and huffing and puffing and we looked at each other, soaked in beer and sweat. “No. Not anymore.” Richie walked off, leaving his beer, but taking his money like an asshole.
The guard looked at me and said something about getting off the property, which I’ve heard before and I’ll hear again. I picked up my beer and walked to the other side of the fence, opened up another beer and waited on the bench, drank and sat and kept waiting for the night. The sun set and streetlights came on, but it still felt the same even though it all looked different. I crushed my can, walked over, threw it on the roof, and walked back to the bench for another beer.