Sleeping Rough

Posted: February 7, 2019 in Prose

9 July 2012

I was walking along Queen Street, toward Moss Park, when I saw Serge, sitting on a bench. “Hello Serge, how are you doing?” “You startled me. I didn’t see you coming. I’m okay. I was feeling sick before, but now I’ve got my booze, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

As I continued I met Joy and Chester. “Hi Joy, how is everything going in you new place?” “It’s great. Living at Chester’s is awesome. It’s so quiet. I hear kids and cars, but nothing like the noise at Chuck’s.”

“There’s not the people coming in and out,” added Chester. “I’ve got the whole house cleaned,” said Joy. “Now we’re going back. I’ve got some laundry to do. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“You’re a good man, Chester. Bye. Bye, Joy.” Further up the sidewalk were Trudy, Buck and his dog Dillinger, Shakes and Little Jake. We shook hands all around.

“How have you been feeling, Jake?”

“My legs are sore.”

“I notice you have a lot of bruises.”

“Yeah, I’ve got bruises all over. I’ve been throwing up every morning — the dry heaves. I’ve been drinking a lot of water just so I have something to throw up. At Weasel’s place the bathtub is really close to the toilet. Sometimes I’ve got it coming out both ends. I feel better now, though.

“I slept over there in the bushes last night, along with Weasel, his dog Bear and Andre. I woke up next to Bear. I think I kicked her during the night. I was the first one up at about six. The sun coming up was orange. It was really picturesque. I went down to see Silver, but he wasn’t there, so I panned in his spot. I didn’t stay too long because I’ve got two charges against me. The cop, the big one with the tattoos — he’s really got a hard on for me — he said that if I get caught again, I’ll be going back to prison.”

“Just ignore them,” said Shakes. “I’ve got two charges as well. I was charged with vagrancy. When have you last heard of that charge — back in the sixties? They’ve been saying for ten years now that they’re going to put me back in jail, but it never happens. Just go out there on Parliament and start panning. You’ll see, nothing will happen.”

“Parliament is a red zone for me.”

“Every street is a red zone. I slept in the Scotia Bank last night. I just couldn’t hold it any more, so I dropped my pants and used the waste basket. There was a garbage bag inside so I took it out, tied it up and placed it outside. The cops came by and said there had been a complaint that I had taken a dump in the bank. I said, ‘Look officers, there’s just me, my sandwich and a broken cigarette. I don’t know what these people are talking about.”

Jake said, “The cops came by yesterday and there was Shakes pissing through the rails of the fence. They said, ‘Shakes, you just can’t do that in a public park.’ He didn’t care.”

Shakes asked Trudy, “Will you roll me a joint? My hands are too shaky.”

“Sure, do you have papers?”

“Do you need scissors, Trudy?” asked Jake.

“No, this stuff isn’t too fresh.”

“I’ve had my first drink of the day,” said Shakes. “Now, I’m going to have my first joint. Then, I can get my mind right.”

Jake said, “You’ll be able to stagger straight. Is that it, Shakes?”

“I’m leaving now,” said Trudy. “They’re having a memorial service for Alistair at St. Paul’s. It starts at one o’clock.”

“Ask them to play some Ozzy for him,” said Shakes. A soldier was passing. “Thanks for defending our country, sir.”

To me he said, “I respect the military. One time I was at a bar and I saw an old veteran. I said to him, ‘Come over and join us.’ I had a 1942 penny in my pocket. I gave it to him. He started crying. He said, ‘I was in the war then. That’s the year my brother was killed.’ “Some people say that men don’t cry. I can be arrested, beaten up, stabbed, shot and I’ll never cry. But when it’s something sentimental, like the service for Alistair, or that old veteran bawling his eyes out, that makes me cry.”

“I remember back at ‘the Haven’ (Millhaven Maximum Security Penitentiary), I was training this guy to box. I told him, ‘I’ll keep training you as long as you don’t mess up. If you mess up, no more training.’

“Do you know where I learned to box. It was when I was six years old, on the farm. In the barn we had one of those heavy farm bags, hanging from a rafter. My uncles showed me how to use it.”

Buck was playing a scratch and win Bingo card. “I won,” he said.

“How much did you win?”

“Three dollars and fifty cents.”

“I’ll pay you for the card.” said Shakes. He pulled out a plastic zip lock bag full of quarters. “Here I’ll even pay you for one extra.”

“This is a nickel, Shakes.”

“How much do I owe you, now?”

“One quarter.”

