The Space Between Part 1

Where is your brother?” Coyote coalesced out of brindled smoke and shadows and stepped gingerly into the alleyway.


The raven did not answer right away. Instead it looked to the end of the alley. It opened into a street that was all streets, silent but busy; separate. The bustle outside did not penetrate the narrow, brick-bound confines of the passage with either sound or recognition. It was of the street; that is to say, it was made of the same stuff - of concrete, dust, garbage, water, air, earth and fire, but it was apart. People flashed by in fashions that changed at each step, automobiles from all eras blended to a translucent flash of chrome and grill, sidewalls and halogens, over horse carriages and buckboards. One last time… a herd of goats meandered by, led by a lad in sandals and a sheep- skin coat.  He paused, lifted a brown and white billy goat’s leg and scraped at the small hoof with a flat piece of metal before both faded into ethereality.


Although it was not marked with any sign visible to the eyes of man, at that moment this place was exactly the same distance from the north border of the City as it was from the south, and likewise from the east and west.


“At the well. Always at the well. He is still looking.” he croaked.


Above him the sky was gray. Gullweather. The last was a thought laced with particular disdain and with a preening of oil black feathers, thoughts of gulls were banished. On the air drifted small droplets of rain. The sky hung onto its indecision, though all around the relatively calm area above the alley it was raining. Rain veils, gray curtains that hung upon the loom of the sky, parsed the distant horizons. The alley itself looked washed out, the brick lined with soot and grime, the asphalt cracked to show old cobbles and under those, stones and hard packed earth.


The other end of the alley disappeared in the turnings of dumpsters lined against the alley walls, making shadows and corners until the other end vanished under obstruction and clutter. Raven remained silent for a moment more, perched upon the rail of the fire escape. He cocked his head and looked (with an eye like a hard black gem) down upon the tan fur and laughing mouth, sharp white teeth and lolling red tongue.


“ Looking backwards” nodded Coyote her muzzle closing, tongue drawn in as a show of sympathy.


“ Always” agreed Raven.


“A shame”, Coyote wagged her tail, drawing the finer lighter hairs on the underside through a puddle of stagnant water that sat in a hole in the asphalt.


“All that matters now to him is memory." Raven sidled along the metal rail.


“Still, I wish he was here, for old time’s sake.”


“You would just like to savour the memory of when we twain fought over you, when you were a Dove.” Raven watched as her tail stopped wagging with his observation. “You were ever a vain thing Lady.”


Her mouth opened again and the red tongue swam over the sharp white teeth. “Touché. Why are we here today?”


“Someone comes,” Raven shifted his feet back and forth, “ He is having a bad day.”


Coyote circled widdershins, then moved back and forth from paw to paw, as if nervous.


“ On of those temporary kinds of gods then?”


“ I would expect so, “ said Raven.




Grant Buchner stared into the face of the man in the blue BMW. He stood half across the road his briefcase in his hand. He was not a tall man, nor especially broad. No one had ever described him as particularly handsome, nor particularly ugly. He was of middling weight, build, colouration and dress. He stared at the man in the car while others on the street, standing in small groups or walking together on the sidewalk stopped. Grant had seen the car approach, watched the man sight him and accelerate along the solid yellow line in the middle of the road. It was a game of chicken played often in the streets; the dare of the pedestrian against the driver. The driver looking to bully his way with one and a half tons of metal and rubber, the pedestrian relying upon the forbearance of the driver.


The hood of the car stopped two feet away from Grants hip.  The driver leaned on the horn the sound blanking out the driver’s scream already muted by the closed windows.  Grant slowly turned to face the man in the car, his eyes behind his round rimless glasses opened wide enough to show the whites around the pupil and iris.


The driver looked Mediterranean, and young and he held his hands up; palms toward the roof of the car in a gesture that motioned at Grant, an exasperated look on his dark face.


Grant paused, his lips curled and his knuckles whitened as he gripped the handle of his briefcase. He was snarling silently and waited a beat before moving from the front of the car toward the sidewalk. The people distracted by the small drama, went back to their peregrinations, one man, in a trench-coat and Wellingtons, shook his head as he walked away. The man in the car gave Grant’s back the finger through his window as he drove away.


Grant moved with a jerky step. His anger made him feel swollen, like he was gaining size with each step. A used CD store played Pretenders at middle volume.


“…When you own a big chunk of the bloody third world,

You know the babies just come with the scenery…


They were really going to do it--really. He stared sharply at his wristwatch out of habit. It was exactly noon.


Dammit Iris, I’m sorry. Grant watched his feet as the walk signal flashed, light man walking. Light man walking here. Light man walking.


