Drug Store Bandits

26 11 2010



There was a poster on the basement wall of Harry Belafonte. With a pair of bongos. That looked like Gabby Hayes. Which Teddy was holding between his knees. Gabby didn’t sound too pleased.

“So which bank do we rob?” Teddy asked.

Sean sat in the corner. His head buried in his sweater. Like thunder in the mountains. Snow capped. Watching a ball game. That was tied. Sean stared at Teddy. Like a pitcher from the mount. Waiting for a sign.

“Man, you got no rhythm. How can a guy who’s black have no rhythm?”

Teddy sucked the silence and continued to bang away.

Tony. Took a toothpick out of his back pocket. Popped between his two front teeth. Where there was a gap. Where settlers attempted to reach California before snow fell. Tony was so cool.

There was a plan. To be. Future criminal activities. The three boys  had stolen bicycles in the area. What a reputation. Bicycle thieves. Sean enjoyed the name. But the bicycles proved to be more of a nuisance than a source of income. None could be sold in the local area. Sean had made the mistake of selling a bike. To its original owner. They had to take them across town.  Had to take public transit. Too far for these three boys to ride. And sometimes they weren’t allowed on the subway. And the money. It was hardly worth the trip. Breaking and entering. With flair. The world was their oyster. Until one night. A house defended by two huge German Shepherds.

The toothpick rolled around in Tony’s mouth. There was a certain swagger in Tony’s toothpick. Picking.

“We ain’t robbing a bank.” Tony smirked.

A ball cap was adjusted on Tony’s head. Tony was a small good looking kid. Resembled a young Phil Specter. Leader of the pack. In his own mind. He hadn’t informed the other two boys. Certainly he was the brains. Of the operation.

Teddy stopped beating his bongos.

“I wanna rob a bank.”

“What gave you that idea?” Tony asked.

“That’s what respectable gangsters do.”

Tony straightened up in his chair. “We ain’t gangsters. Not yet anyway.”

He nudged the stool Sean was sitting on.

“What’s the score?”

“I don’t know,” Sean replied.

The muscle of the group. Sat like a fist on a stool. Sean took some pleasure. In enforcing his will on others. If they were smaller. Or weaker. Or were outnumbered. Sean didn’t believe in a level playing ground.  Sean wanted to join a larger gang. The Bloods were his favorite. He had approached the leader of the Bloods. Made a proposition to him. The members of the gang circled around Sean. This was not what he had in mind. They started laughing. Sean had not found their reaction amusing. And was about to take his displeasure out on the face of one of the gang members. When he was dragged away. By Tony and Teddy.

“You’re watching the game and you don’t know the score?” Tony asked.

Sean giggled.

“I like watching the green in the field. Its so… green. Look at the way its cut. Real pretty.”

Tony shook his head. “It’s carpeting, stupid. You got to let up on the dope. You’re turning into a pot head.”

Sean turned to Tony.  There was a kind of goofiness in his smile. That wasn’t a good sign.

“Okay. You’re not stupid.” Tony apologized.

“What about the banks?” Teddy repeated. “Why can’t we rob one?”

“Too dangerous,” Tony replied. “Banks got money. Lots of it. Buy expensive security devices. Cameras. Alarms. Maybe even a security guard. Maybe a dog. And people are always on edge. In a bank. Everyone has it in the back of their head that someone is going to take their cash. And then they hand it over to a teller. Go figure. You go robbing a bank, you’re as likely to get tackled by some local hero. Or set upon by an angry mob. Taken offence to anyone stealing their money.”

Sean belched.

“Then why do they make movies about bank robbers? Someone thinks its a good idea.”.

“Oh man.” Teddy moaned. His voice wandering off  into a whine. He laid his bongos out.  Stretched down on a couch.

“We got to do something.” He cried out like a voice in the wilderness.

Tony grinned. Swirled his toothpick playfully around. A baton like kindling in his mouth.

“We’re going to rob a drug store.”

There was silence for a moment. But not long enough for Tony. Who thought that the moment should have been more dramatic. To recovered later. In a memoir about the birth of a criminal genius.

Sean sat up. Erect. “A drug store! Cool.”

Teddy grimaced. There was so much pain. In his teeth.