“Okay, here’s one quarter.”

To Jake he asked, “How much money did Joy say I have here?”

“$37.50”

“Buck can you go on a run for me and get two bottles of sherry?”

“Sure.” Buck left and headed toward the liquor store.

Jake said to Shakes, “Aren’t you worried that he’s going to head south with your money.”

“No, I’m not worried. I trust Buck.” He returned about twenty minutes later and handed Shakes two bottles of sherry.”

Jake said to Shakes, “Don’t forget you owe me twenty.”

Shakes passed Jake a near empty sherry bottle. “That’s great, ” said Jake, “He owes me twenty and he offers me a buck’s worth of sherry.”

Shark and Irene came by. “Well, I got a new apartment, a three bedroom for eleven hundred  a month, all-inclusive. It’s really large. Officially, I move on the first of August, but the landlord said I can start moving stuff over beginning tomorrow. They’ve still got some repairs to do. It’s on Parliament and Power. Now, I’m at Parliament and Queen, I’m just moving across the parking lot. It’s the same landlord. I’ve been with him a long time now. My present place and the one before were both with him. Now, we just have to arrange for a truck to bring Irene’s stuff over.”

I said, “Irene was concerned that, with your morphine and medicinal marijuana, the police may come over when you’re away and she might be charged, because the licence is in your name.”

“We’ll have three bedrooms, one for me and one for Irene. The morphine and marijuana will be in my room. As long as it’s in my room they can’t touch Irene. I can just get another licence for when I’m not home.”

Irene said, “That means we won’t be neighbors any more, Dennis.”

“Don’t worry, It’s not that far away.” Buck was leaving. We shook hands. Dillinger licked my face.

 

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Wolf Rants

Posted: February 1, 2019 in Prose

 

6 July 2012

Another hot day at the park (39 degrees Celsius, 102 degrees Fahrenheit). As I approached the group I saw Larry and his mother, Anne seated on the grass. Trudy, Buck and his dog Dillinger were standing by Buck’s bicycle. Wolf and Debbie were in a heated discussion while Shaggy lay panting by the railing.

I shook hands with Larry, waved to Anne then extended my hand to Trudy. She hugged me instead. I extended my hand to Buck. He said, “What? I don’t get a hug?” I hugged him and said, “Share the love, brother.”

I walked over to Wolf. He said, “Go away, I don’t want to talk to you right now. I walked back to sit with Larry and Anne. Larry said to me, “With this hot weather I guess you’ll be going to your cabin this weekend.”

“Yes, I’ll be leaving at six tonight and will be coming back Sunday evening. I hope the weather stays like this.”

“Dennis, ” said Wolf, “I didn’t mean to be rude. Well, yes I did. Anyway, I can’t break my train of thought or I won’t get it back again. I need to have eye contact. See, now Trudy is standing between us. Trudy, couldn’t you go around the other way? Can’t you see we’re trying to have a conversation here?”

“I’m sorry, Wolf,” said Trudy.

I moved closer  so I could hear him better.

Buck said to Wolf, “Your German team didn’t do too well in the Euro Cup.”

“We didn’t do well in the last two world wars, either.”

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “We’re about the same age, so you know what I’m talking about. That murder in St. Isidore — that’s what Debbie and I were  discussing — have you been following that in the newspaper.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

“Come on man, it was on the front page of the Sun, yesterday. You’re smart.  I thought you kept up with what’s going on in the world. A twenty-four year old guy was murdered in St. Isidore. He was lured behind an elementary school by three  girls, where he was stabbed and murdered by three boys. The oldest was twenty. The headline read, ‘Seven Lives Wasted’. Can you imagine what those families are going through? Not only the family of the murdered guy, but the others as well.

“I have a son. I don’t see him any more. When he was nineteen years old he murdered someone. What’s with these kids? There’s no discipline, that’s what’s the matter. When I was a boy, I had to set the table, the knives would have to be just so, the forks over here — none of these people would know what I’m talking about. If I got something wrong, I’d get a smack across the back of my head. That’s my Germanic background. Yours is similar, I think. What is it, Scottish?”

‘No, Irish.”

“That’s not it.”

“Icelandic.”

“Icelandic, that’s it. Vikings, raping and pillaging, just like the Huns. Anyway, back to St. Isidore, the armpit of Quebec. What’s with these kids? Did they think they would get away with it?

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t come here on weekends. You just never know what’s going to happen. Hippo’s been jumped. Rocky’s been jumped. They’re a lot bigger and tougher than I am. I’ve slept at ‘the heater’ and I was darn glad to see Andre and Hippo come along. I was glad to have — what’s the word I’m looking for?”

