Stories From the Hood originated from the tales I had been entertaining friends and colleagues with about my life in “the hood” as a resident, writer, and building manager back in the mid-nineties to early naughts. Some of the vignettes were funny, some poignant, while others were just plain ridiculous — and many were all these at once. The hood was Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant, which was equal parts colour and craziness, graffiti art and gang tags, good people and bad. Written under the nom de plume G.G. Blue, “Stories” was intended as a weekly column that I pitched to various Vancouver publications. The idea was rejected by all: something about “too specific” and “not relevant enough” — which tells you everything you need to know about Vancouver’s image of itself.


Mount Not So Pleasant

“Hold on a second, Mom, I think there’s a drug bust going down.”

“Where on earth are you living?!” she asks, her voice ringing with fear over the phone.

“Relax,” I lie to my own mother as I watch the cops cuff and frisk two crack dealers, “it’s not so bad a neighbourhood.”

It’s just another Sunday afternoon in Vancouver’s own Mt. Pleasant, though why they call it that is anyone’s guess considering the area is neither on a mountain nor overly pleasant. It’s a place of obvious contradictions, of those who came to gentrify and those who gave up. The Hood is inhabited by essentially three camps of people: activists who fight for change, those who attend the hear no evil/see no evil school of coping, and those who don’t cope at all. It’s the first stop in Vancouver for many immigrants, their diverse voices one of the neighbourhood’s few charms. It’s great for ethnic restaurants, cheap groceries, and access to the rest of the city. Unfortunately, it’s also home to drug dealers, petty criminals, a handful of hookers, junkies, welfare scam artists, and drunks. It is, in a phrase, the place you struggle to get out of.

I was just going to live here a year, I told myself, until I got settled and made my way as a writer. That was seven years ago. True, I could live elsewhere, but only if I give up my privacy and cohabit with strangers who’ll borrow my clothes without asking. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit where I live, especially when I’m trying to explain how I’m a poor, starving writer while wearing a vintage mink coat. I really am a poor, starving writer … with twisted priorities.

I secretly covet a condo in Kits, especially one that overlooks the bay. Worse still, I have developed a Cinderella complex — and I have the shoe collection to prove it. Like many residents I have a complicated relationship with police, dread Welfare Wednesday, and think city council is incompetent. I have many acquaintances in the Hood, but no one I’d date. A girl’s got to have standards, after all, even here.

I have a great view from my apartment window — just as long as I don’t look down. If I keep my head up I see only the sky and the north shore mountains, and if I position my chair just right I can block out the view of the transformer. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I’m sure, but traffic noise is cutting off my creative circulation. Still, one needs to look on the bright side: The obstacle course of mattresses, old sofas, and busted televisions that is my back alley keeps my reflexes sharp, securing my 40% accident-free discount with ICBC. My car has never been stolen or broken into. The array of used clothing shops keeps my vintage addiction fed. I can buy fifteen pounds of Basmati rice for ten bucks. My income has grown steadily while my rent has remained fixed. Who in Kits can say that?

* * * * * * * * * *

It’s late on a Saturday night and two men are fighting beneath my bedroom window. One has a knife so I call police before things get out of hand. One quick arrest later, an officer stops by to ask for my statement. He walks into the living room, his expression changing from disdain to admiration as he surveys the books on my shelves and the framed degrees. “You mean nice people live here?” he wonders aloud, unaware of the bias this reveals.

I hand him my detailed, grammatically correct, typed statement. He can’t believe his luck. “Yes, officer,” I tell him, “some nice people do live here. You just wouldn’t know any of them.”

There are worse things than living with the drug dealers and the whores in Vancouver, I tell myself. I could be living with the drug dealers and the whores in Surrey.


Psycho-narc

I’ve only been in my building a few months when a newly immigrated Vietnamese family moves in below me. I bump into the paterfamilias in the hallway. He flashes me a yellowed, crooked smile and proudly informs me that the government of Canada has sponsored him, his wife and teenage son from a refugee camp in Korea. I welcome him to his new country and head out on errands.

Within days I notice my new neighbours seem to have a lot of visitors, particularly late at night. Some arrive in cabs, but most just saunter over from Broadway in their gravity-defying platform shoes, an unmistakable clunk, clunk, clunk announcing their arrival up the back stairs. My neighbours’ many friends then stay only a few moments at the back window before scurrying back from whence they came.