“A drug store? Oh man. I want to rob a bank. Who’s ever heard of anyone robbing a drug store?”

Tony slapped Teddy. Gently on the cheek. “Exactly.”

“But,” Teddy added, “Guys will laugh.”

“They won’t laugh if we’re rolling in dough.”

“I’ve never rolled in dough.” Sean said then added. “I never heard of a drug store having a lot of money.”

Tony stood up. And did a little dance. Which his two comrades didn’t notice.

“Drugs. A lot of drugs. Think. How much we’ll get for them. On the street? Plenty. More that you’d get from some local. Small time. Bank.”

“Well…” Teddy was about to argue. But had nothing to say. Yet. Had to go over the idea. In his head.

“Which drug store?” Sean played with the lighter he’d taken out of his pocket. He was flicking it off and on. The lighter looked like a handgun. Sean seemed mesmerized by the small flame.

“The one in the Six Points,” Tony responded.

“Knock that off,” Teddy said to Sean. Referring to the lighter. Trying to concentrate. “It’s getting on my nerves.” Then he turned his attention back to Tony. “Why we going to rob the drug store in the Six Points?”

“Because I say so,” Tony replied.

“But why?” Teddy repeated. “What’s so special about this drug store?”

“Nothing special about it,” Tony said. “Nothing special about any drug store. Except that it’s open 24 hours a day. We can rob it at our whim. We chose the time.”

Sean laughed looking up from his lighter. “I like that. We chose the time. Gee Tony, you sound like you know all about robbing drug stores. But. You ain’t never robbed anything important.”

“Keep your voice down,” Teddy said looking up at the ceiling. “My old lady listens. To everything. Her bedroom is right above us. She’s like the friggen FBI. J. Edgar friggen Hoover.”

Sean looked up at the ceiling. Like he was looking into heaven. Waiting for that infamous thunder clap. And a bolt of lightning to change all of their shapes.

“Why do they make you sleep down here. In the basement. Without a window.  It’s not even a real room.”

Teddy shook his head. He didn’t want to answer Sean. And his annoying questions. But he couldn’t help himself.

“Because my sisters got the other bedroom. I like it down here. Me and the furnace. We’re fast friends. And I got the television. Some nights I can get porn.”

Sean giggled. His shoulders shaking. “The furnace got a name?”

“Mel,” Teddy replied. “The furnace is called Mel.”

Sean howled. Teddy put his fingers on his leps.

Sean continued to laugh. “You kill me, man.”

Teddy turned to Tony. “Where’d you put the gun?”

“Some place safe,” Tony replied.

“How come you get to use the gun?” Teddy asked. “I get stuck with a toy gun from a dollar store and Sean gets a lighter.”

“I like the lighter.” A flame flicked from the fake gun.

“We only got one gun and as the leader of this gang, I thought I should have the gun. Besides, you guys get a gun, you’re likely to shoot off your foot.”

“I don’t remember you being made leader,” Teddy said.

“Maybe you missed the meeting,” Tony said. “Sean didn’t want to run for the position and I voted for myself. It was very democratic. Sides, you never got passed grade ten, Teddy. What makes you think you got leadership skills?”

The blood drained from Teddy’s face. He responded sheepishly. “How’s a guy going to know if he would be good at something if he isn’t given a chance?”

Sean turned to Teddy. He looked concerned. “You going to cry?”

“I ain’t going to cry.” Teddy rose to his feet. Walked toward the furnace. Wiped his eyes.

“Every time I get serious, you guys think I’m going to cry. It’s not like that. My grandma says that I’m wound up real tight. That’s all.”

“Your grandmother!” Tony laughed.

“Where’s your grandma sleep?” Sean asked.

Teddy turned sharply around..

Sean shook his head.

“Didn’t mean that, Teddy. I like your grandma.” Sean turned to Tony. “We gotta stop talking about Teddy’s grandmother. She told me I was like a son to her. ”

Tony laughed.

“Fuck, Sean. Teddy’s grandma is blind.”

Sean blushed. All three boys were silent. Teddy and Tony’s attention returned to the ball game. Sean rubbed the lighter gun against his forehead. Then he turned to his bandit brothers.

“How do you dress for a robbery? I mean, what am I supposed to wear?”

Teddy looked at Sean.

“Wear what you’re wearing.”