“Protection?”

“That’s it , protection. When I’m anywhere in this area, I know I can call out and someone may come to my rescue.

“This heat is bad. When I cross that line of shade, where it meets the full glare of the sun, it’s like walking into a wall.  Shaggy’s not going to be riding much today. Of course, she’ll be in the cart going up the bridge.”

I said, “Maybe you should get in the cart and have Larry push.”

“That cart wouldn’t hold me. It’s meant to be pulled behind a bicycle. Jacques, big Jacques, you know how strong he is. He’s fixed it a couple of times for me. That cart’s getting old. Shaggy and I were hit by the car when she was three years old, so that’s over eight years.”

“I notice that the front has been changed. Don’t these carts usually have wheels in front?”

“Yes, the wheels stuck way out in front. It was hard to turn. Jacques cut it shorter and replaced the wheels with the blade of a hockey stick. Now it slides.

“Anyway, on my way here this morning I stopped to buy Shaggy some dog food. She eats well. It reminds me of when Little Jake first got sick. I fed him well, maybe too well, it seemed to make him worse.”

I asked, “How is Jake now?”

“I don’t want to talk about Jake. Getting back to the dog food. I remember being at the counter and getting four five dollar bills as change.  Later, I wanted to buy five grams of weed and I couldn’t find my money.  I had to take everything out of my pockets and at last, in this tiny little pocket of my jeans, I found the four bills stuffed inside.

“So, I talked enough. Do I rate a chapter in your book? Fuck off then, go away. I’m just kidding. But, seriously, it’s time for me to go before it gets too hot.”

Before Chester left he said to me, “By the way, Joy was here earlier, but she had to leave because of the heat.”

“Thanks, Chester. Have a good day.”

I went back to sit with Larry, Anne and Trudy. I heard Larry say to Anne, “Chester asked me if I thought there was any chance of you and him getting back together. I told him, ‘Ask her yourself. It has nothing to do with me.’ ”

It’s like a daily soap opera. lives and loves exposed for all to see.

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Staggering Somewhat Straight

Posted: January 14, 2019 in Prose
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4 July 2012

I was walking along Queen Street towards Moss Park, when I met old Serge sitting on a park bench. “Hi Serge,” I said. “How are you feeling? You still have bruises around your eyes.”

“I’m okay.”

“Did you see the fireworks on Canada Day (July 1)?”

“I saw them, but I didn’t stand up. I just watched from the bench here. You won’t find anybody up top, maybe under the bridge.”

“Thanks, Serge, you saved me a trip.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you.”

I checked everywhere I could think of, but couldn’t find any of my friends.

5 July 2012

This afternoon at the park, sitting in a circle, were Shakes, Andre, Larry and his brother Charles. Wolf and  his dog Shaggy were just leaving. As I sat down, Larry handed me a copy of the Sun to avoid grass stains.

Shakes was laying on the grass as usual. I bent to shake his hand, then noticed that he had a cigarette in one hand and a wine bottle in the other. “Don’t bother shaking my hand,  Shakes. I see your hands are full.”

“Dennis, ” said Shakes, “do you know what a smoothie is?”

“You tell me, Shakes.”

“It’s when you’re expecting a Hershey bar, and you get a squirt instead…ha, ha, ha.”

“Now I know, Shakes.”

“Thanks for not asking me to shake your hand, Dennis,” he laughed hoarsely.

I asked, “Was anybody here yesterday?”

Andre thought for a while, “No, they turned the sprinklers on. That’s one way to keep us away.”

Charles offered me wild blackberries from a large plastic basket.

“I got those as a drop this morning,” said Andre. “I was sitting in front of Tim Horton’s and this dude asks me, ‘Do you want some fresh blackberries?’ I say, ‘Sure!’ He goes into the back somewhere and brings this big basket of blackberries. He says, ‘There’s enough here to bake four pies.’ I say, ‘Thanks, but you’re talking to a guy who lives on the street. I don’t have a pot to piss in, let alone an oven to bake pies. I’ll share these with some friends in the park. They’ll enjoy them. Thanks again. I love blackberries.’ “

It’s Thursday, so the ‘sandwich ladies’ had made their appearance. I saw juice boxes, a pair of white socks, and cellophane wrapped cookies. Larry unwrapped a sandwich and looked inside. “Does anybody want some of this?”

“What’s in it?” asked Andre.

