"Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property." - John Locke
It was a cold, somewhat windy Friday morning, time for Marty to go back to work. "Back to this," he thought solemnly.
The three days he had off were spent mostly exploring the Junction and the surrounding areas. On Tuesday, after going up briefly to his dad's place to get some more clothes and an alarm clock and toiletries, he went around Dundas Street, from one end at Keele all the way west to Jane Street. He noticed that the more west he went after a certain point the staler the area became; it looked more rundown and even suburban once he passed the neat shops. The type of people he saw on the street changed as he moved along as well, going from people closer to his own age (roughly late twenties to mid thirties) to an older, less English speaking crowd. Once at Jane he turned south and kept going until he reached Bloor and the always pleasant Bloor West Village area. By this time it was getting dark so he only spent a bit of time at a coffee shop and then made his way home.
The next day he spent all in High Park, not far from the Bloor West Village, wandering around, smoking a joint deep in the woods, bringing a laptop to write a chapter of his book, and then going all the way south to the lakefront to catch the sunset when the day was ending. On Thursday he went eastward from his area and walked all the way along the Junction Triangle, turning back after reaching Roncesvalles Avenue, and then heading south and going through the big old houses of the West Bend. Every house here looked like a church, a masonic temple or a cottage. Once he reached Annette Street he saw actual churches and a former masonic temple (but no cottages).
During the evening Marty decided to clean up the common spaces of the ground floor. He swept first, getting rid of big dust clumps, bits of food, glass shards, plastic bits, and other, less recognizeable pieces of trash. He also mopped the kitchen, the washroom, and his bedroom in vinegar, leaving a somewhat putrid smell. It was worth it, he figured, so long as the roaches hated the smell as well.
Friday came upon him in no time, but he relished his time off. This week he was working days, a bunch of eight hour shifts, so at least he had more time to spend at home than the week before. He got up earlier than usual and headed to Tim's, grabbed a coffee, and then went back to his house. The dawn was cold, but he took his coffee in the backyard on the little porch area just outside of Jordan's room.
"I wish it was the beginning of Spring instead of the beginning of Fall," he thought as he looked about the cluttered yard. "Then I could be planting. I'm sure I will just have to move a few things out the way and Ivan will let me have the sunnier parts of the yard to grow. I will grow corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, peas, maybe even some cantaloupe or even watermelon."
Noticing some of the objects about the yard got him thinking. "Okay, what do we have here? A pile of clear plastic shower curtains over there; some random metal poles, just a bit longer than I am tall; discarded window glass, the whole glass (what is Ivan storing all this stuff for?); these big wooden planks; at least three doors, glass doors with plastic frames. An entire glass table." He had an idea. He would have to ask Ivan first.
Once he was at work Marty kept thinking of his plan. Trevor wasn't working this time, instead it was the security supervisor Bob, so Marty had no one to share his plans with. Bob wasn't too keen on Marty and the feeling was mutual. Marty wasn't sure why, but he wondered if Bob didn't think Marty was suited to the job here. Marty was used to working in a less formalised environment. He was professional, sure, but had never worked at somewhere as prestigious as a Bay Street condo. The fact that he couldn't sit down most of the time, drink coffee at the front desk, or even cross his arms while he stood were all examples of "prestige" Bay Street style, apparently.
"Hey Marty!" called a woman's voice, interrupting his thoughts. He turned to see Erin, feeling a slight wobliness in his knees. She was wearing a gold summer dress that showed her tanned shoulders, complimenting her hair perfectly.
"Hi," he called back, feeling like a nervous teenager. "How are you?"
Erin came up to the front desk and smiled, making Marty feel warm inside.
"I'm doing okay, how about you?"
"Erin!" a deeper voice called. Marty felt a sinking feeling as he noticed that Mr. Franco was at the door to the elevator lobby, leaning on the door, holding it half open. She turned about, then back to Marty, gave a slight smile and then went to join Franco. Marty sighed once she was out of sight, staring at the security desk counter.
"Marty, I'm going on patrol, hold down the desk," Bob said, shaking him out of his trance.
"Okay," Marty said quietly. The west entrance opened up and the building superindentent, Matthew, another person Marty wasn't too fond of, stepped inside. He came to the front desk and placed his bicycle helmet on the desk in front of Marty.
"Ah man, it's rough out there," Matthew said. "I almost slipped on the ride down here. It's only early September and there's already ice on the roads, do you believe it?"
"Really?" Marty asked, wondering how Erin could have been wearing such a thin dress in such weather.
"Yeah, I almost splattered on Yonge Street. Here, I'm taking my bike down to the parking lot, level one. Anything going on maintenance-wise?"
"No," said Marty. "The night shift told me there are no new problems."
"Good," he said and left for the elevator lobby.
Shortly after Marty noticed someone else with a bicycle leaving the lobby. It was another resident, a woman around Marty's age he had spoken to only a few times.
"See you, security!" called the young woman. Marty didn't remember her name, but decided to give her a courteous warning regarding the bicycling conditions.
