I’m really short on time today, so I’m going to cheat a little bit and put up something I’ve already written that was once online but no longer is. It’s an excerpt from a project I’ve had in my mind for several months now called The Angel Catcher. Part of the story centres around two characters living in Toronto named David Ash and Phoebe Beard. I’m going to post the half I wrote about David and the other half about Phoebe.
And to dust we will all return.
David smashed his imaginary drums in time with the song. He had recently taken quite the liking to an artist called Cold Specks, so he decided to play her album on the store’s record player. His boss was more into playing stuff like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols when he opened the store, but he wasn’t in today. David had opened the store on his own and therefore was able to play whatever he damn well pleased.
Just as he finished his imaginary drum smashes, two young women walked into the store. David breathed a sigh of relief that they just narrowly avoided seeing him spaz out to the music. He had appearances to keep as the “cool record store guy.” He knew it was a trite title to want to keep up, but he still aspired to keep it.
“How are you doing this morning,” David asked the two women.
“Not too bad,” one of the women, a short blonde, said.
“Anything I can help you find?”
“Think we’re okay for now,” said the other woman, a tall redhead. Neither of the women seemed particularly thrilled to be talking with him. They struck David as the type of customers who were there to get in, grab the music they wanted and then get out.
“Okay, let me know if anything comes up,” David said.
“We will, thanks,” the blonde said. They walked off to a farther corner of the store to look at the store’s vinyl selection.
David always liked to play a game with customers in which he tried to judge what kind of bands they might be interested in. He didn’t get much out of the two women, so this guess would be highly uneducated. They didn’t seem to be in any huge rush when they walked in, so maybe they were into calmer music. Maybe the Cold Specks album playing would influence their album choice. David mentally wrote his guess down as maybe a Fleet Foxes album.
While he waited for the customers to take their pick of albums (or leave, it’s not like David could make them buy anything), he had some recently-received product to put onto the shelves. He found the closest box, grabbed a knife and opened up the box. It was roughly fifty copies of the new Killers album. He keyed in the amount into the store’s database.
Just then the phone rang. David answered it after two rings. “Groove Records, how can I help you?”
“Yeah, I was looking for that new Tim Ocean record?” The voice was fairly gruff. The guy didn’t sound like he really knew what he was talking about.
“Uh, Tim Ocean? Do you mean Frank Ocean?”
“Nah man, I’m pretty sure it’s Tim Ocean. That album with ‘orange’ in the title?”
“‘Channel Orange’ I assume you’re talking about, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Okay, that is definitely Frank Ocean you’re talking about.”
“Oh, okay. Do you have it?”
David suppressed a sigh. Which record store wouldn’t have that album? “Yes, we’ve got plenty of copies.”
“Okay, thanks man.” David heard the man hang up.
David glanced over to see how the two women were doing. They were hovering around the far corner of the store which meant they were looking at the “M” section. David scanned through his list of potential “M” albums and immediately came up with Mumford & Sons. If the women bought an album of theirs, David would still win his competition. His imaginary rules stated that if you picked an artist somewhat similar in sound you’d still win. So you could win with Kanye West if you guessed Jay-Z, but you couldn’t win with Mastodon if you guessed Bon Iver.
Eventually the women finished browsing and left the store without buying anything. So David had lost his competition with himself. Oh well. The rest of the morning and afternoon passed without anything terribly fascinating happening. David was pleased that he managed to get a middle-aged guy to try out Cold Specks, and a few people had come specifically to get tickets to a local indie showcase at the Rivoli.
At 5:30 David’s co-worker Matt came in for his shift, which meant David was done. He quickly briefed Matt on what traffic in the store had been like and then clocked out for the day. Well, there wasn’t really a “clock” per se. The manager just assumed that his employees did their assigned duties. Which they did, for the most part. It’s not hard to police three people.
David stood in front of the store for a minute to feel the weather. It was fairly warm, so David decided he would walk over to the Eaton Centre to grab something to eat. He liked to indulge with semi-fast food every once in a while.