“I think it’s minced ham, I’m not sure.”

“I’ll pass on that,” said Andre as he pulled out a Tim Horton’s bag. “We’re eating high-class today!” He offered me part of a cheese burger, but I had just eaten. Torn in four parts, he passed one each to Shakes, Larry, Charles and saved the last for himself. Shakes passed around his bottle of wine. Charles sputtered and nearly choked.

Larry said, “Dennis, don’t mind my brother. He gets silly when he’s drunk.”

“He’s silly when he’s not drunk,” said Andre. “He’s silly all the time.”

Andre, who was shirtless, then demonstrated his belly dance. “I was doing this on Canada Day. One woman gave me a Sourpuss, one gave me two beer, one dropped five bucks and another dropped a knob of weed. She asked if she could videotape me and put it on YouTube. I said, ‘Sure!’ I must be on there about ten times. There’s one from St. Patrick’s Day, 2010, labelled bum fights.

“It had over 700 hits the first week. Since then it’s had over 20,000. I wish I was getting royalties.”

Larry said, “One time I was sleeping under the Bridge, around the time they were putting up the chain link fences. I was asleep in the corner when I heard someone rattling the fence. They said, ‘Do you want a drink?’ I was half asleep, so I didn’t answer. Then they said, ‘Do you want some bottles of wine?’ My ears pricked up then. ‘Sure!’ I said. I came out and sure enough they had all these bottles lined up. They said there had been a wine tasting event nearby and any opened bottles had to be disposed of.

“A bunch of us met the next day and passed the bottles around the circle. Anyone who liked the taste, kept the bottle. If they didn’t they passed it on. I tried some Dom Perignon, but didn’t like it. I know it’s over two hundred a bottle, but it tasted awful.”

Andre said, “I had a job at the Banff Springs Hotel and when they had a function, any opened bottles, even if they only had an ounce out of them, were given to the staff. The full bottles I had to take down to the basement. When I was working down there, a huge mother of a bug  dropped on my shoulder. I don’t know what it was called but it was about two inches across and had pincers, like scissors in front. I was wearing rubber gloves when I picked it off my shoulder and it nipped the end off one of the fingers. If I hadn’t been wearing the gloves it would have been my finger that was nipped off.

“Whenever I saw one of those bugs I hit it with a shovel. I may have broken the odd bottle of wine, but I wasn’t getting anywhere near those bugs.

“In the forests they also had wood-boring insects (Mountain Pine Beetles) that would drop from the trees, sometimes three or four at a time, and could bore into your skin. They would post signs advising hikers to keep off the trails at certain times of the year.”

It was time for Andre, Shakes and Little Jake to go to work (pan handling). Shakes was having trouble with his pants falling down. I asked Andre, “Are those new pants?”

“They must be, ” replied Andre, “They’re clean.”

“I’ll get you fixed up, Shakes,” said Andre. He tore a two-inch wide strip from a garbage bag in one of the sidewalk containers. He started feeding it through the belt loops, then he noticed that Shakes had a belt around his waist, under his pants, over his underwear.

“It’s alright folks, we’re not doing anything disgusting here. We’re just trying to help our buddy, so he won’t do something disgusting all by himself.” Andre fed the belt through the loops and Shakes was good to go. Unstable, but vertical and able to stagger somewhat straight.

.

Fish Sticks

Posted: December 24, 2018 in Prose
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3 July, 2012

I sat on the curb next to Shark. He said, “I lost my phone last night. The guy who found it had a heavy European accent. He must have gone through my entire contact list. I know he phoned my landlord, he phoned Irene, she said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing with my husband’s phone.’ He finally called Jacques, who was with me at the time. The guy had an appointment near Sherbourne and Shuter at ten forty-five, so he asked if I could meet him there at ten forty. It was good for me, because I had to go to the liquor store anyway. So, I went there and got it back.

“I was going to get a new phone. The billing date for this one is near the end of the month. By that time, I usually don’t want to spend money on a phone — I want to eat. If I get a phone with a billing date at the first of the month I can pay it on check day, along with my rent.

“I also got thrown in the can last night – charged with being drunk in a public place.”

Shakes said, “Shark, we both arrived at the Shep at the same time. The Sally Ann dropped me off just as some fine piggies were throwing you out of a cruiser.

