I emerged out of my childhood home at 623 Lorne Avenue on June 20th, 2006. It was a date that others in the neighbourhood would have described as a beautiful summer day. School was finally over and kids were out and about living without a single care in the world. My world looked harsh and frightening, but it wasn't until this particular day at the age of twelve that I would feel true fear for the very first time.
I took a seat on the third and last step of the house and began looking for a stick that I could fidget around with to pass the time.
"Basel!, you ready for some road puck friend-o?" yelled one of the neighbourhood boys slamming a hockey stick against the dry, grey, concrete in the middle of the street.
I didn't say anything nor did I want to - instead I observed each and every car lying on both the left and right sides of my cramped East London street that the boy stood sandwiched between and I continued to twiddle around the stick.
"Basel, you fat bastard, stop jerking off and come to the courts for road hockey," howled the boy slamming his stick harder on the ground this time.
I was stuck in my own head watching the boy's dark shadow casted in black, following his every swing and movement of his long blond hair and his skinny body. He made me sick as most people did. Again, I didn't reply. I got up and walked back inside through that big red door.
I kicked my shoes off into the mountain of footwear in the old front hall that never saw much organization nor did the rest of the house.
My brother Cam slammed open the white door leading to the hall and proceeded to put me into a headlock.
"You let Checker out you retard!" he said angrily with his forearm and bicep squeezing my neck.
"I DIDN'T, I DIDN'T, I DIDN'T"
"MOM, MOM, HELP!" screamed I, pulling at his arms.
It was like an obstacle course getting in and out of that house. From trekking through garbage scattered along the floor and stepping on dog shit to getting beaten and berated by both my brother Cam and my oldest brother Abe.
"Oh stop Baz, you know he doesn't mean it," shouted my mother from the living room.
This wouldn't be the first time that she sat passively and ignored my cries for help. Everything was falling apart before her very eyes. Her kids, her house, the dog. I don't exactly blame her. I was just a mosquito flying aimlessly and adding unwanted stress to everyone's lives. After all, I was the youngest so I guess I was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"When you went outside to jerk off that stick, you left the front door open and let the dog out," said Cam as he let go and pushed me into the living room and onto the floor.
Cam was strong for a kid of 16 - that and the fact that I would have been one-hundred and eighty pounds back in those days and he was only one-fifty. I sort of got used to being beaten on by him , although, it still hurt like hell - It was really the only bonding that we ever had so I developed a sort of soft spot for these moments.
"Checker wasn't even in the front room when I left and I closed the white door so how could he have gotten out without me noticing?" said I rubbing my stiff neck lying helpless on the dirty carpet.
"Who let him out then? I sure as hell didn't," said Cam sternly clenching his fists at his side as he stood over me like a tower.
"Hey, stop swearing!" shouted my mother.
"Mom, did you see Checker run out of the house?" I asked.
"What honey?" replied my mother.
"Don't get her involved or I'll seriously fuck you up,"
"Now go to your room!" said Cam.
I got up and trudged through the sea of empty chip bags, dog shit, and newspaper and flew up the flight of stairs towards my room. My sister Ray mainly stayed in her room next to mine blasting mediocre punk music and sang terribly for all to hear. It wasn't all bad though, occasionally she would sing beautifully to John Lennon songs but this didn't happen often. Still, this added a little bit of color and distracted me from all the madness. I liked Ray. She was only a year older than I and was the one person in the house who really gave a shit about me.
"Cam being a dick again?" laughed Ray as I quickly passed her room.
"Yeah," said I gasping and attempting to catch my breath.
"Why?" she said.
"Checker got out I guess but I don't know how,"
"Did you let him out?" I asked.
"What? No, I've been upstairs all day. He probably got out through the back room, Abe always leaves that stupid door open when he smokes," exclaimed Ray.
"Yeah I don't know," said I.
"Whatever, don't feel bad. it's not your fault dude," said Ray in a comforting tone.
"I know," said I holding my head down as I proceeded down the hall.
I made it into my room and I remember the color scheme from the wall to the floor was a sad blue. I always looked through the window first as I made my entrance, after all, it sits directly across the room on the far wall and stares at you with glowing eyes.
I lied down on the bottom bunk and felt the heat singe my chubby pre-adolescent body and suddenly bullets of sweat began trickling down every surface and eventually bled through my white shirt and blue jeans. I just kept focussing my attention on the sensation of sweat because if I didn't then I'd be forced to think and thinking always created more problems. I shut my eyes for a moment and just immersed myself in the sensations. I still couldn't help to worry about the whereabouts of Checker. The house was so quiet without him.
