It’s Weird How Things Work Out, Eh?
Perhaps the sole reason why I live here is that I didn’t wait for the train to start pulling out of the Toronto station before I jumped on board. This gave time for the CPR security people to approach me. Thank goodness I saw them coming and was able to exit the opposite side of the train, and as luck would have it a northbound train was just pulling out of the station. I jumped on it and waved good-bye to the security men.
I knew this direction certainly wouldn’t take me to the protection of the US border, but I believe in fate and made myself at home. I had to climb up and over the boxcar I was riding. The next car, fortunately, had an end door. It was easy to open, and I immediately started moving boxes and crates to make myself a cosy sleeping area.
I hadn’t slept for a couple of days, so I fell right to sleep. I woke up when I felt the train jerk a couple of times. I peeked out and saw people waving as we pulled away from the station. My eyes caught the word ‘Sudbury’ and I knew for sure that this train was heading far from Toronto.
I went back to my secure little nest and sat down. I was hungry, but that would have to wait until the train stopped again. Now I had the chance to just relax and reflect on how I got here.
* * *Things happened fast. It was only two days ago that I bumped into Frank after a long absence. You see, I kinda had the hots for Frank, but I never let him know that. I didn’t want to get involved at the time. Frank seemed to be on top of the world when he spotted me at my regular corner, begging for food and money.
Oh! I haven’t told you about that yet, have I? It was only a few days past my sixteenth birthday during another heated argument with my mother that I jumped on a bus and headed to Toronto. My parents were so hung up with religion and always trying to impress god knows who, that they made a thousand rules for me to follow. I couldn’t go out after school. I had a list of chores that a slave would rebel at. Plus, no lipstick, no movies (only the religious dribble they sometimes showed at church), no playing cards, and of course no boyfriends. Always nagging, nagging, nagging, and I just had enough. And I never told anyone where I was going either. Well, one thing led to the next and I found myself living the life of a street person. I can tell you it was a lot better than living with my parents.
Anyway, back to my story. Frank had a great plan to get some money, and it almost worked. You see, there was this warehouse on River Street. Frank had heard from his cousin Chenco, who worked there part time loading electronic appliances on trucks, that the lock on the side door of the warehouse was broken for the last few days and nobody had seemed to fix it yet.
Chenco wasn’t interested in anything illegal, he just had this insatiable habit of gossiping whenever he could. He would even search out juicy information to enhance his insistent boasting.
It was the next piece of information that sparked Frank’s interest. Chenco told him that occupying the same warehouse, but independent of his work place, was the Black Flamingos, a local bike gang. Chenco also discovered that the Flamingos were into drugs and somehow knew that there was a deal going down in a day or two. The Flamingos, so it was rumoured, had a hundred thousand dollars stashed away waiting for the deal.
Frank’s mojo was kindled. When he met me on the street he couldn’t help but to tell me his plan. You see, I knew him from a few years ago when he approached me and ended up buying me a hamburger. He had just come across some money from a corner store robbery, and wanted to share it with me. I knew he had a crush on me, but like I said, I didn’t want to get involved. Anyway, Frank had a habit of ‘borrowing’ things, and I even helped him out a couple of times, as his lookout person. This was the first time in a couple of years that I had seen him. He told me that he spent some time at the “Crowbar Hotel”.
Back to my story: Frank’s plan was to enter the warehouse around 4 a.m. to look for the money. It was a simple plan because as far as anyone knew there wasn’t any chance of anybody being around the place at that time. I agreed to go with him and we would split what we could find.
We hung around a coffee shop until 3 a.m. and made our way, on foot, to the warehouse about two miles away. The side door opened easily and we cautiously entered. There was a glow from the street lights shining through the upper windows. On the far wall we found a door with a heavy bar securing it. Frank simply lifted the bar and opened the door inwards. On the other side there was another bar, which we easily ducked under. We discovered a couple of motorbikes in various stages of repair and a dirty desk. We both started opening drawers, and there it was – a cigar box. When Frank opened it, it overflowed with big bills. The Black Flamingos were either one sandwich short of a picnic lunch or they were foolishly trusting.
Frank grabbed the box and we made our way to the side entrance. Taking money from crooks didn’t really seem wrong. They got it illegally, and the best part of it is they certainly wouldn’t want to report it to the police.
If it weren’t for bad luck, there wouldn’t be any luck at all. As soon as we opened the door we startled a cop who was on patrol. We didn’t wait around to have a chat with him, but started running as fast as we could. I was a little ahead of Frank and looked back, just as the officer pulled out his gun and yelled, “stop.” Of course we didn’t stop and the next second a bullet hit Frank and he fell to the ground holding his hip. The police ran towards him and I took off to the right and into the night.
I knew the cop had a good look at me, and me with red hair, I would be easy to find. That’s why I decided to find a train heading south.
* * *So, I was heading north now, out of Ontario and to the West Coast. I was able to sneak out of my freight car a couple of times, when the train stopped, and find some food. I didn’t want to take a chance and stay on the train all the way to the coast, so I figured that Winnipeg would be a safe place to begin again. I even thought that I would try to get a job, maybe as a waitress, and attempt to establish myself as a normal resident. I thought of Frank often, and wondered what happened to him. The bullet only wounded him, I was sure, but he will probably be revisiting his “Crowbar Hotel” again.
The train stopped at the Winnipeg station. I peeked out the door and everything looked clear. All of the passengers were exiting the train a few cars ahead. Just as I stepped onto the platform, two well-dressed gentlemen approached me and asked for my ticket. I felt the blood drain from my face as my adrenaline cut in, tensing my body to escape. I don’t think that I took two steps before hands gripped me and lead me into a side room of the train station.
Immediately one of the men started telling me that they were anticipating my arrival. “You see,” he said, “our people from Toronto sent out an all-points watch for you. We don’t know how you got this far, but this is the end of the road for you.”
Deflated, I resigned myself to possible prison. At least I would have a roof over my head and three square meals a day. I could handle that, I thought.
They took me back to Toronto for the trial. Since it was my first offence and we weren’t armed during the robbery, I only got 15 months in jail. I heard that Frank was given a longer sentence, yet at the same time they were lenient with him because they now had evidence to arrest the Black Flamingos.
Now, here is the real cool part of my story. Did you know that in minimum security the prisoners are able to buy cigarettes, gum, and such things from a tuck shop? They even sold lottery tickets there. Well, I developed the habit of buying a lottery ticket every week. My luck changed. With only three weeks to go before I was released, I won a hundred thousand dollars. I had the good sense not to tell anybody, knowing that I could collect the money after I got out. This bit of luck cemented a whole new plan. I would fly to Vancouver, find a decent place to live, get some new clothes and find myself a job.
And that’s what I did. I’m working at Walmart now. I’ve found myself a boyfriend and the world is nothing but sunshine. It’s weird how things work out, eh?
Originally read over the CBC many years ago.