I call the drug squad. Detective Mike takes all my info and promises to look into the matter. He asks me to take down any license numbers of possible suppliers and phone them in. I agree to be “Informant A” on the grounds that Mike never approach me on the street or show up at my door unannounced. “And if for any reason you have to come here,” I tell him, “you’d better be in a suit and carrying flowers. I value my kneecaps.”

Thus begin weekly calls to Detective Mike. We never meet but our conversations quickly grow from license numbers to social policy, law enforcement, what have you. It’s congenial enough, but that’s about it. When he asks if the squad can use my apartment for surveillance, I decline.

Awhile later I’m all tarted up for an evening out. I head out to Broadway to hail a cab. At the corner a voice calls out, “Hey, G.G.”

Startled, I look over. Leaning against the grocery is a scruffy-looking blond. I assume he’s drug-dealing scum and decide to ignore him. “G.G., wait,” he pleads. “It’s me.  Detective Mike.”

I stop dead. “Are you nuts?” I say, looking this way and that. “I thought we had a deal.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he says nervously. “But I was in the neighbourhood and I need to talk to you. It’s really important. Let me give you a ride.”

Somewhat hesitant, I get into his jeep. We head downtown. Mike tries to make small talk but I’m preoccupied with figuring out how he recognises me. Had I been arrested for something and didn’t remember? Passport photo perhaps? No, must be from my driver’s licence. I interrupt his chatter. “How did you know what I look like?” I ask him, suspicion clear in my voice.

“Oh,” he stutters nervously, “I was, uh, talking to Bob, across the alley…”

“You were spying on me?” I ask, incredulous.

“Not really spying. I just happened to be across the alley, you know, and it’s not like your drapes were drawn.”

Eeuuuwwwwwwwwww. Suddenly I need another shower.

A few days later psycho-narc calls again. The team are watching the dealers but can’t see the kitchen window. Do I know what’s going on there?

“You’re in the brown condo across the alley, to the west, aren’t you?” I ask.

“Uh, why do you say that?”

“Because that unit has been empty for months. Three days ago the blinds were suddenly drawn. If you were north or east of me, you could see the kitchen window. But you can’t, so you must be to the west. Ergo, you’re in the brown condo across the alley.”

My sleuthing is met at the other end by a pregnant pause. “Okay, but don’t tell anyone,” he finally says. Another pause and then, “You know, you should be a detective.”

“Thanks,” I reply as I close the blinds, “but I think I’ll pass.”


Cristina

My neighbour Cristina is a Russian Jew who had immigrated to Israel as part of that nation’s ingathering process. However, having quickly realised they had simply moved out of the frying pan and into the fire, Cristina and her husband applied to move to Canada. Educated, financially secure, they were a shoo-in.

Cristina has taken to learning English with a singular tenacity I imagine she first applied to earning her engineering degree. It’s nevertheless a slow process, but we manage to communicate with a mixture of broken English, her Russian–English dictionary, and exaggerated gestures that pass for sign language. We have discovered a shared love of scuba diving, and she delights in showing me picture books of her native land where there exist butterflies with the wingspan of crows. There are fleeting moments when I see the ghost of longing pass across her face. I imagine it can’t be easy knowing you can never really go home again.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cristina is at my door, dictionary in hand. “Problem, problem,” she says, shaking her head as she pushes her way past me, uninvited, and into my kitchen. Salutations are rather academic now so I simply smile as she hands me an appointment sheet from St. Paul’s hospital. It seems she must have a procedure done the next afternoon and someone needs to go with her. Preferably someone who can translate.

I look up Russian in the phone book and call the Orthodox Church. I explain the situation and ask if they might have a volunteer. “Is she Orthodox?” the priest asks me.

“No, she’s Jewish.”

“Oh. You know, they don’t like Orthodox people. Try the Jewish Community Centre.”

I swallow my annoyance and try the Community Centre. After much haggling with the receptionist, who only reveals she speaks Russian after first trying to pass me off to someone who isn’t there, we score a volunteer.

Cristina is ever so grateful. She says goodbye to me with what has become her usual expression of thanks: “You are good friend. Canada, good.” Then, scrunching up her nose and waving her hands in disgust, “Israel, baaaad.”