“No, man” Sean shook his head. “I got to look good. We could end up making the evening news. I want to look good on the camera.”

“What do you care?” Teddy said. “We’re going to have masks on. Right, Tony?”

“Ya.” Tony turned from the television and looked at Sean. “That’s why we got those masks of President Nixon at the dollar store.”

“Fuck,” Sean said shaking his head. “But why do they all have to look the same?  Any way I gotta get me some new threads.”

“You got money for new clothes?” Teddy asked.

Sean laughed. “Hey man, did you think I was going to pay for them?”

“No shoplifting!” Tony said.

“What?” Sean cried.

“We’ve got to stay clean before we rob the drug store!” Tony cried. “I don’t want the cops catching on to us over some nickel and dime robbery. First thing we’ve got to do is case the drug store. We’ll go in shifts. Find out when the most people are in the store. When their new supplies of drugs are brought in. What the security is like.”

“I ain’t taking the grave yard shift,” Sean said. “I don’t like the sound of it. Grave yard. Sends a chill up my spine.”

Ed Kuris

20 11 2010

Ed Kuris and I grew up down the street from each other. Ed always had a knack with things. With words. His humour. He was good at almost everything. Great at some things. As a young boy he was  a lot of girls heart throb. He looked a bit like a slovakian James Dean. He had a bit of a petulant bad boy look. He could make things. Weapons. As a 12 year old he built a large sculpture in his back yard. He took painting lessons from a woman named Mrs. Newton who had painted with The Group of Seven. He was the first kid on the block to have a motorcyle. He wrote poetry. As did I. That’s about all that I did. Except I read a lot. That’s how we became friends. As young teenagers. We would walk every week to the closest book store and buy a book. We started with all of John Steinbeck’s books and went from there. As I grew older I became more visual. Moved from writing to other visual forms of art. Tried painting. Collage. Ed was my biggest influence. As a young man I was very shy. Through my writing and art I became more outgoing. As Ed grew older, he became more internalized. More private. Ed had demons. Suffered from the early stages of bi-polar and manic depression. Strange thing is that the more depressed he became, the funnier he was. Ed had addictions. We were both restless spirits. I had a lot of anger inside. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was pissed off that I wasn’t good enough. At much. To myself. Or maybe I was angry at being afraid. Afraid of everything. My anger was like a forge. I used it to become something other than what I was. Ed’s anger ate him up. Knawed at him. The black dogs of his soul would not let him rest. All of this sounds like a eulogy. Ed is very much alive. (We went bowling today with Vic, the other part of our triumvirate.) I realized that he deserves more attention from the art’s community than he has received, more attention from the general public. But that is unlikely to happen.




The Crack Ohara Boys

17 11 2010


The Ohara boys were a crack extermination team. They elminated many homes in the Six Points area of rodent populations. They rid the Andersons of the squirrels in their attic, cutting down the chestnut tree next to their house. Then made sure that the branches between the trees were just out of range for the suburban monkeys. Squirrels were found all over the lawn with crippled limbs. Busted skulls. Broken spirits. And when the Andersons were celebrating. The Ohara boys lifted the legend of broken marriages. By obfuscating the family jewel case. Removing the jewels. Including Mrs. Anderson’s wedding ring. Passed down to her from her mother. The original Mrs. Passion. Her maiden name was Zimmerman. The ring was passed down on Ms. Zimmerman’s death bed. She had taken back her maiden name. After her divorce from Mr. Passion. Who had taken up with a woman. From the travel agency. Ms. Zimmerman handed it over to Mrs. Anderson with the promise that she would hand it down to her daughter. She didn’t actually want to let it go. Mrs. Anderson had to pry it from her cold dead hands. It seemed so cruel. To steal the ring. Except. As the Ohara boys were quick to point out. The Andersons did not have a daughter. Three sons.

Raccoons had been a growing nuisance to the Hendersons. The Hendersons loved to give barbeques. In the winter. Steak tasted better in snow, Mr. Henderson claimed. And life would have been awesome. For the Hendersons. Except for those raccoons. They scrambled the Henderson’s garbage. Borrowed the kids bicycles and left them scattered all over the neighbourhood. Chewed through the cable for the cable television. Hid the remote. Borrowed tools and never returned them. Hid socks.