"Have a nice bike ride, but be sure to watch out for black ice!"
"What did you say?" came a man's voice to his left. Marty turned and saw a couple, a black man and woman. The man turned to the woman. "Do you believe what he just said?"
Marty scowled as he thought back to Bob waging his finger in his face. "You're on very, very thin ice, Marty! You're damn lucky they agreed not to sue!"
"I said black ice!" Marty protested. "Not black guys!"
"That's not what they told me!"
He recieved a formal final warning. One more major problem, Bob had explained, and Marty would be out looking for a new job. "Very thin ice indeed," thought Marty as the bus came to a stop and he got off. "Thin black ice!"
On the way home Marty nearly slipped, cursing as he regained his balance. He hated his job, he needed a new one, but the thought of going over fresh training all over again made him reconsider. With a security license he could work almost anywhere, but he didn't want to go to a company, but unfortunately that was where most security jobs were. His present job was in-house, that is, he had been hired directly by the building. Companies didn't treat employees too well, and most of them, he knew, were jokes of companies that were barely legal in some of their operations.
He thought of Erin as he turned down his street, making him feel a little better. Then he thought of Harvey Franco and felt worse again. As he opened the front door to the tiny little landing he coughed a bit at the dusty air.
"Maybe I should move out of here?" he asked himself. "Nah, I just got here. Stick it out, see what's going on first. Plus, I'd need to get together first and last rent, which I don't have. I mean, lots of places got cockroaches, the place just needs to be watched over better." His clean-up on Thursday was a good start.
When Marty reached the kitchen he was pleased to see a cleaner space than he had that morning. The sinks were clean, no more gunk or dirty pots in the basin, and even the oven too looked better-ish. He went into the washroom and noticed that the sink and toilet had been cleaned. The bathtub still had a nasty dark stain on it though, but looked slightly clearer than it had before. Marty was glad to see that the place looked better at least.
As he went back into the kitchen the walls started shaking. A train was passing by. He held onto the door-frame of the washroom. A single light bulb dropped from overhead, smashing on the table and sending pieces over the floor.
"Ah shit," muttered Marty once the train sped by, the sound of its engine fading away slowly. He went into his room, rolled a joint and then headed out to get some groceries. "I'll sweep that up when I get back. Chores are funner when you're high." He was tired from work and wanted to unwind a bit.
His search for work on craig'slist was interrupted by the train. He had to stop his mug from falling off the desk. A crashing noise came from the kitchen and he cursed, envisioning one of his other mugs falling from the counter by the sink. He had just washed them all and placed them to air dry.
"First job, then second or third paycheque and I am out," he thought once the train sped away. He downed the rest of his green tea. For a minute he sat down and continued the job hunt, but then felt the need to go out and clean up the mess. He and Jordan had been cleaning all day so he couldn't let it go to hell so soon, even if he was more determined than ever to leave the place. The new younger guy, Marty, had made them want to help keep the place clean. Jordan and him met outside shortly after Marty had left the house in the morning and the two started inspecting the slightly cleaner common spaces. Jordan felt guilt-tripped, even though Richard doubted that it was Marty's intention. When it came to messes Richard never left his own things around the kitchen without cleaning them and putting them in order. Jordan was the same, but both men rarely did anything beyond that. Common messes stayed the way they were for months at a time. The landlord wasn't about to clean them. Each man was responsible for his own things and his own room, that was it. Both men knew it was mostly Nicky who was the slob.
Jordan, this being a day off from work, had started cleaning the oven, wiping it down with dish-washing liquid. Richard had decided to take out the garbage from the kitchen and washroom, taking the bags out to the front of the house and placing them beside the over-flowing garbage bin. The kitchen didn't have a can, just a bag slung on an undersink cupboard knob. Jordan took the washroom next while Richard wiped down the refrigerator's exterior and dusted the thin white hutch just beside, and slightly in front of Jordan's door.
Richard now looked about the clean kitchen, going to the washroom to grab a broom and dustpan. The floor was littered with a broken light bulb, not a mug, and the room was slightly darker. When the shards of glass were in the garbage Richard noticed the cockroaches, a good six of them, moving about the walls and floor. The nearest one scurried up the table as if it wanted to present itself to Richard. For a second he wanted to bring the dustpan down on it. He crushed one that way once, remembering a thick crunching noise and the innards of the thing spewing all over the floor.
"Nah," he ignored them, realizing that the lost lightbulb had brought down the overall light to a level more tolerable for roaches. He didn't care. Nothing could be done about them, not without Ivan hiring someone and Richard knew he would never do that, not unless he raised the rent.
He went back to his room to carry on the search for employment. His financial situation was bleak; a mere $1,000 in the bank and nothing else. No credit card, no RSVP's, insurance, unclaimed taxes. It had been three months since his last paycheque; that time he had worked with Jordan for five months, grateful though he was. Before that he had a shitty telemarketing job for almost a year.