“I said, ‘Hey, don’t treat him like that! He’s my friend.’ They said, ‘Stay back, Shakes!’ ”

Shark said, “They went through everything in my bag. I had a bottle of wine and five grams of pot in there. I showed the cop my license for medicinal marijuana. He said to the guy at the Shep, ‘Don’t give him the pot until he’s ready to leave, or else he’ll smoke it on your property.’

“It’s a good thing they didn’t give it to me. There would have been a line up of people wanting some.

“I phoned 311, run by the Salvation Army. They’ll drive you home, provide you with a sleeping bag, or take you to any of the shelters. They close at three o’clock. I guess I phoned at five minutes after. I just got a recording. It took me about an hour to walk home.

“Irene was pissed because I didn’t take her home from bingo, but I had to meet with George. By the way, do I have any dobber marks on me?” He took off his cap.

“Yes, you have one right on top of your head.”

“Trudy, why don’t you have any dobber marks on you.?”

“I just stayed far away from the people with dobbers.”

“This is my meds day,” said Shark. “I have to walk to Yonge and George. That’s where I get my morphine and marijuana.”

“Andre,” I said, “how was your weekend?”

“Good, great even! On Canada Day (July first) I was panning on Yonge and Dundas. There were a bunch of women around, so I started belly dancing. One woman gave me a couple of beer, another gave me some pot. I got drops of five dollars, ten dollars. It was great!”

“Shark,” I asked, “how are you and Irene getting along?”

“It’s iffy. You know women.” Shark’s cell phone began to ring. “She’s just phoning me now. Here talk to her. Ask her if I’m a complete asshole.”

“Irene, is Shark a complete asshole?”

“Shark, she says you’re a partial asshole.”

“Ask her if she wants me to bring her a lobster”

“Do you want Shark to bring you a lobster?”

“She doesnt’ like lobster,” I said.

“I knew that. Ask her if she wants some shrimp. She hates shrimp.”

“How about shrimp?”

“No, to shrimp.”

“Ask her if she wants fish sticks.”

“Do you want fish sticks?”

“Fish sticks are a go, Shark. Here she is . I’ll let you talk to her.”

“Irene asks if you’re going to be here tomorrow?”

“Only if she brings me some fish sticks.”

Okay, hire me!

Posted: December 16, 2018 in Prose
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29 June, 2012

It was hot at noon, with a pleasant breeze. A large crowd had gathered at the park. There was some concern that the size of the crowd may attract the police, so some of the regulars moved further down.

I sat beside Shark. I asked him, “This is the weekend that Irene moves, isn’t it?”

“No, a month from now, August first. She’s on her own now. She invited me over to her place for six o’clock last night. I brought pork chops, potatoes – two bags of groceries.

“She said, ‘Get out!’

“ ‘You mean right now?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get out!’

“ ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’m going, but don’t expect me back!’ I packed up the groceries and left.”

“Had she been drinking?” I asked.

“Had she ever. She was into the lemonade coolers that are only seven per cent alcohol. Then she added regular vodka which is thirty-seven percent. These things taste so good that, on a hot day, you tend to drink them like water.

“She phoned me at midnight, one o’clock, two o’clock. She phoned Buck at three o’clock.”

I asked Gaston how his life was going. He said, “My daughter is in Cambodia now. She’s trained for eleven years to become what’s called a medical engineer. That’s an interdisciplinary degree applying principles of engineering, medicine and biology. Her husband is a lawyer. She’s been there a week and says she feels comfortable living there permanently.

“I told her, ‘Give it six months, before you decide to buy a house, or take on any other long-term commitments.’ “

I said, “The last time we talked, you mentioned that you do some writing. Have you published any books or articles?”

“No, I have some started, but recently I’ve been attending a class in psychology and kinesiology at the university. I’ve previously taken them separately, but now they’ve combined them.

“I’m working on a history of my family, but many of the records were destroyed in a fire. That will be a long-term project. My father’s family is from Sudbury, my mother’s is from Val d’Or. Our family was living in Toronto, but went to visit family in Sudbury where I was born, January 1, 1950 – right on the dot of midnight.

“I have poor circulation. See the burst blood vessels in my ankles. I used to sleep with two pillows under my head and one under my feet. It’s easier on your heart if your feet are elevated. I raised the bottom of my bed, now I’m able to get rid of one pillow.”

Shark said, “I sleep with four pillows.”

I asked, “Is that so you don’t roll out of bed?”

“I still roll out of bed.”

“Gaston said, “I live on Elm Street. I can remember when there were trees on each side of the street arching over. It was like driving through a tunnel. The city decided to widen the street so they cut down all the trees. About five years later they came to the conclusion that there was too much traffic, so they narrowed the street again, but without the trees. It could have been done differently – circulating the traffic around the trees. We need the trees. They give off oxygen and take away carbon dioxide.”

