City of Valleys – 17 

City of Valleys – 17



Steven sat in an armchair, while one officer took notes opposite him; the other paced and asked questions. He had arrived at the hospital to see Luke. The officers were in Luke’s room to question him. Steven was taken to a nearby waiting room.

“I told you everything last night.”

“Recollections change. Things get remembered that are missed in the heat of the moment. Little things.”

“I suppose.”

“If we’re going to nail these perpetrators, we have to have everything as clear as we can get it.”

“I understand.”

“So the three of you were behind the community centre …”

“There was two of us. Yves showed up after the attack.”

“He wasn’t with you?”


“But you are neighbours? Right?”

“Yes. But he wasn’t with us. I didn’t know he was there till he showed up.”

“Good. Now you and your friend – ” the officer opened a note pad, “Luke Kwan – were in your car when the attack happened.”

“No. We were walking to the car.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. Luke hadn’t taken the car keys out. We were three or four cars away from our car.”

“Good. Go on.”

“We were talking, when these guys jumped on us.”

“All three at once?”

Steven paused. “No – one guy stepped out and called us faggots. The others were just behind him. He had a stick in his hand.”

“Stick?” The officers exchanged a look.

“Yes. He was, like, hitting it on the palm of his hand and then nodded to the other two and they jumped us.” Steven mimed the action.

“They came out from where?”

“Uh … between some houses.”

“Do you usually park in such a dangerous place?”

“Dangerous? It’s right by the Community Centre. But yes, we use it whenever we can. Close to the restaurant and free.”

“Now, you’re sure you didn’t say or do anything to antagonize these men? Come on to them sexually?”

“No! We were just talking.”

“About what? Do you remember?”

Steven thought again. “We were talking about the play I’m in. About how it was going.”

“Anything sexual in that?”

“What do mean?”

“Something someone might overhear that they could believe was directed at them?”


“All right. Now when these guys appeared, did you engage them in any sort of conversation?”

“They were on us before anything could be said.”

“Now this stick. Was it used on you?”

“I’m not sure. Things went pretty fast. Luke got hit with it.”

“Did you see that?”

“Only heard.”

“Do you have any martial arts training?”

“Me! No. Some stage fight workshops. Nothing … real.”

“You handled those guys all right.”

“Yeah. Right.” Steven gestured to his face. “You wanna see my ribs?” He lifted his T-shirt. “We were losing when Yves showed up.”

“It could have been worse.”

“As I said I have studied fight choreography.”

“Fight choreography?”

“For stage combat. You see it in movies all the time. Stunt guys throw punches that never connect. You learn how to move with the punch, to roll with it and not to resist. What I learned there took over here.”

“Now this stick. One of them had it when they attacked?”


“He didn’t just pick it up from the ground.”

“When he stepped out at us, he had it ready for action.”

“Fine. That’s all we need to know, for now. Thanks for being so patient, but we may have more questions later.”

“I can see my partner?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Steven said partner on purpose. ‘Your friend,’ indeed. 

Luke was at the window. Steven hugged him from behind.

“Oh baby, I miss you.”

“Same here.” Luke kissed him. “How you feeling?” 

“Better, but I’m beginning to get a temperature. You are too.” He gave Luke’s crotch a playful squeeze.

“You are felling better.” Luke sat on the bed. “What were the boys in blue after?”

“More questions. Were they sailors on leave? Who had the stick? Did you offer them blow jobs?”

“Same stuff with me. Did you incite them to a sexual frenzy? As if we had something we had done to start it.”

“I know. Did the doctor tell you anything?”

“If my head hasn’t exploded with an undetected blood clot I should be out tomorrow. Tuesday at the latest.”

“How long will you be wearing the turban?”

Luke’s head was wrapped in gauze to hold his stitches in place. His head had been shaved.

“As long as they don’t have to open me again, another day.”


“Yeah. They had to take splinters from the stick out of my skull. If they didn’t get all of them, they may have to go in again. Wood can lead to infection.”

“My bald love toy.”

“Did you hear about the other guys who were attacked last night? One of them had AIDS. Full-blown. The stick they used on him is the same one they used on me.”


“I might have been infected.”


Kevin had never been in such a crowd. People were three and four thick on both sides of Yonge street. He clambered on top of a newspaper box. The sidewalk was packed in either direction.