Lately Richard had lowered his standards at least one level a week, finding only a few one or two day jobs under the table on occassion. One week he did some lawn mowing down in Royal York in Etobicoke, the lawns of the mansions each taking more than an hour.
"What do we got?" he asked, lowering the page with the mouse tip. "Grave-digger; Gold-digger; Specialist Farmer; Hemp Store Associate—oh shit," Richard laughed. "I'm looking at Vancouver's Craiglist."
He backtracked on his browser and pulled up the Greater Toronto Area version. "Okay, so, I'll pretty much do factory line work or street-cleaner for some small buisinessess now."
Richard came across the usual though, security jobs were plentiful (he had no license), a few others, mostly serving jobs looking for waitresses only, were also newly added. Nothing else, nothing Richard could do, had been added since he last checked that morning.
"The search continues," he sighed. Another train passed, a long freight from what Richard could tell, almost taking five whole minutes to get by. Once it was fading away he heard foot falls in the kitchen.
Marty felt warmer once inside, getting feeling back in his hands. The plastic handles of the grocery bags dug into his grasping fingers, causing the tips of them to go white and numb. The freezing wind produced a kind of situational anasthetic that made it just barely bearable.
"Ow—hey guys," he said, noticing Richard and Jordan sitting at the table. He shut his eyes, breathing in deep. "Man, it's friggin' cold!"
"Freak weather," said Jordan.
Richard chuckled. "Yeah, global warming my ass."
"Heh," said Marty passively, picking up the bags again, bringing them to the top of the table. "You believe in global warming, or rather, uh, climate change, of course, right?"
The British man nodded. "Oh yeah, Earth's in big shit. This cold is because of it, probably all that arctic ice coming down."
Marty laughed, digging into the contents of one of the bags. "Here, speaking of big shit, I got some stuff to deal with the roaches."
"Nah," said Jordan. "I think only an exterminator will get rid of them." Richard nodded.
Marty sighed, bringing out the first thing, a bag of catnip. "You think so?"
Jordan nodded, leaning back on his chair, looking comfortable enough. "I know from experience. We had them back in our apartment, nothing worked."
"Did you try catnip?" asked Marty, holding the bag up. A little calico kitten was on the cover.
Jordan shook his head. "No, can't say I did. We hired an exterminator."
Richard shook his head. "Cruel."
"It's them or me that's going," said Jordan, smiling. Marty hadn't noticed how big the man was before. He was barrel-chested with a big belly that was actually totally proportionate to the rest of him. He had the frame of a bear, but the beefiness of a bull. Marty was thinking he looked more like a bouncer than an office worker.
"It's them going," he said in reply. "Not us."
"Not you maybe," laughed Jordan.
"Yeah, if you don't like your room-mates, then move!" added Richard. "Although it's not like I can move from here anyway."
"Yeah, so let's get them to move," said the younger man, pulling out the next item from the right bag. "So here we got more vinegar. I'll wipe down the counters with it later."
"Yeah, we wiped the place earlier today," said Richard.
"I noticed the place looks better. Nice," added Marty. "I was reading that that was the best thing to keep them out. I'm not going to eat in my room as long as they're here."
"Yeah, they probably won't go in the room if you don't eat there," agreed Jordan. "I usually eat out here anyway. They live in the kichen and the washroom mostly."
"Warmth and wetness," said Marty, thinking of the stuff he had read online earlier. "They like the warmth, so I'm keeping my window open when I'm not here, and they like the water, so that's why they're in the washroom and kitchen."
"They're always in the sink, but this guy—" Richard said and tilted his head to Nicky's door. "is always leaving his dirty dishes in there."
Jordan sighed. "The washroom is cleaner anyway, except the stain on the tub, that's pretty much tattooed on."
Marty was glad to hear they had done the cleaning. If they hadn't he would have voluntarily done it himself anyway, but it was nice that his room-mates were willing to help. At the same time he wondered why Ivan hadn't cleaned the place. Marty imagined that, as a landlord, that was his job, the overall maintenance of his property. Even just a monthly clean would help, but judging from how the place looked when he moved in, that wasn't happening.
"I've got to ask Ivan about the plan," he thought to himself. The two new room-mates, he realized, could help him with the construction. Marty hoped they would be willing. He knew he would never be able to do it on his own and was starting to doubt that Ivan, even if he gave his permission, would volunteer. He decided that he would ask them.
But before that, he turned his attention to the other grocery bag. "And in here we have, let's see, we have bay leaves," he pulled out his little bag from the bulk section of the grocery store. "And some cinnamon."
"Is the cinnamon and bay leaves to repel roaches?" asked Richard.
"The bay leaves, yes, but the cinnamon I put on to smell good."
His room-mates laughed. Marty followed, while thinking: "They think I'm joking." He placed the catnip bag, the top of it torn off, in the fridge near his tupperware. He hoped the smell would keep roaches off his shelf. The rest of the stuff he took in his room, then came back out to the kitchen with the bags.