Sunday, 19 February 2012

Big Man by Cathi Bond

Parliament St & Gerrard St; photo credit: Liis Toliao

We called him Big Man. Everyone was afraid of him, partly because he was over six feet tall, but mostly because when he was drinking he turned mean. Right now Big Man was hammered, staggering around the parkette at Gerrard and Parliament, having an argument with an invisible enemy, somebody who lived in his mind. I hid in an alley waiting on Charlene who was crammed in the phone booth trying to talk a friend into letting us crash. Ever since Cope got sent up we’d been on the run. Charlene had a green garbage bag in one hand and the receiver in the other. She had everything she owned in that bag. When I first came to Toronto I had my mother’s monogrammed Samsonite suitcase. Now I had a garbage bag too.
My forehead was hot. I didn’t need a thermometer to know the fever was high. Tilting my head back, I caught the cool water on my cheeks. Steady drizzle threatened to turn into a full out summer storm. There was a loud smash. Big Man had thrown his bottle into the centre of an empty fountain. Fury spent and booze gone, Big Man collapsed on the park bench, flopped over and passed out. Charlene came through the pay phone doors, shaking her head. That meant her friend wouldn’t take us in. We had nowhere to go and it was only a question of time before Hermann found me and killed me.
“Maybe Lily will lend me some money,” I said. It was my last chance.

This is the second excerpt to appear on from NightTown, a coming of age novel by Cathi Bond about the mean streets of Toronto during the 1970s. This scene happens around Parliament and Gerrard Streets. Cathi's selections in their entirety will link three distinct neighbourhood booths that
stand as tactile pieces of physical memory from a day when drug deals frequently went down over public phones.

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