As each float or group appeared, the crowd clapped and cheered. He was amazed by the range of groups. Gay and Lesbian Catholics, Homos in the Civil Service, Gay Police, a gay chess club. The guy he ran into last night with David guided an empty electric scooter decked out in palm trees and snakes. The owner of the scooter had died that morning. Soon after it, a group twirled batons and short poles with flags on them. 

A float for a beauty salon had pulled people up from the parade route to give them make-overs. One float, for Myzix, lined with black men and women in skimpy silver trunks, slowed to a stop in front of him. The sun played across the oiled and sparkled skin of the muscular blacks. Kevin wanted to jump on to the float and roll around with them. He had no idea what Myzix was.

After it the Big E’s float was a disappointment. Miss Ing wore a bizarre gown with a huge collar. She perched on a throne to give her royal wave, while guys tossed coupons and confetti to the crowd. The coupons offered two-for-one drinks any Sunday afternoon till September. Along the sides of the float flapped posters that couldn’t stay unfolded in the breeze.

As the parade drew to a close, people on the sidewalk joined it. Kevin was tempted, but it was the time he headed home.

His head ached as he packed at the Inn. He dropped the “Real men eat men” t-shirt on the bed. There was no way he could smuggle it home. He left his key at the front desk.

He went to the nearest subway station that avoided the crowds. It was cool and deserted. The train rumbled in. He got on with one last look.

The ride was a too fast blur back to where he had started. As he walked to the apartment complex, he was soaked with sweat from the oppressive heat. With each step, the thick air made it harder for him to breathe. He sat on a bench in front the buildings.

“Oh God,” he prayed. “Let me face what I have to face.”

He push himself into a quick and direct walk to his building. The air conditioning was out of service again. That alone would put Mitch in a bad frame of mind. In the hall, the air was worse, with the added benefit of boiled cabbage. 


By the end of the parade, Yves’ calves ached from starts and stops. A thirty minute walk took close to three hours. He rolled Trigger to the hospice and stripped it of the Fantasy Island drag. It was ready for its next owner.

“How did it go?” Nancy came out to ask him.

“Good. Lots of people remembered him.”

“He’d like that.”

“I’ll see to the memorial service.”

“That’s been done.”

“Oh! Who?”

“The manager at Big E’s called to say that they would do all that. Fitting, after all the years Jake worked in bars.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Yves figured this was Robert Ing’s work, but now that he had his chance, he didn’t care what anyone else wanted to do.

“His room has been cleared out and the body’ll go to the city morgue in the morning.”

“Business as usual.”

“You can’t stop the river with your hands.”


“There are some things of Jake’s you missed.” She went inside and came out with four books. “I think they are his journals.”


Jake had never mentioned journals to Yves. He flipped the first open to the middle and began to read. The handwriting was Jake’s.


It fell as if it wouldn’t stop. Swirls of thick flakes shoving each other out of the way in a rush to the earth. Not pretty swirls in the wind, just pell mell down, almost forming snowballs as they fell over one another in the race to the ground.

‘Tis the season,’ he muttered out the window into his back yard. He was wondering if it would be worth refilling the bird feeder.

The phone rang and he let it, hypnotized by the endless and almost impenetrable fall of snow. The ringing stopped.

The haze of snow blurred the more he watched. He could almost make out individual flakes but none remained long enough for him to focus. He went to the back door, opened it to get a clear look, a look without glass, or the reflection of his face between him and the snow. 

He stood watching with the door open. Straining his ears he could hear the flakes as they landed with a light hiss. He could smell the freshness that snow brought with it. Cold, clean.

He looked up directly over head and was dizzied by the endless flakes of snow. Some melting on his face, his eyes, his open mouth. The snow had no taste.

He stepped into the snow, feeling it fall on his naked body, melting on his shoulders, chest, pubic hair. The cold on his feet made him jump back into the house.

‘Coward,’ he muttered, ‘the touch of snow is no colder than the touch of no one.’

He pushed the door firmly closed. He was closing out not only the cold of snow and but the life of it. He drew the blinds to keep his eyes from the icy invitation.

His feet tingled from that fuzzy carpet of ice. The phone began to ring. This time he answered it knowing that if he didn’t his next step would be out the back door. Not to return again.’

Yves was stunned. The volumes were full of short pieces and poems. Undated, the books were numbered 1, 2, 6, 9. Where were the others?

On the subway home he read “Snow” again and again. Why were we such strangers to each other? Why do we hide ourselves even into death?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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