Jenny Ferguson, excerpt from

This mood, these burnt cigarettes, belong at the cop’s feet. Harassment must still ring enough bells to draw some sweat around the office.

Since Abe convinced Wendy it was the smart thing to do, the cop has been laying low. Five days, going into a quiet long weekend without a sighting, without a siren in the neighbourhood. Apparently, crime had stopped too. For five days quiet ruled, and the scum scurried even lower down. Not low enough, it seems. Or worse, just enough.

She falls next to Ida on the couch, anxiety, Wendy’s good friend, settling in alongside her, cuddling up to her thigh, and when it’s not comfortable there, climbing to rest heavy along the nape of her neck.

“He says he’ll do it, if you don’t drop the complaint.” Ida rocks back and forth. “Frisked me down as Tim and I were leaving the club, pulled enough heroin out of my bag to get me sent away on fed time for life. He set me up, I swear.”

“I know. You wouldn’t.”

“You sure?” Ida asks, taking a drag from her cigarette.

“Of course.”

There is no doubt. This is an escalation. From friendly warnings to warnings from friends, to minor arrests, to joy rides, to this. It tracks.

“He pulls me aside, throws me in the back of his cruiser. Tim, of course, disappears. I really thought he had more balls than that. Then the cop, he takes my purse from me, takes the heroin, my cigarettes, and my sunglasses, and shoves it all in his glove compartment.” Ida stubs her butt out on the coffee table, ash staining the floor and the couch around her. “We know he can get in here. Changing the locks didn’t do anything. All he has to do is show up and convince the super to let him in. We’re fucked.”

Outside their apartment, a clunking sound. Both women straighten until they hear a Jamaican woman yelling at her kid to cut it out.

“If he turns me in, I lose my job, everything, Wen. You know he can get at us both. And, sister, he doesn’t want to date you anymore.”

Wendy’s heart echoes in her ears, flooding her with adrenalin and clarity. The complaint hadn’t given her peace, not the paper copy she’d been offered as if as a guarantee of safety. But the quiet, the quiet even in the heat of the last week of July when the city was frantic, had tasted like power. Abe would have to understand. The police, like everyone else, are all shades of grey.

“I’ll drop the complaint.”

Ida wipes her nose with the back of her hand, then covers her mouth, her fingers shaking, her black nail polish faded along the crests of the nails as if she’s been worrying them against a hard surface. “You sure?”

The stain on the lip of the coffee table, the ash surrounding it, is what’s left behind after a campfire, the pit of black encircled by what the wind hasn’t carried away. The mess is temporary. All the furniture in the apartment is disposable. The security deposit—Wendy never expected to get it back when the building has a no smoking policy, though the stale scent in the halls suggests otherwise.

“Of course,” she says. “First thing in the morning.”

“He’s insane.”

Ida’s about to cry. This woman is tough, never breaks. And this is breaking her. For weeks now, she’s been smoking more, drinking more, phoning in sick to work to lie on the couch, or to run around this city with some man she hardly knows.

This is the cop’s fault. He’s run them both ragged. Wendy’s crawling, not that she’d crawl on the floor in here to prove it. They need to deep clean with bleach. Later, once they’re strong enough. Outside, the birds carry on, although the heat, or the cop, has dimmed their songs too.




From The Malahat Review's summer issue #219