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by Frank Duff

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559 Nathan Abbott Way


Lyle and Johnny had met in Intro to Psych. Neither of them completed the course. Johnny was taking it because he was in first year and still believed that University life was about becoming an educated person rather than about getting in, getting out and getting paid. As such he had signed up for Intro to Psych and Intro to Advanced Physics as the two first year electives in his Computer Science Degree rather than the much more traditional Intro to Logic (which anyone who knows the difference between if and iff can ace) and Science and Society (which gets you your humanities requirement without having to actually take a humanities courses). Lyle's reasons for being in the course were much more mysterious. Johnny noticed him straight off: The punker with the green mohawk sitting just to the left of centre in Convocation Hall, where PSY 100 was held. It was a 9am Monday morning class, the first university class in the lives of most of the students. Yet Lyle did not have the same air of trepidation about him that hovered over the rest of those in attendance. He sat calmly with his Docs up on the back of the seat in front of him, knitting. Whereas almost everyone else in the hall (Johnny included, he was embarrassed to later recall) had brought with them a shiny new binder bought at Wal-Mart (or Grand and Toy for the rich kids) and a pencil case with not only pencils and erasers but pens in blue, black and red, Lyle had three sheets of folded paper which had clearly been pulled from his pockets minutes earlier and a red Bic pen without a cap sitting on his fold-down desk.

The instructor was a frightened looking graduate student named Mohammed Haj-Mosawi who spoke English with a very thick accent and did so in a voice that would have been rather too quiet for polite dinner conversation, never mind lecturing to 800 students. He did however, come armed with some pretty serious PowerPoint slides. By about the third week some combination of the nearly inaudible and indecipherable English and the Monday-morningness had driven attendance down to the point where Johnny was able to permanently stake out a seat in the front row. Soon afterwards, Lyle migrated forward as well. From that vantage point, both were surprised to discover that Haj-Mosawi was quite a compelling speaker once you got used to the way he pronounced all his soft 'i's as hard 'e's.

It was an unseasonably warm day in mid-October when Johnny actually talked to Lyle for the first time. Johnny had stayed around for a few minutes after class to ask Haj-Mosawi a couple of questions about the lecture. When he stepped out the doors of Con Hall and started down the stairs a voice called from behind him: "Nice shirt."

Johnny spun around, met Lyle's grinning eyes and asked: "You're a fan?" Johnny was wearing an old Doors t-shirt, a veritable antique. It had belonged to his father. The words "The Doors" had faded entirely from the back and Jim Morrison's grim visage barely continued to peer out from Johnny's chest. The neckband had frayed to the point that it hardly existed and the sweat stains in the armpits were the kind that didn't wash out. Band shirts weren't really in fitting with Johnny's usual style; in fact this was the only one he owned. He generally wore a plain black hoodie and blue jeans just about every day of the year, but the sun blazing in through his dorm window that autumn morning had dictated an impromptu wardrobe re-evaluation.

Lyle was leaning up against a pillar smoking a cigarette. His pants were a patchwork of leather, denim, plaid flannel and various faded patches for bands Johnny had never heard of. The pants fit Lyle's long legs snugly and were tucked inside the tops of his Docs at his ankles. There were zippers and buttons, which seemed to serve no fastening purpose, set into the pants haphazardly across their surface. Lyle's lower half was always clothed in this way and Johnny suspected from observation that Lyle had three or four similar pairs of pants, but wouldn't be willing to swear that the pants weren't completely different every day. Lyle was also wearing a stained white Sex Pistol's t-shirt on which the printing job was so smeared that it was almost certain that he had done the silk-screening himself. There was a long slash as from a knife running diagonally across Lyle's chest and the dirty white cotton curled outwards around this wound. Through the tear Johnny could see that Lyle's right nipple had a safety pin through it. There was a single thick black line of tattoo ink running down the inside of Lyle's forearm from the divot of his elbow to where it disappeared underneath a black leather bracelet bristling in steel spikes, several of which were rusting. In all, he looked as though he had been fashioned by God for rich girls to date for revenge against their parents.

Lyle spat onto the ground and, ignoring Johnny's question, asked: "Know where I can get some acid?"

Johnny was visibly surprised: "Why are you asking me?"

"I saw you reading 'Doors of Perception' during break."

"Sorry," Johnny said, turning to leave, "but you've got a wrong number." Johnny hopped on his skateboard and sped off in the direction of McLennan Physical Laboratories. He didn't look back, but if he had he would have seen Lyle watching him with more than mild curiosity.