Suddenly, the door flew open without a single knock prior and Cam appeared standing with his arms crossed.
"Abe left the door open and Checker ran out," said Cam
"Aha! I told you I didn't let him out," I said arrogantly.
"Yeah well, some junkie called the house phone and said he found him" he said as he flexed his skinny crossed arms.
"How do you know it's not a scam?"
"Look idiot, he said he saw a small pug walking around the schoolyard. I think it's pretty safe to say it's Checker," said Cam.
"Well don't just lie there fatso, come help me fight off this guy if he tries anything," yelled Cam.
"Where does he live?" I asked
"English Street," he replied.
"Well what if he has friends? And his friends have friends? We'll be overpowered," I said nervously.
"Stop being a wimp. You gotta' man up sometime," said Cam angrily
"Fine.." I sighed as I pulled myself up and Cam walked out of the room and towards Ray's.
"Ray!" yelled Cam banging at her door
"What do you want?" she howled back at Cam.
"Checker got out. come help us grab him," said Cam attempting to force the door open.
"Fine. just give me a second!" yelled Ray.
We jetted towards the red front door and began our journey to the Junk man's house. The heat-stroke ridden weather pierced our skin the whole walk there. It was terribly hot yet beautiful at the same time. It was a short walk of about two blocks but every step in this blistering condition felt like a mile. The real highlight was walking under the trees and being shaded for just a moment.
We had finally made it to the entrance of 430 English street. It was a dilapidated house just like the rest of the homes scattered around the neighbourhood.
"Alright kids, wait on the front lawn and I'll knock on the door. If it gets out of hand, make a run for it and I'll fuck this guy up," Cam said confidently. He began banging quickly and hard.
"THUMP, THUMP, THUMP." We sat there on the partially mowed lawn awaiting a response. Nothing.
It began again "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP." Suddenly a large Native man crept out in a flick and a fog of smoke seeped out from behind him.
"What do you want nerd?" said the Junk man in a raspy and angry voice.
Everyone in the neighbourhood always seemed to be pissed off about something. It's like a staple of the East end. Cam stood there without the same confidence that he came with and instead tensed up at this very moment.
"Uhhh...we... talked on the phone earlier," Cam said nervously in a high-pitched tone. Ray and I sat there picking at the grass and stared at our feet silently awaiting the next exchange.
"Yeah, you want your dog back nerd?" the Junk man asked jokingly.
"Yes sir," said Cam keeping up the pushover routine.
"I want my reward first. then you get the dog," he said.
"I don't have money and neither does my mom. Please just give us back our dog," pleaded Cam.
"Come back with a six pack kid and I'll think about it," laughed the man.
"I have no money. Please give us the dog back!" Cam yelled desperately.
Checker then appeared from the sea of smoke. He soared into my arms and the Junk man pushed Cam onto his ass, flew down the front steps, and grabbed my arm causing me to drop him.
"I'LL RIP THE DOG'S GODDAMN ARMS OFF IF I DON'T GET MY REWARD. I SWEAR TO GOD!" screamed the Junk man as he grabbed Checker and pushed me back onto the grass.
Checker cried loudly in an attempt to escape his captivity with great determination as he scratched and tried to climb his way out of the man's arms. He eventually stopped once he realized the man's grip was far stronger than all the strength in his body. The jig was up. He knew it, we knew it. I could see it in those big brown eyes of his.
Cam sat there defenseless and couldn't muster up anything. This was the moment I knew he was weak like the rest of us.
"We can't give you a reward!" Ray and I howled in unison.
I remember my exact thought that raced through my head in this moment was why does he have to do this?
I was terrified of this man, he had scars all along his face and didn't appear to be too old but at the same time his mind was weathered by years of abuse that aged him evidently. I knew that If he had the balls to pick on a dog with no remorse - he was a dangerous man.
He then ran into the house with Checker in his arms and slammed the door. We all sat there quietly in fear. There was nothing to say. We began to hear whimpers and fumbling and then there was nothing. I stared at Cam and then Ray and began to notice the tears that were shooting from all of our eyelids as we all sat in different places. The sound of a doorknob being turned echoed throughout the whole street and in this moment Ray grabbed me and began squeezing tightly to prepare for what happens next. The Junk man emerged from the cloudy house covered in blood and dropped Checker's severed head onto Cam's lap.
"No reward, no dog,"
"Now get the hell off my property!" the man said as he laughed maniacally and made his way back inside.
We were defeated. We were just a couple of defenseless kids in a world of sick adults.