The next day Cristina has her procedure. I handle her aftercare with our usual broken English/translation dictionary/exaggerated gestures method of communication. It’s a tedious process but we muddle through.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cristina is at my door. “Problem, problem,” she says, shaking her head as she pushes her way past me, uninvited, and into my kitchen. She begins pacing back and forth across the floor, clearly distraught. The men in her life are giving her grief. Her husband has just been diagnosed with kidney disease and may require a transplant. The news, however, has not convinced him to lose weight, give up smoking, or lay off the vodka. Meanwhile her son, who lives in Toronto, has announced his engagement to a Zionist and plans to move into her family’s stately compound after the wedding. This last bit of news has Cristina practically spitting on my floor. “I have no son,” she pronounces, grabbing at her head. “Everything Israel, Israel, Israel. Israel not good. Israel baaaaad.”

She continues to pace. “I have no son,” she adamantly repeats, waving her arms for emphasis. “My son, Canadian. No Israel.”

“I’m sure you’ll work it out,” I tell her, since I don’t really understand what the fuss is all about.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cristina is at my door. “Problem, problem,” she says, shaking her head as she pushes her way past me, uninvited, and into my kitchen. She hands me a note from the S.P.C.A. It contains pseudo-instructions on how to feed her cat the medication the vet prescribed. I call the animal hospital for clarification. The vet’s assistant gives me more details and asks me to explain this all to Cristina. “And how do you suppose I’m going to do that?” I ask. “I don’t speak a word of Russian.”

“Oh,” she replies, giggling. “I thought you did.”

I don’t bother to ask why. “It’s okay,” I deadpan to giggle girl. “We’ll muddle through.”


This Communist Country

It’s late and I’m headed home on the #8 when three twenty-something white boys get on the bus. Angry at having just been kicked out of a bar, they launch into a tirade about their alleged victimisation, spewing out an endless stream of platitudes on how “this isn’t a communist country, you know.” After five minutes of non-stop expletives, another passenger finally pipes up. “Exactly,” he points out. “This is capitalist country. And in a capitalist country if I own a bar and don’t want to serve three idiots, that’s my business.”

The logic is lost on trailer-trash boys. They continue on, undeterred, oblivious to the tension rapidly rising around them, especially among the single women: What if they get off at my stop? I notice one woman in particular is quite distressed, and decide enough is enough. I turn to face the rabble. “Hey, guys,” I say in my most conciliatory voice, “you’re on public transport. You might want to watch your language.”

Unfortunately this only fuels the fire. They’re just practising their right to free speech, they spit at me; after all this isn’t a communist country. “Oh, like you’ve ever been to a communist country,” I spit back, rolling my eyes for effect. “I doubt you’ve even been out of the Lower Mainland. And has it ever occurred to you that you might be infinitely more interesting to listen to if, say, you were educated and had a job?”

“Oh, I have a job,” one replies, indignant. “I probably make more money in a week than you do all month. Yeah, I bet you have a job. Hey, lady, how many cocks you suck tonight?”

“That’s it, now you’re walking.” Enraged, I bolt out of my seat and head for the driver. I relay the punks’ latest comment and demand they be removed from the bus. The driver, eager to see them turfed, happily calls it in.

I return to my seat only to be met by more sarcasm. “Do you see us walking, lady?” they laugh. “The bus is still moving and we’re still on it. Ha, ha.” Their laughter quickly turns to confusion, however, when at the next stop orange flashing lights appear behind the bus. The driver gets out to greet his supervisor. After a brief relaying of accounts, the driver returns to his seat and his supervisor gets on through the back door. The super addresses the punk standing up. “Okay you, off this bus.”

“No,” the fool replies with an arrogant rise of his chin. “I’m just exercising my right to free speech.  And if you so much as lay a finger on me, I’ll sue you.”

“Ten-four, buddy,” replies the supervisor, nonchalantly, and steps off the bus. The boys laugh heartily, their sense of righteousness peaking. But the laughter proves short-lived again because sixty seconds later it’s now blue and red flashing lights. Another brief curbside conversation and two police officers mount the bus, one through the front door, the other through the back. The officer in back stares blankly at our stand-up comedian. “Off this bus.”

“No,” comes the same arrogant reply. “I’m just exercising my right to free speech.”

The officer doesn’t even blink. “Get off this bus or I’ll help you off this bus.” The kid searches the cop’s face for any sign of weakness but doesn’t find any. The arrogant chin drops in defeat and disappears down the steps. “And get out some I.D.,” the cop barks as he steps down after him.