Andre had been sitting in a cross-legged position, sound asleep. When he awoke he smiled and waved at me.

“So Shark,“ I asked, “you’re not moving?”

“I’ve talked to my landlord. I’d like to get a two bedroom apartment. When one becomes available, he’ll move me free of charge. We get along well.”

Joy said, “No Gene, I’m not coming on to your girlfriend, although I did have a wife for a year and a half while I was in prison.”

Andre said, “That big cop does not like Little Jake.”

“It’s because he’s always mouthing off,” said Joy. “He’s like a dog gnawing on a bone, he never quits.

“They have to be really careful with Jake because of his HIV. He always has open sores on his lips, or scrapes where he’s fallen down.

“Do you remember when there was the big hep c scare. I spit at a cop and got eighteen months for assault with a deadly weapon. I didn’t spit anywhere near him. That could happen to Jake if he isn’t careful.”

Andre said, “I was panning down the street yesterday. This suit passes me and says, ‘Get a job!’ I said, ‘Okay, hire me!’ He said, ‘Bathe first!’ You know, just because I don’t have access to a shower, doesn’t mean that I don’t wash – all over.”

Joy said, “That’s an image I don’t want in my head.”

“I’m just saying.”

Daimon Gets Stomped

Posted: December 11, 2018 in Prose
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27 June 2012

This morning Joy was sitting on her storage crate talking to Chester. They were finalizing the arrangements for Joy to move into his apartment. Chester shook my hand then said good-bye.

“I still haven’t told Chuck that I’m moving, but I won’t be giving him any rent money for July. I’ll give him a hundred towards the cable bill. He’s really been nasty to me lately. He phoned me at the park yesterday and asked, ‘Are you coming home tonight?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe I will, maybe I won’t.’ ‘If you do,’ he said, ‘bring me some pot.’

Andre came trudging up the sidewalk with his backpack, a raincoat and his folding stool. “I don’t know what happened last night but I found this in my cap.” He held up a business card from a ninety-nine dollar hooker.

I said, “That should give you some clue.”

“No, that’s not in my price range. What really scared me is finding this rock in my cap.” He held up a one pound rock. “This swung in my cap makes a mean weapon, just like a billy club. I vaguely remember saying to some guy, ‘You want my money? Try and take it from me.’ I don’t know what happened after that. I went a bit haywire yesterday. I nearly got in a fight with Daimon. I said, ‘Your brother is three times your size and I took him, so come and get it.’ His brother is huge — twenty-two inch arms, about six-foot seven. He’s a monster. He’d have to duck and go through a door sideways.

“I’m going to have to go to work. I need a drink.” With that he left.

I asked Joy, “If Daimon just got out of prison, would he still be an addict?”

“It’s much easier to get drugs on the inside than it is on the outside.”

“So,” I asked, “did I miss anything after I left yesterday?”

“No, It was pretty quiet. I waited for Pierre to come back. Then we watched a few videos. His son is twenty-four years old. He’s autistic and has a mental age of about twelve. We get along great. We were about to watch Paranormal 2. He said to me, ‘You’re going to be scared.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ There is a part where this guy is being dragged off the bed by a demon. I jumped off the couch and ran down the hall. Everyone got a good laugh out of that.”

On my way to the park I met old Serge. “How are you doing, Serge?” I asked.

“I’m fine. I’m just going to the bench near the bank. I want to sit down before I fall down again.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park the usual congregation was in attendance. There was lots of excitement in the neighbourhood. Emile was swearing. He dragged Ian by the ankles for about twenty feet. Then Ian and Shakes started fighting, rolling around on the lawn.

I sat next to Joy and asked, “What’s this about?”

“Ian is drunk and was being a dickhead to everyone. Andre had enough and went after him.”

Ian eventually slunk back to the circle. “I don’t know what I did wrong?”

Andre answered, “Your woman screwed you over, pressed charges against you. Now you’re drunk. You ask us for help. Sure we’re going to help you, we’re family, but don’t act like a dickhead and treat us like shit.”

I noticed that Shakes’ leg was bleeding and that he had a burn scar near his ankle. “How did that happen?” I asked Joy.

“I’m not sure of the details. I don’t think he remembers. Someone set him on fire. The same thing happened to another homeless guy sleeping on a park bench. Someone doused him with gasoline, then set him on fire. He was wearing a plastic raincoat and it melted into his skin. He was released from hospital and was staying at the Sally Ann, but after three days of pain he just gave up and died.”

