In the Progressive
Standing on the edge of the building around twilight was a man. He winced.
An hour earlier, he was walking up the last flight of stairs to the roof.
In Room 714 half-an-hour before that, he was reading a letter that had been hand-delivered to the front desk.
Sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 that morning, some marauding kids were stripping down his car in the parking lot down the street.
A few hours before that he was being mugged while leaving the bar around the corner.
Two-and-a-half hours before that, he was moving into a dilapidated hotel near the mission, having just been released.
He was rampaging through the apartment a couple of hours earlier when the police arrived and took him into custody.
Around 5:30, the bartender was refusing to serve him any more drinks.
Twenty-six hours and seven minutes ago, he was being pink slipped and escorted off the floor where he was working moments before.
* * *
I am making an early dinner for the boys when the call comes. He never could stick with anything. Drinking more than we could afford, turning up drunk for work, or phoning in sick with that slurred speech and foul mouth of his. I am thinking this may be the end, wondering how we’re going to make rent.
The boys are finally asleep, and I’m swearing that this’ll be the last time he'll ever take it out on me like that. I say that every time, I know. But for sure next time, I’m calling the cops on the bastard soon as I see him at the door.
First thing in the morning and the super is banging on the door and shouting that the landlord is evicting us.
Mid-morning, thanks to that good-for-nothing piece of ___, I’m phoning around trying to find something better than one of those hell holes for women beaten by men.
Just before noon, someone from the police department is calling and talking about a car, registered to this address, that’s been found vandalized in a downtown parking lot. I’m not worrying about this right now, and I’m telling them over and over to tow, impound it, or whatever for all I care—it’s not mine!
Early in the afternoon—the boys are safe in school and are going over to a friend’s afterwards—the hotel desk clerk is telling me that the man got beaten pretty badly. Good’s what I say … under my breath. I mean it’s not like he didn’t have it coming. Besides, he didn’t even go to hospital!
A few hours later—must’ve been around 4:30—I’m standing at the hotel front desk, and I’m asking the desk clerk if he’s seen him.
Half-an-hour later, I’m sitting in a nearby bakery, watching from diagonally across the street, and waiting for him to show up and get the letter I left.
About seven or seven-thirty, I am following him up the last flight of stairs to the roof, and my heart is racing.
I am walking up behind him to the edge of the roof where he is looking down into the streets now emptied of cars rushing out of the city.
I am standing behind him, and I am pushing the gun hard into his right kidney.
Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.