Being at a record store near Queen and Spadina was pretty sweet. Many venues were within walking distance, so David could always check out which bands were playing where and if they were worth his time.
His walk on Queen Street was a little slower than usual, having been stopped by a charity worker looking for memberships to sell. David understood why these charities needed the money but it’s not like David was well off or anything. Hell, he was lucky to be able to live in an apartment by himself and not be on terrible terms with his landlord.
At Queen and Bay David stopped to grab himself something from Starbucks. He didn’t usually go there, but the sun had been beating down on him more than he thought and he just needed something cold and caffeinated. It had been a while since he had ordered anything from this place.
The line was fairly short when he got there; he must have been really fortunate. A barista with shoulder-length brown hair and rather dazzling green eyes asked him what he wanted.
“Er… I’ll have a… medium… vanilla bean latte?” David said. The barista glared at him a moment, and David realized his error. He had apparently not consulted his Oxford Dictionary of Starbucks as he forgot that the everyman’s small, medium and large did not exist in this place. “Oh, sorry, I meant… grande, right?”
The barista stopped glaring. “Could I get your name or initial for the cup?”
“David,” he said.
“One med—damn it,” the barista muttered, having obviously been affected by David’s misuse of Starbucks lingo. “One grande vanilla bean latte!”
David paid for the drink and waited while the other patrons got their drinks handed to them. The barista who took his order handed him the latte.
“Thanks,” David said.
“Thank you,” the barista said, though David suspected she was just doing it out of courtesy.
Smooth, David thought to himself. Just before he left the place he looked to see if he could find out the barista’s name. Apparently Starbucks employees don’t wear name tags, but the names of the baristas on duty were written on a chalkboard. The names were Kylie, Phoebe and Nadia. David wasn’t sure who was who. But he’d remember that barista. He left the building and quickly got to the Eaton Centre.
“Uuugh,” Phoebe said softly as she rolled out of bed. She felt like a zombie. She had just suffered through a “work sandwich”: a night shift followed by a morning shift. When she had finished the latter she barely did anything before collapsing onto her bed and sleeping for countless hours.
Having dragged herself off the floor (she literally rolled out of bed), she looked at herself in the mirror. Yes, those are bags under my eyes, she thought to herself. She stretched herself out a little bit before going into the kitchen to find some breakfast.
“Hey, Beebee!” said Kara, one of her roommates. Phoebe stopped herself from scowling. The nickname came from the combination of her first and last name- Phoebe Beard. Phoebe supposed they could come up with far worse nicknames for her, so she suffered through it.
“Hi Kara,” Phoebe replied back. “Has Giuliana emptied the box of Life or is there still some left?”
“Uh, I think there’s still some left,” Kara replied.
“Thanks,” Phoebe said, before heading over to the cupboard. There was indeed some Life left in the box, so Phoebe grabbed a bowl. She mentally went over her schedule for the day, which really didn’t include anything other than a six-hour shift at work beginning at 5 p.m.
She realized she had absolutely no plans. Giuliana was already gone for the morning for summer school, and Nilani was still working full-time for her summer internship, so it was just Kara and Phoebe alone for the time being.
“I’m going to head over to Clinton’s for lunch a little later, want to come with?” Kara asked.
Phoebe didn’t usually have lunch with her roommates, but seeing as there was nothing pressing to attend to she decided to accept Kara’s offer. Besides, there was lots of good veggie food there. It was maybe a fifteen minute walk from the apartment, so Phoebe would even be able to enjoy the sun. It wasn’t a blistering hot day, which was also a bonus. At least, that’s what the Weather Network said on TV.
When noon rolled around, Phoebe and Kara headed over to Clinton’s. The weather was indeed pleasant, and the bar wasn’t too crowded either. Phoebe opted for veggie chilli while Kara went with soy drumsticks, possibly in an effort not to offend Phoebe. She had tried to explain to Kara (and Giuliana and Nilani) that she didn’t mind when other people ate meat in front of her, but that hadn’t seemed to stick.
“How’s Alex doing?” Kara asked. Phoebe assumed that Kara was just trying to make conversation.