Meanwhile, the two buddies have gone suspiciously quiet. So much for the brotherhood. The second officer approaches me. “Anyone else?”

“Yeah,” I reply, pointing to the others, “these two.”

“Okay, you and you, off this bus.”

Oh, man,” they complain in chorus as they join their buddy, now in handcuffs, on the sidewalk. As the door closes behind them, I hear a whiny voice from beyond pleading, “See, officer, we were just speaking inappropriately and she didn’t like it…”

I laugh as the bus heads off into the night. The woman I noticed earlier turns to me and says “Thank you” — in sign language. Understanding, now, the source of her fear, I smile my acknowledgement. “You’re welcome.”


“Wanna Go?”

Another Friday night of Latin dancing and I’m headed home to East Broadway. I take the #8 from Granville. The bus drops me off at Fraser Street along with two drunks, three wise guys heading home from “work” at Main and Hastings, and the last of the Chinatown street market shoppers. It’s 11:30 and I’ve got a two block trek ahead of me. Not normally a problem, really, as Broadway is still busy, headlights lighting up the night. I feel safer here than in the suburbs where potential rapists and various other demons I imagine lurk behind every postal box and shady willow. Besides, I’ve got The Walk down to a science: head up, shoulders back, keys in hand, “don’t mess with me” written indelibly across my forehead.

The neighbourhood knows The Walk and respects it. I’ve never been accosted in any way. But tonight a stranger has wandered out of a parallel universe — the West End perhaps — and into the Hood. He doesn’t know The Walk. As I stride past this elder alien, a low voice whispers, “Wanna go?”

I stop and look down at the man. He’s old enough to be my father, with a sallow, lined face and small eyes that squint up at me. I’m only 5’6” in heels, but still he only comes up to my nose. “Go where?” I reply.

“How much?” he earnestly asks, his voice heavily accented.

“Oh piss off,” I tell him and turn away. But then it hits me: I might be wearing a short skirt and heels but — damn it! — these are $200 heels and no way in hell am I going to be mistaken for a $20 whore.

I turn back, seriously annoyed. “Are you a complete moron?” I spit down my nose at him. “Do I look like a hooker to you?” Obviously this is a rhetorical question, but the adrenaline is rising so logic be damned. He stands silent, thoroughly confused. I realise he probably doesn’t speak English very well and hasn’t a clue what I’m going on about, but with a mental wave of my hand I continue undeterred.

“And you know what,” I sneer at him, “this is my neighbourhood, my street, and I want you off it. So this is the way it’s going down. You have two choices: you can go home in a cab, or you can go to hell in a cruiser. Your choice. But I’m going to stand here until either one or the other shows up. If it’s a cab, it’s your lucky night. If it’s a cop, it’s not your lucky night.”

Parallel universe man, looking ever more confused, slinks away from me, pausing about twenty feet down the block. He’s not leaving. Determined to make my point stick, I march up to him and go another round.

“Obviously you don’t seem to understand my position. This is my neighbourhood and I have the right to walk home from the bus stop without some idiot asking me how much. You got that? I want you out. Now.”

Arms folded, I turn my attention to the road, eyes peeled for anything with a light on top. Only now I’m a woman with a short skirt and heels standing on the corner of Broadway and Prince Albert. Several cars slow down, their drivers glancing eagerly from behind windshields. They jerk back in horror at the fury on my face and speed off. The alien starts to look nervous. He casually saunters off, trying to appear unruffled. I last see him wandering down the back lane, looking forlorn. I head off home, victory assured. At least that’s what I tell myself.


Salaam Alaykoum

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m just drifting off to sleep when the most beautiful sounds come floating through my window from the apartment to the west: an unseen Muslim man is praying. His voice is not brilliant and yet there is a richness to his singing — is this the sound of God transcending the mundane? The beauty of the suras is almost fragrant: an intoxicating perfume of exotic flowers and spices carried by the wind. Ash’hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah…

The lull in traffic ends, and for a moment the sounds of cars rushing past, even at this late hour, echo between the walls of our buildings. The poetry is almost drowned out. Then, as if the singer senses my loss, his voice rises a little higher, lifting itself above the clamour. Ash’hadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullaah…

I lie there, holding my breath, straining to hear. Another lull in traffic brings his voice closer again, and for a few sacred moments I am transported to another time, long ago…

Istanbul, 1984. My nineteen-year-old self is mesmerised by this enchanted city, this schizophrenic clash of east and west with its towering minarets and obtrusive Coca-Cola placemats. Within moments I am intoxicated, within days I am in love.