Joy asked Andre and Jake, “Where’s your brother from another mother, Hippo?”

“He got money from his mother, now he doesn’t feel that he should associate with the likes of us.”

“He’s being a real asshole, considering all you’ve done to help him. If he comes back to your place (behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks) you should lock him out.”

“I’ll do more than lock him out, I’ll knock him out.”

“Did everyone hear the good news?” asked Joy, “Rocky just told me that Daimon and Lucy in the Sky got beat up by some black dude named Buddy. Lucy was knocked out. Daimon was stomped and has a broken leg. It happened last night. Rocky was there, I wish he’d caught it on video.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Andre, “I was hoping to do that myself.”

Gene said, “Daimon’s not so tough. He kept bragging about his maximum security prison background, but I beat him one time. He sucker punched me on the side of the head. He was surprised that I came back with three punches. I knocked him into a closet. Then he ran away like somebody’s bitch.”

“When I was still with my Jake,” said Joy, “Daimon came after me. Jake pushed him and Daimon bounced twice on his ass. Jake said, ‘Don’t even think of getting up.’ “

To me Joy said, “Chester says I can move in anytime, even if I haven’t got my check yet. I hope that Chuck doesn’t have a hissy fit when I tell him that I’m leaving. Maybe I should pack my clothes first. I don’t want him throwing my stuff out the door or anything.”

Silver and Starbucks

Posted: December 10, 2018 in Prose

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26 June 2012

This morning, in front of Starbucks, I pulled up a plastic crate and sat beside Silver. He’d told me previously about going to reform school when he was young. I asked him about the details.

“I first went to reform school because I stole some money. I stole sixty dollars from a lady friend of my mom’s. I didn’t spend any of the money. I hid it in my sock drawer. The lady called the police. She told them, ‘I’m missing some money and I know who took it.’

“I was coming home from school. I saw the police car and my sister was crying. The police said that if I returned the money the lady wouldn’t press charges. I said to my sister, ‘Don’t worry, I have the money. I can return it. Everything will be okay.’ I went to my sock drawer and the money was gone. Somebody in my family found the money and took it. So, that’s why I went to reform school. I did some other things, nothing very bad — kid things. They seemed like good ideas at the time.

“Sunday I went to my church where I panhandle. Lately there have been a lot of new people panning there. They had every door covered. I said to one of them, ‘You’re in my spot.’ He said, ‘I’ve been coming here a long time. Do you know what time the service starts?’ I said, ‘You’ve been coming here a long time and you don’t know what time the service starts? Yeah, sure!’ It was a bunch of crack heads. There was no point in getting into a fist fight about it. I’ll see if they’re there next Sunday.”

I said, “Gaston was at the park Friday. He seems like a decent person. Does he come by often?”

“Yeah, he and his friend are both quiet. They don’t cause any trouble. They call him Bird. I don’t know why.”

“When I talked to him Friday he was telling me about rescuing a skunk who had fallen into a ditch and couldn’t get out. I know he has cats and a dog. I think he mentioned that birds come right up to him. I guess he likes birds.”

“That would make sense.”

I said, “Have you seen anything of Daimon and Lucy in the Sky lately?”

“No, not since Friday.”

“I don’t get it,” I said, “They want to beat up Alphonse and Magdalene. Alphonse is small and Magdalene is five months pregnant. They have no money, no anything, they’re panhandlers. What do Daimon and Lucy hope to gain from that?”

“They’re both psychopaths. What we should do is, get a group of us together, jump them and beat the shit out of them. Then they’ll get the message that they’re not welcome.”

“That was Joy’s idea,” I said. “How long have you been panning here, Silver?”

“I’ve been here about eleven years. I used to be where Joy is now. After she got out of prison, she said it was her spot. She gave me a couple of cigarettes for it. That was okay. I didn’t like that spot anyway. I got a few tickets there for panhandling. For some reason they don’t seem to bother Joy. When I was still with my ex I used to pan on the other side of this column. It’s a government building. They said that I was blocking their fire exit and asked me to move. If there had been a fire I wouldn’t have stayed around to be in anybody’s way. I’d have been long gone. Just to annoy them, I moved a few feet over. Now I’m in front of Starbucks. I’ve talked to the owner. He doesn’t mind me being here, he just asked that I don’t open the door for the ladies. I said, ‘That’s no problem.’ Now the ladies open their own doors.

