It’s midnight, and from Yonge Street Hogg’s Hollow is hidden from view.
The neighbourhood sits at the bottom of the Don River Valley. At this hour it is empty and silent, and its bending roads are perplexing in the dark.
Standing on a short bridge we hear the sputter of the river. Its waters are the loudest thing we’ve come across in this village of towering mansions—the homes of some of Toronto’s most affluent residents—and the trees that loom above them.
There’s a park in Hog’s Hollow where we stop for pull-ups. David unbuttons his shirt and does ten on the monkey bars, followed by ten more. A fondling couple sits on a bench nearby. Soon after our arrival they stand up and walk up the path, where they wobble and grope one another. They’re gone. A group of three young men are also in the park, but they make no noise, and disappear over a hill.
Stuck in the ground at the base of each of the young trees scattered in the park are rocky plaque stones. Each stone bears a name and a good wish engraved onto a metal plate. There is little point in squatting in the dark to read them: Park tree stones are not known for the quality of their sentimental inscriptions, and I haven’t stopped to read things like this for a long time. As a child I used to think that these people were buried under the trees.
But one of Hogg’s Hollow’s greatest secrets is its stone garden of lonely well-written epitaphs. These pithy statements glow in the dark.
“Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Rooted by family. EMPOWERED BY GOD,” reads one. Another, “To The Summer of Love, 1999”
One stone bears the name Patrick Deagle, a man born in X and lost in Y. No fond words have been written on the stone for Patrick. In a fit of rage at this poverty of sentiment, David stomps on its face, desecrating it with a smudge of poo stuck to the edge of his shoe.
The settlement of poo is located just beside Patrick Deagle’s headstone. In the dark it is impossible to see, but its smell reveals its presence. To make amends for his disrespect, David agrees to a blood offering to appease Deagle’s spirit. He kneels on the grass. I hand him my pocketknife.
The blood does not flow. Some time goes by, and David searches for another tool with which to make the incision. He finds a sharp twig in the grass. He bares his teeth and sets to work on his gums. The blood comes, and a smear appears on the Patrick Deagle’s stone. The deed is done.
PART TWO: THE RAVINE
We carry our bikes down the flat concrete slopes straddling the river. Ahead is a weir, where the water comes to a sudden drop and spins and foams. The water wants us to fall in.
A crayfish appears as if from nowhere. It crawls on the concrete ground at a slow and listless pace. Its body is large, like a tarantula, and delicate with moisture, and its lanky limbs carry its round body towards the weir several metres away. We do not know why the crayfish is here, and wonder if there are others nearby. If the crayfish is supposed to be here or not, we do not know. David thinks the concrete weir has forced it into some wickedness.
David shines a light on the creature. Its shell and limbs appear grey and it looks like it is becoming fatally dry; but its eyes are wet pea-sized melancholic balls of tapioca. They were filled with sadness.
“God bless you,” says David.
The crayfish follows the light with zeal. David turns off the light, and the crayfish comes to a rest. As it sits in the dark we wait to see what it will do.
The crayfish lifts itself and moves closer to the edge of the concrete. We ask ourselves if we should intervene, if we should prevent the crayfish from falling into the roiling water. The crayfish comes closer to the edge.
It reaches the edge and stumbles onto the incline. For a moment it gains traction. But the incline is too steep and it loses its hold. And in a moment of sad comedy, it slides down the smooth concrete and plops into the sloshing water. We do not see the crayfish anymore.
-- Daniel Glassman