I am sitting in the middle of the Blue Mosque, a small, insignificant figure dwarfed by a mammoth, magnificent structure. Tendrils of painted blue vines swirl up the walls like the hanging gardens of Babylon. Rows of ornate calligraphy preach to the literate. Light falls in through exquisite stained glass windows, illuminating masterful plasterwork and intricate painted designs that reach into every corner and caress every curve. It takes my breath away. I fall to my knees in wonder. I have seen the greatest churches of Europe, but now they seem so cold and sterile in comparison. Or worse, gaudy, like the one I stumbled into in Wűrzburg, a golden assault on the senses. But here, in the mosque of Sultan Ahmet, I feel like a goddess, invited into a celestial boudoir to partake of unimaginable delights. Willingly I submit. It’s odd, I admit to myself, to be sitting in a mosque and feeling this way; after all, Muslims are as sexually repressed as Catholics — aren’t they? How could such overt passion be allowed in a holy place?

I want to lie down on the carpet and stare into the domes as one would lie down in the soft grass beneath an endless sky. I want to lie there and dream of exotic palaces, of Harem nights and courtly intrigue, of lovers found and lost. I want to lie there, but this is a mosque, I remind myself, so I simply take a few unobtrusive pictures then sit and people watch. Most visitors are tourists at this hour, all wearing the borrowed slippers handed out at the entrance by assertive but kindly doormen. A few couples are talking in hushed whispers, while others in tour groups follow their guides like lemmings. The tourists quickly bore me, and I search skyward once again. A distant cough brings me back to earth, and my eyes fall on a man near the qibla wall, praying. I want to quietly approach and ask him, “What do you see when you gaze heavenward? Do you see the same divine lovemaking that I do? Do you—”

A lorry barrels down Broadway, shaking my bed and rattling the windows. I am sucked back through the vortex, heart torn, gut wrenched. I feel tears form at the corners of my eyes, tears for the beloved city that captured my imagination in a way no man has ever done, before or since. I yearn for the acrid smell of the Golden Horn, for the chaos of the Covered Market, the fragrance of the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. I want to become lost again in the maze of streets the way one longs to become lost in a lover’s gaze. But this is Mt. Pleasant, and I am miles away from Paradise.

Keystone Kops

It’s 12:30 a.m. on a Friday night, and I’m just snuggling down to bed when I hear coming from Broadway what sounds like five quick rounds from a handgun. Could be firecrackers, but as the fire is more rapid than we usually get around here, I call it in. Before I get off the phone the sirens can already be heard. I watch as an ambulance screams past, squad car in tow. They stop at the corner of St. Catherines, right in front of the brown drug house.

Within minutes every available unit in the area has converged on the scene. Small crowds are gathering on the opposite corners of the intersection. I notice four young girls between six and ten gaping in awe at the spectacle and wonder where the hell their parents are. A second ambulance arrives. Then a third. And then … nothing.

I watch from my window as one by one the squad cars slowly leave. A unit pulls up in front of my building. A cop gets out and asks to talk to me. I head downstairs, anticipating a story worthy of CSI.

The truth, sadly, is more Sunday afternoon and popcorn. Turns out EMS received a call of an elderly lady having trouble breathing in Unit 7 at the building on the corner, which just happens to be the same building of a known drug dealer. Within seconds of that call came the shots fired call to police. A nearby cruiser saw the ambulance go flying by and figured where there’s gunfire, there’s a body, and took chase. When the ambulance stopped in front of a known drug house, the officer figured he had the place.

Both jumped out of their respective vehicles. The cop asked EMS what was their call. They didn’t know, just a medical emergency. The officer told the paramedics that shots had been fired in the area and to stay clear until police had secured the building. EMS then also jumped to conclusions and, while the officer went inside, radioed back to dispatch that they couldn’t attend the medical emergency as shots had been fired in Apartment 7. Figuring there must be carnage inside, dispatch sent another ambulance.

