I have a little story here that you aren’t going to believe, not for a second.
You should, though. It’s absolutely true. It really happened. I have no explanation for what I’m about to tell you, and neither do you, but I can say this much: what we think of as objective reality just isn’t the whole picture. There’s something else, with somebody else in it. I don’t claim to know what or who it is, but something proved to me, early one morning, that it could enter and leave my perceived corner of the cosmos whenever it felt like it, and considering its manifest capabilities, I’m lucky it decided to be a smart-ass, and not an assassin.
Yes, I’m deadly serious.
Let me set the scene. It was about six in the morning on what promised to be a brilliant summer day in, I think, 1987. I can’t actually remember the precise date, but I think it must have been a Sunday morning – at any rate, the streets were completely empty. Nobody around but me. No cars. No foot traffic. I’d just been dropped off at the corner of Yonge and Carleton by my boss; we’d been working all night painting the interior of a factory, I believe it was Lawson Flexible Packaging – they made the plastic wrap for all sorts of consumer products. Best painting job I ever had, it was just a bunch of huge walls, we got to use a five gallon airless, and I got to drive around all night on a scissor-lift.
There’s an apartment complex directly across from Maple Leaf Gardens, and it had (maybe still has) a bank machine mounted beneath a big concrete awning. I went over to get some cash.
It was deathly quiet. The Gardens, behind me, were boarded up tight. Just to my left, as I turned my back to the street, was a restaurant with big plate glass windows, then an O’Toole’s Road House, if memory serves. I was jumping through the routine bank machine hoops. At no point in human history has there ever been a scene more mundane, more unremarkable, than the one that featured me withdrawing money from a box in the wall that quiet morning.
Then something hit me square between my shoulder blades. Something moving fast, and the impact was both forceful and soft, like whatever hit me had some give to it. In that first second, I thought a bird, maybe a pigeon, had flown into me, and I whipped around to see – a sandwich. On the sidewalk at my feet. A Kaiser bun, with what looked like a confection of mayo and maybe tuna, or ground ham, thick between the slices. I slipped off my denim jacket, and the back was covered in the sandwich filling.
Recall there’s a concrete awning over my head – nothing could possibly have fallen from above. Anyway, it felt like it hit me on a low trajectory from across the street, but no vehicle went by, there’s nobody across the street, and the locked-up Gardens, a whole city block in length, would have left no line of escape for anyone who might have pitched the sandwich at me and then tried to bolt. You’d have to run half a block before you could round a corner and hide, and there just hadn’t been time for that, nor could that have been done without making any sound at all. Anyway, have you ever tried to throw a sandwich? Really put the ole’ pepper on it like it was a baseball? Do you think you could throw one accurately at some dummy from across a city street? Can you imagine any motive for doing such a thing?
The street remained deathly silent. No prankster was laughing. Nobody was there at all, just me, me and my Kaiser bun sandwich.
Well! Isn’t life strange!
I resolved to quietly compartmentalize the sandwich incident, and get my weary backside home and to bed, a few blocks away at Carleton and Bleecker, so off I went, and immediately – thwomp. Some sort of dinner roll whistled past my head, in front of me, and bounced off the plate glass of the Road House, making an almost musical sound. It didn’t arc in, it went by on a flat trajectory about as fast as a well-hit tennis ball. Instantly, I looked toward its only possible point of origin, straight across the street, but it was the same as before. Nobody there, just the blank face of the Gardens, sealed up tight as a drum. And still no other sounds, no foot traffic, no cars, just me and my squished dinner roll, sitting there forlornly on the concrete.
OK, have you ever tried to throw a dinner roll? I mean, really throw it, as if it was a snowball? Do you suppose you could throw it very far, like, across the street, very fast, with accuracy? It hit that window hard, at eye level, like it had been fired out of some sort of air cannon, and it just missed me.
What the fuck was going on?
So now what? It seemed that compartmentalizing wasn’t going to do the trick. I was dealing with somebody, or some thing, and I had to get out of the line of fire. Quite briskly now, I made my way along Carleton, swivel-headed, when splat, something I took to be a hard-boiled egg whistled over my right shoulder and exploded against a nearby lamp post. Over my right shoulder. The last two food missiles had come at me from my left, perpendicular, on the north side of Carleton. The trajectory of the presumed egg placed the shooter behind me, and south, only there was no one behind me, and the line of attack from the south had the corner of a building blocking a straight line shot. Eggs don’t have fins, for the love of Christ. They don’t mount guidance packages. If a line-of-sight shot was impossible, how did the foodstuff manage to maneuver?
