The Chipotle Cowboy (1st Place NTCI Creates)


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

this.

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

out.

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