Meanwhile, the officer had gone bounding up the stairs, gun drawn, and burst into #7 to find just this little old lady, who in turn found herself staring down the barrel of a service revolver. So now not only was she having trouble breathing, she was damn near having a heart attack. The cop freaked and went back for the paramedics. As one team headed up to tend to the poor woman, the officer and the first paramedic got into an argument which went something like this:

“Why didn’t you tell me the emergency was a little old lady?!”

“You said there were shots fired in the suite.”

“I did not! I said there were shots fired in the neighbourhood. I could have given her a @#$%^ heart attack, you idiot!”

The pissing match continued until EMS got cranky and called their supervisor. That was the third ambulance. Not to be outdone, the officer called his supervisor and now the sergeant showed up. In the meantime everyone else had given up looking for a body and were slowly drifting off.

While the cop is telling me all this he’s keeping his eye on the scene to see in what condition the old woman is wheeled out. Moments later she appears, sitting up on the stretcher with an oxygen tank strapped to her face.

“Thank God,” the officer sighs. “She’s alive.”

“Too funny,” I observe, in between howls of laughter. “It’s like the Keystone Kops.”

“Oh, I know,” he says, hanging his head. “It’s so embarrassing.”

“Like how many ways can you spell incompetent?”

“No kidding, eh? And I could have pulled a hamstring.”


Benny H.

“Are these real?” I ask a police officer friend of mine, referring to a belt of silver bullets I found among the abandoned goods of a former tenant.

“Look real enough,” he says. “What do you think, Dave?” my friend asks his partner, handing them to the new recruit he’s training for the day.

“Just dispose of them, will you please?” I plead, my phobic distaste for guns and such rearing its girly head. “Jesus, I find weird stuff here.”

The new recruit dumps the bullets in the trunk of the cruiser, then waits patiently in the parking lot as my friend—whom I have affectionately nicknamed Charlie Brown (cause he’s such a good man)—and I settle down in the cruiser to catch up on the news. I tell him of a recurring problem I’ve been having with a local con artist who’s been offering unsuspecting nobs he meets at the Kentucky Fried Chicken the chance to buy contraband cigarettes: he brings them to my building and, while they wait out back, jimmies the rear door then disappears out the front with the money, leaving his victim behind to contend with me and the police I invariably call upon for assistance.

I describe the con artist—a thirtyish black man with a bald head and poor complexion who wears army fatigues—and the description registers. Charlie Brown scans his encyclopaedic brain for the guy’s name, a gift I hold in awe and jealousy as I’ve been known to forget even the names of men I’ve slept with, often resorting to such pseudonyms as “football player guy” and “Swede on island of Corfu.” Within seconds a name has passed from Charlie Brown’s brain to his fingertips, and soon thereafter a picture appears on the cruiser’s computer screen.

“Is that him?” he asks me.

“Yup.”

Benny H. Arrests and complaints for a variety of crimes from robbery to assault to impersonating an undercover narc in order to shake down some dealer for his stash. I have to laugh at the last one. He’s got balls, our Benny.

Charlie Brown offers to keep on the lookout for cigarette boy (see, I’ve forgotten his name already), then Charlie Brown and the poor rookie he’s torturing head back out on the road.

Within hours Benny has returned with another victim. I chase Benny off the lot and corner his victim until police arrive. The victim’s not eager to talk so once again police can only promise to keep an eye out and warn Benny to stay clear of the property.

A few hours later Benny is back, heading down the alley with yet another fool. This time I decide to get tough. “Hey,” I say to the intended vic, “did he offer you cheap cigarettes? Cause if he did, ha ha, there are no cigarettes. It’s a scam. Keep your money.”

“Yeah, why don’t you tell the whole neighbourhood, bitch?” yells Benny, as he swaggers back toward the KFC.

“I might just do that,” I yell back.

Moments later I notice two officers handing out a ticket to some poor motorist. I decide to take advantage of the opportunity. I saunter over and politely ask if they wouldn’t mind doing me a small favour. I explain my problem with Benny, whom they know by name. “He’s standing in line at the KFC as we speak,” I tell them. “When you’re finished here, would you mind stopping there for a word with him? I figure the more friends he thinks I have on the force the clearer the message.”

The sweethearts must have done as promised because I don’t see Benny anymore. Word is he’s now working Downtown. Or was: I think I saw his army fatigues walking down the street yesterday. Policing Mt. Pleasant is as tedious as housework: you sweep things up and they just get dirty again.

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