He swore softly in a refrain, with each breath, gritting his teeth to keep the volume of it low enough.  He watched his shoes as he moved down the sidewalk. He had not undone them since he first bought them, the laces were stiff and frayed at the ends and stained with old salt.


He remembered the conversation with Lisa. He remembered her eyes, in that moment. They were big,—chestnut or mahogany—or some dark wooden colour—like one of the swatches of stain that Iris had shown him ages ago when they first moved into the new house and were looking at trim for the kitchen cabinets. Her skin was lighter, smooth, her features lush with white teeth that would flash in a cruel sort of smile at times. She didn’t smile then.


Lisa was a tough girl, he knew enough of her past to know she earned her toughness, but there was an uncharacteristic fear in her voice and on her face.


“Mr. Buchner—when I applied for the job—you said it was a good move for me.”


“I know Lisa. I honestly thought the new position would...”


She interrupted him, “But it isn’t. It’s the same job. It’s just—It’s the same job.” He knew the words he had been given “new position” were wrong and he tasted the lie in his mouth.


“Yeah, I…”


Charmaine interrupted. Charmaine in her burgundy suit. Charmaine tiny pale-skinned with ice-water eyes. Charmaine talking about the position in neutral human resources speak. A fog of unreality had moved in, an invisible cloud, Charmaine’s voice had seemed distant. Lisa sat at the side of the table with her hands clenched as if she were praying, looking like a Carribbean madonna but her eyes were not cast down but instead looked into Grant’s. There was a plea there. It made her eyes water. It made his eyes itch watching it there. He wanted to look away, but some bit of decency wouldn’t let him. Charmaine walked to the table leaning over Grant.


 “Grant. As Ms. Dewar has filed a grievance with the Union over the position, we really can't discuss this with her any more until the grievance meeting." Charmain shuffled the papers under her hand and paused, reading for a second, before returning her gae to the girl in the chair. Her expression contained a single thought-are you still here? Why?


Lisa leaned into the padded back of the chair, as she did, her body stretched and Grant saw the slight bulge under her sweater beneath the swell of her breasts. Then the girl pushed out of the chair and got to her feet. Her hands touched her belly for a moment and moved to hover at the door.


“I need those benefits. Mr. Buchner.”


Charmaine snapped, “Ms. Dewar! Was I not being clear?”


She hadn’t waited for an answer to her question. Grant, stunned, had watched as Charmaine stalked over to the door and flung it open. Lisa stood uncertain for a moment before Charmaine motioned her through. Grant felt sick as he watched her and sicker still as he imagined her breasts naked for a moment, her face and body blurred. He flushed with shame at that thought and dropped his eyes to the desk.


She left as if fleeing past the four staff waiting outside of the door. At another motion from Charmaine they had filed into her office. She waited until they had been seated around the table before proceeding. Her words had become stripped of their meaning. The conversation had drifted out of focus.


Charmaine’s eyes were almost white a she briefed the unit managers about management’s position regarding the grievances.


A shadow of a smile—a ghost of small perfectly white teeth flitted for a moment on her features. Grant began to run down a series of adjectives in his head as she spoke. Cold. Heartless. Bitch.


People began to move, pulling out small blue pens to record small blue notes in black books, plastic styluses rapping on PDA membranes as he had finished.


“Oh, one more thing” she had leaned back surveying the staff like a queen in court, “As you know the rep from the local 79, Martin Ossberg, is coming this afternoon to speak to us on behalf of the grievances. He will be looking to get someone to comment on the new positions and our stance regarding the temporary workers—as you know there have been six grievances filed in the last two weeks—and I know you all have worked closely with some of the people. But Kerry Watson from legal has passed the word on this- the positions are new ones—and the temps will remain temps until another two years has passed. The process is going to force us to have you in on the grievance hearings—we will need you to brief yourselves on the prep questions and to respond to the representatives with the approved script. Understood? No one goes off the range on this one.”


Grant had turned and fumbled with his pen for a second before speaking. “What are the chances that it’s going to work?”


Charmaine looked over the table coolly at him.


“ Two years is the timeframe in the collective agreement for temporary workers to be grandfathered into permanent positions, with commensurate salary raises and full benefits. All of the employees with grievances applied for the replacement positions for their old ones a good three months before that deadline was met. The only question that we need to answer is if the new positions are the same, materially, as the old temp ones—and the word from on high is that these jobs are different positions. So that is our word.”


Charmaine had swept her gaze across the table at each attendee in turn challenging them to disagree. She let her eyes rest on Grant last as if her eyes were a stick pin and he an insect in a collection.