By Hannah Argiloff, Gr. 12
This story was selected as the first place winner in the 2020 NTCI Creates Contest. Congratulations, Hannah!
The Chipotle Cowboy
`“Should I order this for AP? I mean I wanna be a little hoeish, but I’m not going for like... full
blown hoe, you know? And I don’t know how I feel about the colour.”
“Oooh, lemme see lemme see!”
A girl clad in a Canada Goose jacket and salt-stained UGG boots glanced over at the little
plum tube dress her friend had pulled up on her phone. She visibly bounced as the two walked
amongst the horde of teens that crowded the salty winter sidewalk.
A man in a faded cowboy hat watched the interaction with indifference, before abruptly
dismissing it; memory was a valuable resource in his line of work, meaning it could not be
squandered on mundanities without valid reason. He turned to survey the rest of the crowd.
Every day, around 11:45am, the ranks of North Toronto Collegiate marched down
Roehampton Avenue and descended by the masses onto Yonge street for lunch. Some dawdled
onto the road, others stared intently at their phones or chittered amongst friends, but the mob
maintained its sluggishly uniform pace.
Any adult previously initiated into the Yonge and Eglinton area avoided the street at this
time, due to the inevitable frustration at being stuck behind the vast wall of adolescent
roadblocks and, he suspected, out of the deep seated yet never publicly acknowledged fear that
being exposed to gen-z slang accelerated the aging process by a factor of how many words could
not be understood.
Not the man in the hat, however, for he had become fluent. At precisely 11:35 am every
weekday, he’d perch himself right at the end of the street, on the little lawn in front of Chipotle
where all of the pigeons convened. There he’d wait for the oncoming horde. This practice had
earned him a few nicknames that he’d heard whispered amongst the students, the most popular
being “the Chipotle Cowboy.” One girl with glasses and the distinct glint of Ivy League ambition
in her eyes had even asked to profile him for an issue of Graffiti.
He’d invented some bullshit answers to her questions, said that he’d always wore his
mahogany cowboy hat because it was a statement piece he’d picked up in New Mexico, that his
leathery, sun soaked skin was resultant of three years working the oil industry in the middle
eastern desert, that he had owned a condo in the area since the 90’s, that he was now lucky
enough to spend his days as a professional flaneur, and that he spent his lunch hours at Chipotle
due to his penchant for pork burritos.
In actuality, he’d been stationed to the Yonge and Eglinton area for the past ten years. As
the neighbourhood transformed itself, the condos higher, the sidewalks busier, and with
construction, the air dustier, so did the nature of crime. As per the direction of the force, he’d
watched the neighbourhood build itself up into a pseudo“downtown” hub situated uptown,
complete with its own proper downtown-esque underbelly.
As far as he was concerned, the highschoolers were his own personal well of information.
He’d been inadvertently tipped off about the identity of a masked stabber at a park jam in
Rosedale after the culprit’s buddy talked slightly too loudly during the lunch rush that day. He’d
busted a small-scale drug dealer too, after one girl mentioned to her friend that she was “a bit
scared to meet her plug” after school. He owed a lot of his arrests to the students and their
youthful willingness to share the great intamices of their lives on a bustling sidewalk such as
He supposed he’d have to give a token mention to Chipotle as well. He hypothesized that
the aromatic scent of seasoned and prefab grilled chicken acted as a pseudo laughing gas, most
intoxicating and lip-loosening after hours confined in a classroom with no food.
There hadn’t been much as of late in the neighbourhood outside of the routine overnight
muggings and pickpocketing, but he continued his patioside observation.
Miss Canada Goose, he noted, had finally filed along far enough to reach the spot where
he stood feigning extreme interest in the three dusty pigeons that bobbed at his feet. This time,
she did not bounce as she and her friend ascended the rust coloured steps of the restaurant. Her
eyebrows were wilting, and her face paled at whatever had popped up on her screen.
“I-I... why would he send that? That’s so fucked up?” Her friend’s expression dropped in
tandem as she too peered at the phone.
He waited a cursory three seconds and started up the stairs after them, careful to maintain
his trademark saunter that he had perfected over the years.
Perhaps this would be a matter of concern, Detective Murray’s first dalliance with
uncovering the next big scandal, or perhaps it’d turn out that the Chipotle Cowboy only came for
one of his pork burritos.
Hands in his pockets, he strained his ears to the two girls at the front of the line to find