The morning went better than I thought it would. I was supposed to help a graduate student draft a thesis proposal, but she begged off claiming illness, leaving me with the entire morning free. I spent it in the library.
I was researching material on the unequal distribution of wealth in the Thirties and got sidetracked while working on the section entitled, “Making Do in Hard times.”
I began digressing and reading accounts of everyday life in Toronto during the Depression. I saw a photo of huge lineups outside the Yonge Street Mission—hundreds of men in long overcoats waiting for a free breakfast—at least, that’s what the banner over the door advertised.
I read the mind-numbing statistics—25% of Torontonians were on relief and no commercial buildings were being erected. Women were paid $12.50 per week in garment-making factories.
There was a picture of women working at the Eaton’s factory being monitored by supervisors using stopwatches. I was about to turn the page when my eye was drawn to the background of the picture. There was a young blonde woman sitting at a sewing machine and she was a dead-ringer for Marilyn.
That’s impossible, I told myself. I looked closer. The girl could have been her identical twin.
I recalled Marilyn’s story about the chestnut seller in the rain—it happened outside Eaton’s. A coincidence? My scalp began to creep.
Nothing about my relationship with Marilyn made sense. The more I got to know her, the more improbable everything became.
The atmosphere in the library began to feel stuffy and oppressive. I needed to leave. I grabbed my papers and stuffed them into a briefcase, and before returning the book, made a photocopy of the picture of the girl.
I emerged into a cool breeze—the sky was overcast and threatened rain. I started to walk out onto St. George Street and happened to glance south—it was then I noticed a Metro Police cruiser stopped at the curb at the head of a line of parked cars.
Abe? The thought crossed my mind, but I dismissed it and made my way back towards campus. I decided to stop by hart House for a sandwich and coffee. As I approached Hart house Circle, I spotted another Metro Police cruiser parked near the main doors.
I began to feel apprehensive and immediately thought of Marilyn. I ordered a coffee and sandwich and when I got to ‘our’ table, I phoned the bookshop.
“Are you missing me?” she teased.
“I am. Is everything all right?”
“It’s good. Why do you ask?”
“Just indulge me for a moment. Take a look outside and tell me what you see.”
“That’s easy. I was just out. I saw sooty clouds and it was quite breezy.”
“Did you notice anything unusual?”
“Not really—just a Direct Energy van and a bunch of parked cars—Oh, and a police cruiser.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“I figured that. Abe’s watching both of us now—I wonder if he thinks something’s going down?”
“I hope not—but I doubt anyone would try anything—the cruiser’s been parked at my front door all morning.”
“Good. Then, I won’t worry so much about you.”
“That’s sweet, Scott, but I’ll be fine. When I finish here, I’ll go straight upstairs, eat supper, have a nice hot bath and go directly to bed—so, don’t worry, okay?”
“If you say so, I won’t. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow at eight.”
“Thanks for caring.”
I held the phone to my ear a few moments longer, before flipping the cell shut. I simply luxuriated in her aura.
© 2017 – 2018, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.