The following is an excerpt from the new book Krank: Love in the New Dark Times by Sarah Sheard, which is the fictional story of the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, who, finding himself reincarnated on the Ward’s Island ferry in Toronto, befriends psychotherapist Ainsley Giddings and ventures into downtown Toronto to protest against the G-20 Summit and reflect on the similarities to 1930s fascism in Berlin.
Brecht sat on the edge of Eleanor’s bed and showed her the marks on his wrists from the plastic ties. “I asked to loosen. They joked at me they were deaf. Polizei are Polizei , always.”
Eleanor winced and laid her head back onto the pillow. Her face was bruised, and her left eye the colour of an eggplant. Ainsley moved around the bed, taking pictures of her using Eleanor’s cellphone. She handed the phone back to her.
Eleanor whistled as she scrolled through the pictures. “Jesus. I look bad. A poster girl for democracy.”
“You got mugged by Metro’s finest. A badge of honour. You can post these online. Videos are being posted on YouTube already.”
“I was so scared, Ainsley,” her voice broke, “I was so scared, I pissed myself. Must have been when they hit me. The cops just laughed when I begged them for a pair of sweatpants. They were giving them out to other people in the detention centre but not me. I sat in piss-soaked jeans for over fourteen hours. It was like a little Guantanamo in there with rows of people in cages like sardines.”
Ainsley paced the room. “Unbelievable.”
“They pulled me to my feet by my hair. My whole head’s tender.”
“I saw. Did you get the cop’s name?”
“Small problem. No name tags.”
“What do you mean?”
“The cops took them off. They’re only Velcroed on. Who knew?” There was an icy calmness in Eleanor’s voice.
“So you can’t even identify who did this to you?”
“No one was wearing name tags down there. That’s part of what was so fucking scary. They were swaggering around our cages, making innuendos, like some of us could get raped in here. They separated out these two lesbians and I heard they did the same with the gays and took them all somewhere.”
“Like where?” Ainsley dropped her voice. Someone might be listening down the hall. “This is serious, Eleanor.”
Eleanor touched her cheeks. “I don’t know. No one does. How’s my rash?” She lifted her hair away from her neck. “Pepper spray was on the mesh of our cage. We knew, because it stung like hell when we 158 touched our faces afterwards. It was so fucked up, that place.” Eleanor began to cry.
Ainsley held her hand.
Eleanor looked over at Brecht. “He wasn’t even talking English when they dragged him out of the paddy wagon.”
He shrugged. “I wished not to share my poetry with pigs.” He smiled. “I said other things.”
Eleanor smiled weakly. “That’s the spirit.” She wiped her eyes. “Guys, I’m fading. I’ve got a helluva headache. I don’t think they’re going to let me out of here today.”
“Barry gives you his best, by the way. We saw him down at Leslie.”
“The guy who looks a bit like Brecht? Nice guy.”
“Ja,” nodded Brecht. “Like a brother, almost. You want those?” He indicated the crackers on her bedside table.
“Brecht!” Ainsley made as if to slap his hand.
“Help yourself. I need to sleep now. You two go. Don’t worry about me. I’ll call you when I get out.”
Ainsley and Brecht gave her each a gentle hug and left.
They walked out of the hospital. “I think I need a drink. Shall we?” Ainsley pointed down the street towards the dining district. “The coast is clear. No cops in sight.”
Brecht linked his arm in hers and they went to a little bar on Queen, choosing a table by the window in the almost-empty lounge area.
“A B please,” said Brecht to the server.
“Make that two.”
“Eleanor looked awful.” Ainsley bit her lip. “I can’t believe this happened.”
Brecht took a swallow of his Beck’s. “I am good now. My cold beer and your warm face. Eleanor is no baby. She will be okay in a few days.” He picked up his glass again. “Or not.”
The cold beer punched Ainsley’s stomach. As the alcohol began to filter into her bloodstream, her jaw relaxed. She was just starting to breathe more freely when two policemen appeared at the door and walked in. They approached the proprietor at the cash register and began talking in low tones. Ainsley wanted to finish her beer at once. “Let’s go. I don’t trust them.”
Brecht’s eyes flicked over the cops. “They aren’t interested in us.”
“I don’t care. I want to go. I don’t see any name tags on them.”
“Then we go. We can leave money here?” He pointed to the table. “You have food at your little dacha?”
Ainsley nodded, pulling a ten and a five from her purse. “I got you some treats. The stuff you like — sauerkraut, sausages, even Beck’s beer. Wasn’t I sweet?”
Brecht nudged her arm. “Go now. Yes, very sweet.”
The police were lounging at the counter, seemingly in no hurry to leave. Their backs were to the door. Ainsley and Brecht rose and slipped out into the street.
Sarah Sheard is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Almost Japanese (Coach House Press), The Swing Era (A.A. Knopf Canada) and The Hypnotist (Doubleday Canada). She is in private practice as a Gestalt psychotherapist and writing coach. She also owns a horse and is writing a nonfiction book about the western reining scene.
Special thanks to rabble friend and contributer Yutaka Dirks.