You can open Northwood's plant- and petiole-covered basement window if you ever want to. You would just skulk down the narrow driveway between them and the neighbours when pedestrian and car traffic is quiet and drop yourself to the ground. The window's latch has been broken since the day Trevor forgot his keys and had to Trevor his way through the entry in all his indelicate, clumsy Trevor glory. The latch is just another one of those little things that could easily make matters worse if not addressed in time, but it hasn't allowed any winos or freaks into the home unwanted yet, so Trevor's forgotten the window's even there, and so has the earth, with its reddened reeds of rhubarb growing tall and obscuring the slider window from sight. If you can wiggle your way through the slid-open opening you'd be palm-first in the floor's pea-gravel before your feet were swallowed by the bundle of green inflorescences.
Then when the sun has lowered and no mottled light through the stalks and small window spotlights the floor down there with its chorus lines of acrobatic dirt and dust pirouetting around aimlessly, you can find one of those shoelace lightswitches dangling from the ceiling. You light the floating dust that lingers perpetually airborne and without agency over the ground.
Or without bulb-light you can feel your way across the cluttered floor and the chipped surfboards, longboards, impulse buys justified by personal delusions; an Irish harp, wooden molding planes, tool kits, beach balls, good-intentioned garbage bags for Goodwill never sent off, corrugated boxes of paperbacks and high-school papers, found objects lost again, old microwaves, a dusted collection of James' Turn of The Screw and then finally the stairs to the kitchen.
Or you can sit yourself near the ventilator in the middle of the basement and cone your hands around the opening and hear the resonating tones of a half-dozen or more voices all at once in hushed cacophony. And that's what he was doing, this little guy, all silent and tense trying not to breathe. Through the house's vents that feed into the basement you can sit back and half-hear soft snippets of conversation, sounds only caught by unbreakable intent, halves of phone conversations, emphasized words from roommates' whispered conversations, and sometimes the sounds of singing over running water at the kitchen sink.
"What the hell are they doing, saving it for a science experiment? It's just sitting there. You think they did it because they didn't want the flush to wake us all up? Well, the smell of it just stewing in its own fecal coliform broth worked better than smelling salts on me this morning. I have badminton in 30 minutes and I'm not sitting down over someone else's shit."
"Do you really think we need this new 120,00-square-foot mountain of conservative bullshit to spark development? Honestly, guys, really, like, what the fuck, really? Are you thinking that? Will—just shut up-shut-up-right-now—let me tell you: Development is happening. There's more than 130 new developments in the downtown core, and those are just the ones that comply with the BS view-plane regulations, so tell me just what the hell they're thinking because I don't have a fucking clue."
"—That's 70-odd new developments, 50 expansion/conservation developments and a handful of other approved projects. You think we need more office space down there? There is a surplus in vacancies right now! We already got Westhill on Duke, Waterside, TD Centre and Barrington E-space making a ridiculous go of it, too. Why the hell do we need a Roman coliseum right across from The Toothy Moose?"
"I'm not a prude, no. And I definitely don't think I'm being out of line. I'm just saying: Just because I'm the first to spot it doesn't mean I have to be the one who flushes it. Don't tell me that's how the world works, goddammit. I'm leaving the flushing to the culprit. And I'm going to stand right here like this with this jar in my hand by the door until they're either driven back to the scene by the pangs of guilt or the unbelievable smell of their corn-eyed butt-snake slithering around the toilet and I'm going to look them in the eye and ask them what the depths of their attachment to this dump is, and I'll hold up the jar for dramatic effect and ask if they want to save their personal private B.M. in the jar for safekeeping instead of on the first floor's ivory throne for all us commoners to see. This toilet is right by the living room too, go christen the commode upstairs at least, I mean, Jesus."
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.