Old Hull

Liam Walke

We bought a house where men who shake and push grocery carts around and yell into small lots cannot even squat. All the houses here are built cute and compact, small to the road and reaching back. They’re close enough to the narrow street that there are no trees, just dug gardens, raised beds, vines and trellises and little useless community library boxes (that house the likes of Dan Brown or some 1960s book on geometry or sex ed). Also kicked in doors and gutted houses with smashed windows, glossy new builds, and a condo building.

Shortly after we moved in, the banging started. Early in the morning when the dark eyed junkos come to our red bird feeder. Jackhammers like woodpeckers. Machined bills under smoking bellies. In those days we couldn’t open enough windows to wick the sweat from our brows, so the pounding carried down the street, through Gillian’s tall sunflowers and the heat, through the overgrown cedars in the back and straight through all our open windows and doors. I began to understand certain forms of torture. But after a few days the matchbox house was gone, mowed down by machinery and paid labour.

Since then as the days got shorter, the nights brisker and dryer, we’ve hardly noticed what’s going on down the block. There’s usually a truck or two there, and a few men with hammers or levels, but if you put your head down and work, you get the flu, or you get in a spat with your manager at work… well then suddenly you go down the street and that lot is crammed full of a house… not one actually, but three. One of those “units” that looks like a big old house with a brick facade and a sloping roof, but it’s got 3 front doors and you couldn’t afford to live in one of them.

Across Allumettières Boulevard, the one named after the women who laboured making matches in the Eddy Mill at the turn of the century - across that one - there’s an abandoned arena and a little stream whose embankment is strewn with garbage, tents, old rusty bikes, kids toys, strollers, garbage bags full of knick knacks and the worldly belongings of everyone who lives here. Police roam the neighbourhood looking for people to criminalize. There’s a private Magnetic Resonance Imaging clinic down the street where a trans woman has found a corner she can sleep in - I guess she’s out of sight of the police. She just wants to be left alone.

In the winter now, there’s a draft in this house. But it’s full of things. In the backyard, a male cardinal flits from branch to dead branch, and in the front, a man walks with a massive bag on the end of a stick. He is missing teeth and he yells at the sky.

I’m not sure what will happen next.