The Layers of Thorncliffe Park by Todd Tyrtle
Hot windy days rile the red-tailed hawks who fly between the towers of Thorncliffe Park. They chase each other, wheeling and diving, screeching, defending their territory. They fly unnoticed past the tallest towers in the neighbourhood, forty-four stories above the city – most of the shades are pulled shut. Double-paned windows and room-sized televisions drown out even the loudest and angriest sounds a hawk can make. Groceries and take-out food are delivered in by elevator, waste discarded out through trash chutes and sewer pipes.
Thorncliffe Park sits at the edge of a deep, forested ravine through which a river flows. Though it is only a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Toronto, it is home to wildlife – coyotes, deer, and beaver, also the squirrels, birds, and rabbits the hawks rely on for food. It is also home to people, some in tents, others under tarps – television sized rooms from which every sound can be heard. The hawks, the traffic, the river, the young man painting landscapes on a portable easel, the first siren, the second siren, the third, fifth, eighth and ninth sirens. Supplies are brought in via shopping cart, bike trailer, or backpack, waste is carried out, burned on the campfire, or buried under rocks and leaves.
Several streets lie between the towers and the ravines. Outside 75 Thorncliffe Park Drive, one, two, three police cars arrive, then five, eight, nine, and ten. Teenagers running between the towers of Thorncliffe Park, shooting happening but from whom? Then more sirens. Ambulances come and take two people to the hospital. Another person leaves in the back of a police car.
The young man, painting in the ravine feels his phone vibrate. A message from the top of the tower: “Be careful, I hear lots of sirens. Something bad is happening on our street. Find a more indirect route home.”
Up from the ravine to street level he goes, past the card access door and then into the elevator. Up, up, up, he goes, like mail, like delivered groceries, like an Amazon package into the top of the climate-controlled tower.
Police tape flutters in the wind distracting a pigeon. As he picks at it with his beak, a hawk catches him in her talons, and up, up, up, they go. Past the closed windows to the nest on the roof of the tower.
Todd Tyrtle (@toddtyrtle) is an avid cyclist who has cycled from Toronto to New York City to promote kindness. Once he went over a year without using motorized transport of any kind. He has been learning Hindi for seven years and loves surprising people with his knowledge.