The raccoons seemed to move freely in and out of their garage without anyone knowing how. The Ohara boys checked all around the garage for tunnels. There were none. They looked for holes in the roof. There were no leaks. Finally they set up cameras to film the creatures during their escapades. As they were setting up the cameras one of the raccoons came out of the corner of the garage smoking a stogie, pushed the button to open the garage door and sauntered into the night. The Oharas removed the button. On a subsequent night the Oharas caught one of the raccoons. Tortured the creature in the back yard. Trying to make him give up names. When the Hendersons objected, Sean pointed out that you had to make a lesson of these raccoons. There were others. In the dark. And they were watching.

Pigeons were a problem for the Dexters. Until the Oharas hung a dead haddock under the rafters of their house. The flies scared the pigeons. Even scared the cats as well.

The Ruggieros were having trouble with cockroaches in their basement. The Oharas put a frog in the basement. The cockroaches were soon gone. The frog became fat. Passed wind. On almost every breath. Mr. Ruggiero lit up a cigarette. In the basement. That went up like a school house. The widow Ruggiero tried to sue the Oharas. But was persuaded to step down. She still had a daughter. And house insurance.

Sean Ohara was the youngest of the two brothers. Pat was the best educated. Sean dreamed about being a baseball player when he was young. Pat wanted to be a priest. Pat learned Gallic in his free time. Sean subscribed to several pornographic magazines. The Oharas had a shop on the Queensway, a few miles to the south of the Six Points. They couldn’t afford the high rents in the Six Points area. It was Pat’s idea to plant mice in the garbage of all the plazas to the north of them. Sean did not like the idea of having to borrow money from the bank to buy the mice. Pat called it seed money. One of those plazas was the Six Points. When Pat got a call from Mr. G. to rid the plaza of its rodent population, Sean took Pat out to dinner. It was one wager Sean didn’t mind losing. It was over dinner that the Oharas learned about the Golden Cat. From the waiter. They were eating in the Canadiana. The restaurant in the Six Points Plaza.

“They say it passes golden shit,” the waiter, a handsome fellow with a handlebar moustache, confessed. “But I ain’t seen no gold. And if it is gold. It gives off a peculiar breeze.”

“Well,” Pat asked, “where would we find this cat?”

The waiter laughed.

“You won’t find her. But, if she’s interested, she’ll find you.”

Later that night as the Ohara boys slept in each other’s arms. They couldn’t get to sleep. The image of the golden cat plagued Pat’s dreams. Sean had too much coffee to drink. His shoulders were jerking around. Like Mick Jagger’s knees.

“There’s a golden pussy in our future,” Sean said. He was smirking. Sean liked to smirk. He’d read somewhere that smirking made you look smarter.

“Yes,” Pat chuckled. “We’re going to have to buy some new clothes. Shave. Maybe learn Italian.”

“Why Italian?” Sean asked.

“It’s a romance language.” Then Pat ransacked his brain. Trying to remember all the lines they had used. Back in the day. To woo the ladies.

“Do you smell gas?” Sean asked.

In the hood

8 11 2010

Neighbourhood 2 is part of my new gallery.

A moronic CBC idea.

4 11 2010

The C.B.C. (the best television/radio network in the world) has started a show to celebrate the top 10 novels by Canadian writers. This is moronic. Are we still in high school? Why do we need these cheap boring parlor games? It as if life has come down to the ‘top ten’ of this or that. Grow up!

The Detective

1 11 2010



It was too hot. For a trench coat and the fedora. And the Italian leather shoes. The charcoal gray flannels stuck to his thighs. But then the drug store was air-conditioned. And Milt Blunt was a detective. Retired. Semi. Automatic. Which used to be next to his breast pocket. German. Against his heart beat. Straps around his back. Like a bra.

There was a kid with him. Someone’s kid. Not his. Kid had wandered off from his mother. While the mother tried some of the samples offered at the beautician’s counter. Just a little day dream she fell into. Life before the kid. When boredom didn’t seem like freedom. When the phone didn’t interrupt. Each day was Valentine’s Day. And so she forgot. About the kid.

The detective looked down at the kid. His name was Robert. The kid. Not the detective.

