"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either."
Score! " I said to the scruffy grey cat sitting on the building's loading dock. "She'd never even think to look for me here!"
The cat replied with a near‑silent mew, and set about cleaning its face. One ear was ragged from a long‑healed injury.
I double‑checked the scrap of paper I'd torn out of the Clas‑ sifieds section of the Toronto Star. Yup, this was the place that was looking for tenants. It didn't look like much, sitting there on a downtown corner. It was a blocky, crumbling cube of a warehouse. Looked like it had a basement below, two storeys above. It was wedged between upscale high‑rise condos and low‑rise co‑op town houses.
There were buildings in this city that went to hundreds of floors. Your ears'd pop from the altitude change just going up in the elevator. But those sparkly new structures, they needed the reflected gleam of sunlight off their chromed and mirrored surfaces in order to shine. This building, it sucked in light, and the glow it gave back couldn't be seen in daylight or in Toronto's overlit night; not by purely claypicken eyes, that is. I could see it, though. One of the few perqs of being a crippled deity half‑breed; although I had no mojo of my own, I could sometimes get a glimpse of the glow‑on that some things and people had. Not as strongly as Abby could. Still, if I squinted exactly the right way, for just a split second, I'd see a flash bounce off Shiny people and things. Like the green flash on the horizon just as the sun sinks into Lake Ontario. That warehouse had some Shine to it. Inanimate objects can get that way when they've rubbed up against the ineffable for a long time. The building's faint burr of Shininess was my first clue that I might like living there.
The exterior paint job was something else, in a wacky way that I liked. Probably years before, someone had slopped teal green paint onto the raw brick. They'd used a dark, muddy purple for the exterior window rims and sills and the edging around the roof. Then, for good measure, they'd lined the inner surfaces of the windows' rims with dark yellow, kind of a mango colour. Made the windows look like the insides of baby birds' beaks when they gaped them wide and demanded food from their exhausted parents.
When he'd realized he was slipping, our dad had signed our childhood home over to me and my sister. Since Abby and I had to live in the world, it was best if we had claypicken legal documents to prove that the place was ours. But I'd had it with living under Abby's wing. She could have my share in the house. I was going to go it alone from now on. My pulse leapt at the thought.
"I think a tree talked to me today," I told Abby, hating myself for doing this again, for coveting mojo so badly that I kept trying to talk myself into believing I had it. I'd never been able to read trees before, so why would I suddenly now have developed a knack for it? I waited, toying with the food on my plate, sitting at Abby's expensive mahogany table, eating off her hand- made plates from some artists' studio over in the Distillery District, staring at the graceful young oak tree in Abby's front yard through the leaded panes of Abby's antique stained glass living room window. In my own house, I cotched like a boarder.
Teal with purple edging and yellow accents; Abby would hate the place. She would especially hate that it was crass enough to have a name. Hand‑painted in toppling white letters over the entrance were the words "CHEERFUL REST." Abby's lips would curl at the inept lettering, the building that looked like a squat for homeless people. Me, I thought it was neat. Plus it would intimidate her. Even low and funny‑looking as it was, even in broad daylight, Cheerful Rest managed to loom. Abby would be able to see that, probably more clearly than I could.
The old cat had finished its ablutions. It sphinx‑sat on the loading dock in the springtime sun, watching me through half‑closed eyes. I could hear it purring though I was a good few feet away. Its body swayed a little to the rhythm of the vibrations.
Abby didn't reply right away. I looked across the table at her. She was staring out the window, slowly and carefully chewing. I'd made us an excellent dinner: stewed guinea hen and manioc with batata dumplings, and an arugula salad with crumbled blue cheese. No wonder Burger Delite wouldn't let me do anything but bus tables and wash dishes; I was too good for them.
The building's Shine wasn't a flash, but kind of an aura. But it felt like mojo, or tasted like it, or something. How had it come by that Shine? Would it somehow spell trouble for me if I moved in there? I had a bad track record of not getting along well with the Shiny, the Family on my dad's side, my haint. Abby.
