Alphonse Jr. Dies
7 August 2012
Monday mornings have always been considered unproductive days for panning. The reasons given are that office workers, returning after the weekend, tend to be tired, grumpy and not particularly generous to those in need. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to see the spots usually occupied by Mo and John were vacant. I looked farther up the street and saw Magdalene.
“Hi, Magdalene, do you mind if I sit down?”
“Hi, sure, sit.”
“He died two days ago.” Baby Alphonse Jr. would have been eight weeks old. I had talked with Magdalene last week. Social Services had found a nice place for her and her husband Alphonse to live, near the hospital. The last time I saw them as a couple was before the birth. They were both excited about their expected son. I was shocked to hear that their baby died. I never know what to say at times like this.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that. You must feel devastated.” I put my hand gently on Magdalene’s shoulder, knowing that she doesn’t like to be hugged.
“How is your husband, Alphonse taking it?”
“I don’t know.” she replied.
“I’m asking too many questions. You have my deepest sympathy.”
“Do you have a cigarette? No, I remember, you don’t smoke. I’ll see if I can find one.” She stood up and walked to an outdoor ashtray, near the door to Starbucks. She picked out a couple of butts and returned to her spot.
“Perhaps, I’ll see you at noon, Magdalene. Once again, I’m so sorry. Remember, you are loved by many friends.”
At noon I walked to the park. Sitting on the curb, hiding under a baseball cap and behind a bushy gray beard, was Serge.
“Hi Serge. I haven’t seen you for the past week. Have I missed anything while I was away?”
“No, every day the same thing.” I noticed that he had a black eye.
“Serge, did you fall again?”
“Yes, I fell. I was walking between two cars to have a pee, and I fell.” This is Serge’s standard excuse for black eyes. A few weeks ago he had two, probably from beatings. He doesn’t want to cause any trouble for anybody. Also, he’s afraid of repercussions.
“I’m sorry to hear that Serge. You take care. I’ll see you later.”
Walking further up the sidewalk I met Nancy. “Hi Trudy, I was so sorry to hear that Magdalene’s baby died.”
“I didn’t know that. When did it happen?”
“She said it was two days ago.”
“I saw Alphonse this morning, but he wasn’t talking to anyone.”
“That’s the reason. I’m sure he’s very upset. He wanted so much to be a father.”
“Dennis, do you have any more of those Tim Horton’s cards? I was just talking to Nick. He said he was hungry.”
“Sure, I’d be pleased if you gave it to Nick. I really admire what he does to help people.
”If you see Larry, tell him that I’ve finished the first three volumes of ‘Confessions with God’. He recommended them to me. I really enjoyed them, so if he has any more recommendations I would be interested in hearing them.
“I’ll see you later.”
“Bye, Dennis, thanks.”
I next went to what Shakes calls his ‘office’, a curb beside an underground parking garage on Laurier Street near Kent. “Hi, Shakes, I have a pair of track pants for you (50% off, at Goodwill). Do you want to try them on?”
“Thanks, Dennis, I’ll try them on later, after I’ve had a shower.
“You know, Dennis, I’ve been in this spot for seventeen years. At first it was just a dirt parking lot. The owner asked me if I’d pick up any trash. I said, ‘Sure!’ He gave me five bucks a day. Now it’s become a condo city.”
The parking lot attendant came over and asked Sparky if he would mind moving over about a foot, because he was in the path of cars entering the garage. Sparky obliged.
“Yesterday, I went to visit my daughter, Hattie and my grandson. It was Hattie’s birthday. She was in bad shape. Her boyfriend had beaten her up.”
“I’m so sorry, Shakes. I also heard that your daughter Fran was beaten, and her boyfriend, Gene is now in prison. I heard that she has hairline fractures in her spine from when he jumped her.”
“Yes, Fran was there too. They’re both in rough shape. I can’t understand these guys.”
“Dennis, would you mind doing me a favor? Would you buy me a salad from the restaurant behind us? Maybe, cole slaw, or potato salad, whatever they have… and pepper… and don’t forget a fork.”
“Sure, Shakes.” I came back with his salad and said, “Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sure, I’ll be with the rest of the congregation.”