Hollow Bones

By Joshua Bouchard

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She pours through the doors of the coffee shop near the corner of Keele & Dundas like
—–Her lips are slathered in strawberry-pink ice cream; she hand-rolls a cigarette, her
hair knots in an up draft.
—–One by one, she opens a handful of sugar packets, pouring the contents on the
table; she puts a straw to her wind-cracked lips and blows out an outline of a mountain,
humming like a harmonica trapped in a hurricane. Her moist tongue then outlines the
shape of a hip bone, then the CN Tower.
—–Dragging her fingers along the linoleum finish, she recreates Van Gogh’s Starry
Night. When it’s done, she forces her hand through the white grain like a monk through a
—–Everything is impermanent.
—–A pigeon flies into the window. It dies.
—–I once saw a dead magpie in Calgary. With rocks tied to its legs and body with
school-grade pipe cleaners, it died in pain. I photographed it and studied the
decomposition of its wings while heading North through the Ice Field Parkway, the great
gash in Western Canada. I studied it like the short stumpy legs of Deedy from the angle
of between her thighs.
—–I remember her mathematics; spirals, bumps, vascular outlines and the river of her
breath. She tasted like pink lemonade.
—–She is alone now. I left her in the desert of her growing hair.
—–My beard is shaved.
—–When she found out I was leaving, she climbed The Parliament Hill and swatted
at passing planes and helicopters. Her tears flooded Metcalfe and Bank. Everyone
shopping in the mall drowned in Orange Julius juice and Tim Horton’s coffee, clutching
their shopping bags as life preserves.
—–They all died, so I heard.
—–The Canadian Air Force shot down Deedy. It was too expensive to dispose her
body. As a solution, they tied explosives around her belly and blew up her corpse. Her
blood flooded the canal all the way to Orleans, into the horizon.
—–Everyone sang in joy.
—–Harper did a line of coke in the penthouse to celebrate. Four-Twenty Day
happened as scheduled on the grassy knoll of Parliament and the place went up in a
smoky tinder. Everything felt like a video time-lapse.
—–I hear Deedy’s voice in the wind when walking from Bay to the Junction. It
bellows through the subways like ash in a chimney fire.
—–Lionel lets me sleep on his couch and smoke pot from a corn-cob pipe he stole
from a young UFT hipster on St. George. He stuffed in a bag he later hung from a light
pole and set a match to. He did it to share the flame that sets his soul on fire.
—–We drink green absinthe at The Hole in the Wall and talk about CBC Radio and
how the Big Bang never happened. Lionel plays folk guitar and shows me an Autoharp
he tuned from ear.
—–Soon he will give a radio interview with a young student from Humber College
about the inevitable decline of modern music while he smokes cigarettes and eats a sixegg
omelet. I step out for a bite to eat at a corner coffee shop and wonder if the sun will
ever rise again.
—–He just broke it off with his girlfriend, he tells me later. She’ll want to get married
soon, he says. I can’t get married, not yet.
—–He plays a C chord and breaks a string.
—–I tell him that he’ll have no trouble finding someone else. After all, he’s in a band.
Even better, he plays guitar in a band.
—–Sometimes I feel so lonely I ask the homeless if they’ll draw me a map to Jupiter.
But not here, not in this city. It’s satisfying to have only me and the distance between me
and the sound of my footsteps.
—–Sometimes, though, if I’m feeling confident, I’ll stare at young student girls on
the subway and say nothing to them. I’ll ask directions from strangers to downtown from
Bloor even though all I have to do is click my heels and wish my way there.
—–It’s easy to pretend you are everything when you are nothing.

Joshua Bouchard

Author’s Note: The story attempts to follow an abstract vision of thought making generated by everyday images, experiences, memories and people. Downtown Toronto serves as the backdrop for an inner conversation everyone has with themselves every moment of their lives, but in always different ways. This is one of them.