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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 12 page 04

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Some people contend that Pellatt got what he deserved in light of his shady financial and real estate manipulations, but when you see photos of him revisiting the castle in later years and signing the guest book, it looks like he had a sense of humor about it all.

As we walked, a freight train approached from the east. Annie clung to me as it thundered past — as if she feared we might be sucked into its vortex. So what was that tale about ambling along the Shanghai rails to the next city? Nostalgia, maybe. Makes the past seem golden. In a way, Annie is old for her age. So it all works out, because I'm young for my age. And I avoid mirrors. Annie is 22 years younger than me. I like being with younger people. They have life, they have future, they have big decisions to make. Anyway, the two of us were having a good time together, it didn’t matter how the world perceived it.

The tracks continued across bridges over Spadina and then Davenport, where I spotted some tiger lilies growing wild in the scrub, maybe a donation from one of the garden centres in the vicinity. After that, the bushes grew thicker and for much of the time the city disappeared from view. It was as if we were alone in the countryside.

Annie was divorced. I never learned the details except that the breakup of her marriage was the traumatic event that prompted her to pack her bags and leave China. She expected to receive a bundle of yuan from the sale of her house back home in the near future, and she was unsure what she should do with the funds when the time came. One option was to launch a business. I tried to help her decide — a boutique? Restaurant? Hair salon? Annie had no experience in these things but she seemed to expect she could set up anything in Toronto and the local Chinese community would automatically provide a base of support. Myself, I have a business background and I wanted to show that I took Annie's entrepreneurial notions seriously, but at the same time it was my duty to point out that start-ups are a vale of woes. When I say a background in business what I mean is I used to run a top-notch garage until I went broke from it.

You can’t get good help. You can’t count on trends. You need lawyers. That’s the kind of business advice I provide.

The other option Annie was weighing was to buy a house, which would be an especial prize because back in Shanghai nobody lives in houses anymore, everybody is in buildings. Only farmers in the countryside can still have a house. Annie’s problem was that all her yuan converted into dollars wouldn’t go particularly far in Toronto’s perpetually hot real estate market. So she would have to take on debt and in the meantime she would still have to find a source of income. Thru the Chinese grapevine she had an offer of what sounded like a labcoat factory job, some sort of packaging and quality control job for a cosmetics firm in the Niagara area, but that was another decision she was holding off on. All her options pulled in different directions.

I was not keen on the possibility of Annie moving off to Niagara, leaving me in the dust, so to speak, but I was not about to pipe up with an alternative idea. You can have sexually interesting and intense times and have real affection for each other but at the same time sense that living together would be a disaster. Especially with the age difference. No matter how agreeable and considerate the relationship is at first.

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