“You’re short,” Blunt said to the kid. Then snorted. Blunt was the detective’s name. Joe Blunt. Blunt for short.

“I’m a kid,” the kid responded. And moved to one side. Fearful that something was going to be catapulted out of the detective’s nostril.

The detective grunted. “In my day, we didn’t have kids. As soon as you were seven years old you went to work. Usually in a coal mine. On your knees. Pulling a cart through the tunnels. By a rope. In your teeth. Filled with coal. The cart and the tunnels. Not your teeth. And you smoked cigarettes on your break. Wore a suit jacket. Tailored down. Put your trousers on. One leg at a time. And referred to your elders as old man. And knew what a dish was. But didn’t know what was served on it.”

“Did you work in a coal mine?”

The detective looked at the kid suspiciously. Why would he ask something like that? Maybe he wasn’t a kid? Maybe he was a short hood. Pretending to be a kid. One of those dwarfs. Never trust a dwarf. As far as you could throw one.

“It was twelve years ago,” Blunt said. Something leaped out of his lung. Into his mouth. “Last year before my retirement. Semi.”

Blunt took out a tissue and spit into it. The kid watched him. It made Blunt feel guilty. For something.

“It was a  hot summer,” Blunt continued. “Summers were always hot back then. Don’t ask me why. We don’t seem to have summer anymore. We have two weeks in August. And don’t get me started on a-c. Ruined the heat wave. There were nights we didn’t sleep. Just lay there. Sweating buckets. Talking to each other. Killing time. Listening to the radio. No television. At least none in the early hours. Over there.”

Blunt pointed to the other end of the drug store.

“That used to be a grocery store. Hard to believe when you look at it now.”

The kid looked around.

“I don’t believe it,’ the kid said.

The detective stared at the kid. Does he think I’m lying to him? Who lies to a kid? Where’s the profit?

“You think I’m lying?”

“Why not?” the kid responded.

“To what point?” Blunt responded.

The kid shrugged his shoulders.

“You got a name?” the detective asked.

“Robert,” the kid replied.

“I sent a guy up the river who was called Robert. Any relation?”

“There’s lot of people named Robert,” the kid said. “My uncle’s name is Robert. I was named after him. He died in the war.”

“Which war?” Blunt asked.

The kid shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“There are lots of wars, kid. You should get your facts straight. So your uncle was a hero?”

“He was a cook,” the kid said.

Blunt moved over to the counter where drugs were dispensed by the pharmacist.  Placing his hand on the counter, he turned to the kid.

“This used to be a freezer.”

“You sure?” the kid asked looking at the counter.

Blunt glared at the kid. “I’m sure. This was the freezer we found the body in. She’d been stabbed eighteen times with a potato peeler.”

“Eighteen times?” Robert asked.

Blunt nodded. “With a potato peeler.”

“Did you count them?” the kid asked.

Blunt glared at the kid. “You think I’d make something like that up?”

The boy looked at the detective.

“What’s a potato peeler?” the kid asked.

“It’s a kind of knife. We never found the killer,” Blunt added then snorted. “He’s still out there.” He looked down at the kid. “Somewhere. Laughing probably. Knowing he got away with it. For the time being. But, you don’t have to be afraid. I’ll get him.”

The kid smiled. “I’m not afraid.”

Blunt glared at the kid for some time.

“Well,” he barked, “you should be.”

The kid turned his head and looked around the store.

“What’s your mother’s name?” Blunt asked.

The kid hesitated. “Mom.”

Blunt stared at the kid. He grinned. Is he trying to be funny?

“Describe her.”

The kid looked at the detective, thought for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders.

“You don’t know what your mother looks like?” Blunt barked.

“I know what she looks like,” the kid responded. “But I don’t know. She looks ordinary.”

Blunt glared at the kid.

“Ordinary, eh? That covers a lot of ground.”

The kid pointed down the aisle at a woman looking at cosmetics.

“She look like that lady?” the detective asked.

“Exactly,” the kid respond.

“Well, that’s a start. Things are looking up kid.”

“That’s my mother,” the kid said.

The detective snorted. He took another tissue out of his pocket. And blew his nose.

The kid had disappeared. When the detective looked around. The kid was now standing with his mother.

“Well, well,” the detective said shaking his head. “Not so much as a thank you.”