Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Cherry Beach Express by Cathi Bond

Cherry St & Unwin, Photo credit: Liis Toliao

The payphone screamed like the gulls and Cope rocketed out of the car, running into the booth snatching the receiver. The tails of his long black leather coat nearly got snapped as the door folded shut. All I could make out was Cope saying, “About fucking time!” and then the closing door drowned out the rest of the conversation.

I got out of the car and started dancing around the Cougar. We were going to get high, oh me oh my, as high as the sky. Charlene started waving the red nail polish brush like a wand, telling me to stop drawing attention, but nobody was down here. Nobody but us chickens. That stopped my dancing. I got back in the car.

“What’s wrong?” Charlene asked, leaning over the back seat.


That’s what Granddad always whispered when the two of us played hide and seek up in the hay mow, while Mom wandered around trying to find us.

Cope shoved open the phone booth door and strode back to the car. He was trying really hard not to be mad. Cope was always copasetic, which is why he got the nickname Cope, but right now Cope was anything but laid back. He got in the car and punched the steering wheel.

Charlene reached for the back of his neck and said “Baby,” but he brushed her away. Hurt, Charlene dropped the nail polish wand on the floor and didn’t bother to pick it up.

I leaned over the seat. “So?”

“Drought,” he replied.
And then we stepped off the edge of an endless chemical run into the nightmare of a full-out crash.

These lines are part of an excerpt from NightTown, a coming of age novel by Cathi Bond about the mean streets of Toronto during the 1970s.
Clarke Beach/Cherry Street Spit was a hangout for drug dealers, users, bikers and cops during the 1970s. A lone phone booth still stands at the corner of Unwin and Cherry, and it is the setting for a brief excerpt by Cathi Bond; one of two contributions to that weave through the seedy streets of Toronto past. The booth stands as a tactile piece of physical memory from a day when drug deals frequently went down over public phones.

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