Flash Fiction

An almost existential stroll in downtown Toronto

By May 8, 2013 67 Comments

Waking up is a commercial break in a seven-hour movie (sometimes four). You look at yourself and choose:

a) Today I’m going to save the planet
b) Today I’m going to work on my novel
c) Today I’m going to

Millie Ho

go downtown to listen and jazz and mingle with old friends and smoked memories. So you do. You draw things on the subway. They’re characters from that long-suffering neo noir novel you’ve been writing since what feels like the day they snipped the umbilical chord. You use Paper Mate pens, the blue ones, because they remind you of non photo blue and make you feel like the architect behind Something Grand And Wonderful (If Only You Can Get It Done).

Millie Ho sketching

The most complicated thing to sketch is fabric. They way they zigzag and carve down the torso and arms and trap shadows between sharp folds—it’s complicated but oh so satisfying when you (think you) get it right. I recommend sketching while staring wide-eyed at passengers on streetcars/subway trains/buses. Bonus points if the exercise yields you a free seat due to:

a) Somebody getting off at the next stop
b) Somebody trying to evade pictorial documentation
c) All of the above with whipped cream on top

The Rex

You are at the Rex. You listen with eardrums buzzing pleasantly and think about blood diamonds and vendettas and hitmen with fedoras slanting over one eye.  Neo noir is very jazz and blues friendly. Your brain maps out subplots, character motives, denouements and liquorice-esque twists. You mentally review your Godfather study notes and try to spot Michael Corleone in the crowd.  Then you see the


drummer with no face and think, Isn’t it mysterious? You stare for a while and see it. Look left, and then down. There’s a hole in the drum. It’s not a bullet hole. You know this for sure. You write something in your notepad about how stylish holes are when they can’t be explained.

Downtown Toronto

You walk downtown. The lights are alive. The sky is black like coffee. Look. Up above. See the Cat’s Cradle? Kurt Vonnegut knew how to contextualize chaos.

Man in Car

There are men in long black cars. You consider the possibility of them being criminal masterminds. Of course. Look at the suit, the courtesy, the limp of unknown origin.

Man getting in car

Duck, slam, roar. No time for soul-searching interviews. You’ve got your own humanity to figure out. Like wondering if

TTC Subway station

you’ve been walking down corridors all your life.


That’s all you see these days: polished floors and open doors,

Subway Train

yellow lines and barcode rails,

Harbourfront Street

cold pillars and orbs that spill.

TTC Entrance

There is no end to corridors.

Downtown Toronto Traffic Intersection

But isn’t it comforting?

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