"Abby, I'd swear it really did talk. A crab apple tree in that park at Queen and Sherbourne. I think it asked me where Dad was. Said it hadn't seen him in a long time."
Abby whipped her head around from the window to glare at me. "Stop it. Just stop it. Why are you always saying things like this? You're embarrassing yourself. And me."
"But—" Why did I say things like that? Because I couldn't help myself. Because I craved more than anything else to have a little mojo of my own.
"Makeda, I don't care whether it's desperate wishful thinking or a stupid little trick you play to impress, but it's really cruel of you to play it with Dad lying helpless in palliative care."
Oh, gods, why couldn't I ever stop doing this? Abby was right. I was only shaming myself.
A lean black guy came round the corner. He was wearing faded black jeans rubbed thin at the knees and a black Revolting Cocks T‑shirt so worn that it was almost grey. The left shoulder seam had split open. He had a big, wild 'fro. His left foot was shod in an orange high‑topped canvas sneaker, his right foot in a purple one. He smiled at me before unlocking and yanking open the heavy back door that led inside the building, letting out a grungy roar of miked rock drumming. Sounded live, too, like a practice. The guy made an apologetic shrug. He spied the piece of torn classifieds in my hand. He smiled. Over the racket, he shouted, "It's only this noisy on the weekend!"
If I moved in here, there would be music, and musicians. Plus there was a brother, apparently living here, who liked punk. So it wouldn't be like I was trying to single‑handedly desegregate the place, either. Nice. I smiled back at him and relaxed a bit. Music was the most fun part of living with Abby.
He said, "Hey, Yoplait!"
The cat twitched one ear in his direction.
The guy jerked his chin towards the open door. "Come on!" The cat looked over its shoulder at him. Stood. Went over
to him. The door was hydraulic, and took a few seconds to shut behind the guy and his cat; long enough for me to hear the drum‑ ming clang to a halt, someone saying something muffled into the mike, a laugh, the drumming starting up again. Looked like the guy had gone up a short flight of stairs. I'd gotten a brief whiff of stale beer from the open door. There were empty two‑fours stacked outside. Some kind of club space in the building?
The door closed completely, and I was left with only the endless
Toronto traffic sounds.
Longing tapped me on the shoulder and enclosed me in its arms. I wanted to live here, be fully independent of Abby and Uncle, start learning how to exist as the mortal I was. I bet Cheerful Rest was some kind of claypicken artists' space, where people used scavenged milk crates and bricks and wooden flats to customize their units. There'd be flyers stapled to the walls, advertising bands and readings and gallery openings and dance performances. Would they even let me into a place like that? I wasn't really an artist. I was just an artist's hanger‑on who liked to tinker. I'd always wanted to live in a warehouse. A real warehouse, with high ceilings and exposed brick and pipes. And best of all, Abby wouldn't know where I was if I didn't tell her. We'd quarrelled last night, and again this morning. I'd told her I was moving when I stormed out a few hours ago, but I always said that when we fought. Today, though, I meant it. Standing outside Cheerful Rest that warm spring afternoon, sensing its warm‑blooded Shine and waiting for the guy who ran it to show up, I meant it. I was finally going to break free of the hold my sister Abby had on me. She could get kinda clingy. We'd always lived together. She lost her shit if I didn't attend a performance of hers. And to tell the truth, I missed her if I didn't see her for a few days. But she really got on my freak‑ ing nerves all the time! Today, I was cutting the tie that bound us, locked together like the conjoined twins we used to be. I'd get my own place, tell Abby in a few months where I was living, and by then, she and I would have gotten used to being a little less intertwined in each other's affairs. I could begin to figure out how to live my own life.
It was partly my own fault. Abby'd been so dependent on me in the first years of our life, and I'd gotten used to it. They'd separated us physically, but emotionally, Abs and I couldn't seem to let each other go.
From Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson. Copyright 2013 by Nalo Hopkinson. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.