“Oh, we broke up about two months ago,” Phoebe replied.
“Two months? Why don’t you tell us anything?”
“Oh come on, I tell you guys stuff.”
“Eh, whatever. Seen anybody else?”
“No, not really.” The conversation was getting boring already. Phoebe decided to change the subject. “How’s the job search going?”
“Well, I applied for a job in the Eaton Centre, we’ll see how that goes.” Phoebe could sense the tension in Kara’s voice. Kara was the “directionless” roommate; she had little to do with her summer since she wasn’t employed and was between programs. After two years studying psychology at McMaster in Hamilton, she had decided to do something at the University of Toronto.
“Well I hope it works out,” Phoebe said. And she meant it. Maybe Kara would stop complaining and moping around if she had something to do with her life.
They ate the rest of the meal in semi-uncomfortable silence before heading back to the apartment. Phoebe had a little time to kill before trekking over to Starbucks, so she figured she would just go over to Nathan Phillips Square to see what was going on there. If nothing, oh well, there was probably something she could find to do in the meantime.
Bathurst Station was a very brief walk, so she hopped on and headed east two stops to St. George, then south to Osgoode. She walked up to the surface and briefly stopped to humour the bagpipe player. She never understood why the corner of Queen and University always had a bagpipe player there. Some long-forgotten tradition? Who knew.
At Nathan Phillips Square Phoebe found that she was in luck. There was a farmers’ market happening, so she spent some time going from stall to stall to check out the wares. She ended up buying a small basket of blueberries and another of raspberries. Not that she particularly needed it, but they looked pretty delicious.
She checked her watch. 3 p.m. Ugh. She still had quite a bit of time to kill. She opted to on a stone bench near the outskirts of the square and read the book she had brought with her. It was kind of bad that she couldn’t remember what it was when she grabbed it- turned out to be some run-of-the-mill sci-fi book. Wasn’t even hers, most likely.
After a little more aimless wandering and reading, she finally decided to head to Starbucks since it was approaching 5 p.m. When she got into the store, she ordered the largest coffee she could consume in thirty minutes. Nadia took her order and told her that it had been a fairly steady day, but not overly busy.
Phoebe walked into the back room and got on her apron and stepped behind the counter when 5 p.m. finally rolled around. She quickly got to work taking orders, some so detailed that she thought people were holding a competition to see who could make the most complicated Starbucks order.
Almost an hour into her shift, a man with short brown hair and fairly unadorned clothes came up to order.
“Er… I’ll have a… medium… vanilla bean latte?” The man said. Phoebe couldn’t help but glare at him. Seriously? He realized his mistake quickly enough. “Oh, sorry, I meant… grande, right?”
Phoebe decided to take pity on him and stop with her mean look. “Could I get your name or initials for the cup?”
“David,” he answered.
“One med—damn it,” Phoebe muttered under her breath. Her lexicon of Starbucks-ese had been shattered by this man’s lack of knowledge. “One grande vanilla bean latte!” She could see Kylie smirking at Phoebe’s mistake.
Phoebe took her mind off that order (and clearly semi-clueless guy) and continued on with her shift. The hours passed by fairly quickly thanks to the steady flow of customers, and at 11 p.m. she left the store. She was glad she hadn’t been forced to take any early-morning shifts now that her location was a 24-hour affair.
The street was still fairly bustling despite the fact that the hour was approaching midnight. Many of the homeless in the area had gone to sleep in their chosen pockets of sidewalk and most people were walking with a slightly brisker pace to get to wherever they needed to go. Phoebe walked accordingly back to Osgoode to head back home.
As she headed into the station, she heard an automated voice: “Attention all TTC customers. We are currently experiencing a delay both ways at our St. Andrew Station. We hope to have service resume as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
“Oh for god’s sake,” Phoebe said to herself. She ended up waiting for about fifteen minutes as Osgoode slowly started to fill up. Finally she was able to get onto the northbound train. No further delays to worry about.
Thanks to anyone who actually read both parts. And if you would be so kind, do leave a comment and let me know what you do or don’t like about it, since this is an ongoing thing.