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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 31 page 12


“Family man,” I said. I made a whip-crack sound.

“You’re a prick,” he said, smiling.

The good thing about breaking my nose on the steering wheel was that I hadn’t smelled anything since the accident. No smell of pollution from the steel plant, no smell of sulphur from the water treatment plant. There was never a better time to drive through town with the windows down.

We drove down Rymal Road, passing the new subdivision and the big box stores and a Dairy Queen.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

“Can you wait?”


Bryan turned up Nebo Road. On either side were storage facilities and outlet stores, glass and concrete facades with loading docks in the back. We pulled up to a storefront with a sign that said:

Affordable Burial and Cremation

Their slogan was “Make Your Arrangements as Simple as ABC.”

Four gravestones stood on display on the sidewalk in front of the store. We walked in and a fat lady in a white sweater, wearing glasses that magnified her eyes, ushered us into the waiting area. None of the furniture matched. In the corner was a fake fireplace with a flat-screen TV on top. There was a big mirror along the wall resembling a police interrogation room.

I thought about turning the TV on while we waited but wasn’t sure if it got any channels or if it would play some funeral parlour promo on a loop. Before I could make up my mind, the manager walked in carrying an urn. He held the urn out past his gut, like it was a squirrel trap with a live one inside. We had passed a large urn display at the entrance, where the urns were sorted by material: spun aluminum, cultured marble, Florentine etched brass. There were even some made of mahogany, black walnut, pine and oak — all “hand-crafted by local artisan woodworkers.” It seemed like a waste of good money. We decided on the cheap grey ceramic one.

“You’re certain you don’t need assistance with the ceremony?” the manager asked.

“We’re good,” Bryan said.

The ceremony, if you could call it that, took place in the backroom of The Little Hungarian. Bryan didn’t have to book the space. Magda, the owner, said we could just show up. We weren’t expecting many people, just a few guys from the Hawks and whoever else read the notice in The Spectator and had nothing better to do.

It was a decent place to have the ceremony. There were stucco walls and no windows, all the light came from candle-flame-shaped bulbs in amber sconces in the wagon-wheel chandeliers that hung down from the beams of the Tudor ceiling. Magda had laid out a spread of appetizers. There were cabbage rolls, breaded mushrooms and perogies. I drank coffee out of the big cylinder dispenser, taking a little cup off the stack and pressing the tab down while trying not to spill on the white table cloth. My hands hadn’t been the same since the wreck and I tried not to think about how long it might take them to heal or how I was going to earn a living in the meantime.

Bryan had only one picture of McPherson, which he had blown up and printed on poster board. It was the shot taken outside the bar, McPherson holding the Hammer Hawks shirt up to his chest. The camera had captured the asshole look in his eyes perfectly.

“You like that?” Bryan asked when he saw me looking at the photo.

“I think he’d appreciate a little razzing.”

A fat cop named Bill arrived, hovering at the top of the three steps that led to the back room. He waved at Magda. He sidled like a nervous colt for a while before stepping deeper into the room. He came to where we stood next to McPherson’s picture.

“Are you family?” the cop asked.

Bryan smiled. “No, thank God. We played hockey together.”

“Doesn’t look like he had any family,” I said.

Bill had light blue eyes, a wide nose, red cheeks and neck-flab that hung over his collar. He was the best dressed of all of us there, in a grey suit that seemed tailored and a black silk tie with a gold tie clip displaying a Toronto Police insignia.

“How did you know McPherson?” Bryan asked.

“I arrested him,” he said, letting out a loud laugh that turned heads. “I grew up here in Steeltown but moved to T.O. to be a cop. Just before Christmas ’89, there was a string of bank robberies, two in Windsor that the police there knew were related, and three in Toronto, but no one thought all five were by the same gang. Turned out the guys were taking trains between Toronto and Windsor, stealing a car, then robbing banks. “I’d just come on duty on a Friday evening when a call came over the radio. As I was cutting through the mall parking lot next to the bank, I saw a van matching the suspects’ description run the red light.”