Johnny had been reading 'Doors of Perception' in class, re-reading in fact. That much was true. However, he had been reading 'The Old Man and the Sea' the week before and no one had asked him if he knew where they could get some good marlin. The disconcerting thing was that Johnny did in fact know where Lyle could get some acid, but his natural defence mechanisms had convinced him to play dumb. He had been a small time dealer all through his high school years in Peterborough. He would receive a sheet of acid, 200 hits, at an anonymous mailbox from a Russian guy he knew in Kingston in exchange for 500 dollars. He would then break it down and sell it for five bucks a hit. This kept Johnny in steady supply of black hoodies and pocket money throughout his teenage years, it had also been the primary source of the money he had saved for university. When he came to Toronto for school, Johnny figured he had left his acid pushing days behind him. He had assumed that the market was already saturated and he'd be unable to find a niche. But now-- Now he wasn't so sure.

What he was sure of was that he had a good deal going with the U of T physics department. The department was desperate for new students so they pampered their undergrads with free pizza at lunchtime three days a week. Johnny wasn't, technically speaking, a physics undergrad, but he had been tipped off to the existence of the pizza Nirvana by a classmate in Physics 140. The combination of Johnny's brief chat with Haj-Mosawi and his run in with Lyle had rendered him ten minutes late for pizza.

Those were a vital ten minutes in which the vegetarian pizzas had been entirely consumed. Johnny had been a vegetarian for six years, but he wasn't uptight about it; he was perfectly willing to pick pepperoni off of pizza. Besides, he knew that it had not been the other vegetarians in the room who had eaten all the vegetarian pizza. The truth was that those who ate meat would dig into the vegetarian pizza first, leaving the meat pizzas virtually untouched. They did this because they knew that, although they were content to eat either, the vegetarians didn't even see the meat pizzas as food. This meant that those pizzas could be saved for leisurely consumption as much as thirty minutes post-pizza-arrival.

Johnny wasn't one to let others win that easily. He preyed on the false sense of security that the meat-eaters derived from their pizza piracy and managed to find an entire untouched pepperoni pizza still in its box. He closed the lid and took it over to an unoccupied section of the physics student lounge where he sat in a beat up armchair, opened the box onto a coffee table and began to systematically pluck all the pepperoni slices off of the entire pizza and deposit them into the lid of the box. As he de-meated his pizza, Johnny's thoughts returned to his short puzzling conversation with Lyle. Johnny had about fifty hits of quality blotter in his dorm room at this very moment. It was earmarked for personal use, but there was no reason he couldn't sell some of it to Lyle and see what developed from there. If he hadn't already burned his bridges. Johnny could certainly use the cash, at the very least. His bank account was running dangerously low and there were four days every week without free pizza.

Johnny was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice anyone was behind him until an arm reached over his shoulder and claimed a small handful of the unwanted pepperoni. He could feel small breasts against the back of his head. Before he could turn around, the girl had dropped herself into the equally worn armchair opposite him. "Nice shirt," she said with a mouthful of pepperoni.

"People seem to like it," Johnny replied.

"I'm Tinka. You should eat meat, it's good for you."

From the start it was easy to see that Tinka was something of an enigma. Her hair was mostly black, though there were patches of red and blue. It had ribbons and beads knotted randomly into it and, although nearly shoulder length, stood up improbably and stuck out in every direction as though straining with all its will to escape her scalp. She wore a tank top onto which she had marked red "X"s across her breasts in paint that was uncomfortably blood-like in colour. She was wearing big black boots, torn fishnet stockings and a plaid flannel mini-skirt which, given the haphazard way she sat with one leg up on the coffee table, did absolutely nothing to hide her red silk underwear. She played with her hair for a moment before staring directly at Johnny with eyes that blazed from under epicanthic folds, indicating his turn to speak.

"Johnny. And no, it's not."

"Whatever, it's free," Tinka shrugged as she crammed another fistful of pepperoni into her lipsticked mouth.

"You're a physics student?" Johnny asked out loud almost by accident.

She smiled a big carnivorous smile and licked her lips. "I'm not even a student, are you?"

Johnny started to answer but then instead just grinned.

"Listen," Tinka said, jumping up from the chair and grabbing all the remaining pepperoni in her left hand, "if you like free food, meet me at Annesley Hall tomorrow at seven. You can be my date, I gotta jet."

She then took one quick look around and walked quickly to the exit, grabbing the last slice of sausage pizza on her way by. When she was almost to the door, she spun around and yelled: "And dress nice!" at Johnny while back-pedaling. She backed right into a terrified looking physics student in a button-down shirt and glasses. Quickly catching her balance Tinka turned around, winked at the boy and slapped him on the ass on her way out the door.

Johnny just kept grinning, shook his head and set to work on his pizza.

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