Even as I struggled with that thought, another egg was incoming. This one hit me. It hurt.
Oh, shit. Oh shit oh shit. Whatever I was up against, it didn’t seem very friendly. I started jogging then, and various food items keep flying at me, now from all points of the compass, as if my assailant was circling me, and nearly all the shots were coming from impossible angles, where nobody was, and in some cases could possibly have been. A tomato came in on a climbing angle – that put the shooter underground! Straight past my nose, from high and left – from a roof? Over my shoulder again, flat like before – directly behind me! Nobody was there.
I was in a lather, now, grasping feverishly for answers, any possible scenario compatible with reason and the laws of physics. Jesus Christ, were the Astros in town? Maybe it was Nolan Ryan? Or were the Yankees playing the Jays today? Gossage might be able to throw a bun like that, right? No wait – Gossage was now on the Padres. Wrong team! Think man! Surely no Jay would attack a home-towner like this! Oh God, was it Dave Stieb? No, it didn’t bear thinking about, our own starter being so traitorous to a true fan. Maybe it’s Righetti, the Yankees reliever, he was a real fireballer, he threw a no-hitter once! Yeah! Fucking Dave Righetti decided to stalk me while hurling the contents of a well-stocked picnic basket at me, that had to be it! Bastard! The MLB Commissioner would be hearing about this, by God.
The onslaught continued as my mental gears spun furiously and fruitlessly. This is no time to work the problem, my brainstem finally started yelling at me, just go, dumb-ass, run, get your ham and cheese-sullied ass to safety!
Then, blessedly, safety was in sight. Just below the flat where I lived was a 24-hour convenience store, and the door was wedged open. I ducked inside, and hauled ass all the way to the back of the store, and crouched behind some shelves. I don’t know how long I hid there, sweating, mumbling to myself. It felt like about an hour, so it was probably about three minutes, and then I stood up, and I could see the guy behind the cash leaning over the counter, looking for me. We locked eyes. I gave him a little wave, smiled weakly, and began making an elaborate show of looking for items to buy; I didn’t want to leave the back of the store just yet.
After a few minutes, I figured I should buy some items to put the cashier at ease, God knows what this all looked like to him, I was afraid he might call the cops or something, so I made my way cautiously to the front with I don’t know, some bread and pop or the like. Just as I got to the cash, a raw egg sailed right through the doorway and nailed me at about ankle level. Its trajectory traced back to the formidable stone wall of the church across the street. Nobody was there. Of course. The cashier looked at me, wide-eyed. He leaned over the counter again, and peered out the entrance, then looked at me and shook his head. Not a word passed between us. I paid for my things, scuttled quickly around the corner to the entrance to my flat, and hustled to get in. I remember fumbling with the keys. I remember slamming the big metal fire door shut behind me, making good and damn sure it was locked, then leaning my back against it, like they always do in cartoons, the better to bar entry. I remember avoiding the windows when I got upstairs. Safety first! Upon examination, my clothes were soiled by all sorts of things that really would have made for a nice meal, if they hadn’t been shot at me like edible artillery shells. That stain there, was that cake? And that one – potato salad? Pity to waste good food like that.
It was then that it occurred to me. If my assailant had decided that fun-time exploring the ballistic properties of buns and hard boiled eggs was over, and it was time to switch to bricks, it would have been curtains.
The next day, when it was time to go to work, I almost called in sick. Before going back outside, I opened my door a crack, and peered out, thinking that if my food sniper was still out there I’d have to find an exorcist, or maybe drown myself in the tub to put an end to it – there was no way a guy could keep his sanity if anywhere, at any time, another picnic basket bombardment might begin. What would happen? Why me? Who had I pissed off, anyway?
As I exited, teeth clenched, nothing happened. I walked all the way down Carleton to the subway, unmolested.
That was 30 years ago. I’ve never again been pelted with food.
I kept my soiled clothes, unwashed, in a bag for years after, as if to prove the whole thing had happened. But I knew it had happened, and all my egg and tuna-stained garb would prove to anybody else was that I was apparently a slob who got into a food fight. I guess I did, in a way. I’ve since learned that what I went through had a lot in common with numerous reported poltergeist events, though those seemed only to happen indoors. I guess I crossed paths with a free-range poltergeist that morning.
I wonder who it’s tormenting right now?