“Before I came here I lived in a small town near here. I worked for a retired cop. I’d mow his lawn, dig his garden — anything that needed doing around the yard. He watched every move I made, as if I was going to steal something from his garden. Finally, I got fed up. I told him, ‘With you watching me all the time it’s as bad as being in prison.’ I guess it gets in their blood.

“Hey Dora!” Silver yelled, “where’s my treat?” She came back a few minutes later with a toasted Danish. “Dora, I was just kidding.”

“A customer left it on the counter. Don’t you want it?”

“Of course I want it. Thanks, Dora!”

A man stopped and dropped a folded ten dollar bill in Silver’s cap. “I’ve made forty dollars so far.. It’s just about time to quit for the day.”

At noon it was cool and windy. The first person I saw was old Serge. “Hi Serge, I said, “How are your eyes today. Do you have any headaches? You didn’t fall again did you?”

“No, I didn’t fall again. Last night I slept in a park, nearby. It was nice.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“Take care.”

Seated on the curb by the sidewalk was a group of a half dozen regulars.

Andre gestured to a camp stool and said, “Have a seat. Gene gave this to me. Look down below.” I looked, there were two zippered pockets. One held a plate, plastic glass and cutlery. The second was a cooler.

“That cooler will hold ten beer or four bottles of sherry. The cops won’t even know I have any liquor. Yesterday I must have drunk, let me think… nine bottles of sherry. I’ve got a hangover now, so I haven’t been drinking. See my hand shaking?”

I asked, “What’s this carved wooden animal in your hat? Is this for good luck?”

“You don’t recognize it?”

“It looks like a bear.”

“It’s a kitty cat. I call it my pocket pussy.”

Gene commented on a german shepherd that was being led on a leash by its owner. “That’s a beautiful dog. It’s well-groomed too.”

“Yes, it’s had a lot of brushing.”

“I used to have a dog just like that, a King German Shepherd named Chinook. She was a really smart dog. There are a lot of tests that you can put a dog through to determine its intelligence; putting food under an upside down cup, putting a blanket over the dog’s head. He passed all the tests. She knocked the cup over to get the food, shook her head to get out from under the blanket. Some dogs would just sit there. Like when you put a cover over a bird-cage.

“We had a four-foot fence around our yard. I had a problem with some neighbourhood kids who were teasing and throwing stones at Chinook. I told their parents what was happening and asked if I could teach the kids a lesson. They said, ‘Okay.’ When the kids came over again I went out and talked to them. I said, ‘This dog is almost as big as you are. It has a gentle nature unless it’s provoked. This dog could kill you. You think you’re safe behind this fence. Watch this.’ I gave the command, ‘Chinook, over!’ She easily jumped the fence and came to my side. She used to jump into the back of my pickup. You should have seen the expression on those kids’ faces. Their eyes were like saucers when they saw the dog up close.

“We had kids in the house at the time, so we didn’t smoke or drink very much. It’s a funny thing, but Chinook didn’t like people smoking or drinking. It was alright if I was sitting at the table and had a few beer or a smoke, but it someone came to the door with the smell of alcohol or cigarettes on them she’d get upset. She even growled at my mother-in-law. I asked her if she’d been drinking . She said she had. If I was sitting on the lawn with a beer beside me Chinook would knock it over. She was great with kids. They’d pile on top of her, pull her ears.  She wouldn’t react at all.

Gene’s cell phone began to ring. “I’m going to have to take this,” he said. “I’m supposed to be working today. I’m a carpenter. My boss has my belt and all my tools. I can’t contact him. I think he’s at his cottage. If he didn’t have any work for me, I could have found work with someone else —  if I had my tools.

“I talked to Stewart the other day. He’s living in Orleans.”

I said, “I talked to him too. No, I’m thinking of Weasel. He’s been in the East General since last Tuesday. He got out around four yesterday. I bet Wolf will be happy. He won’t have to look after Bear anymore.”

Joy said, “Wolf’s hand still hasn’t fully healed from where Bear bit him. I was thinking that maybe Weasel had died. If he had, I wonder how many people would attend his funeral.”

Silver said, “That’s a morbid thing to say, Joy.”

“I’m not wishing he was dead, I was just thinking that it wouldn’t be like the funeral we attended for Hobo. That was packed.”

Steve said, “It looks like Bear has already started digging a grave for him here in the lawn.”

“It’s a pretty shallow grave,” said Silver.

Joy said, “A shallow grave would be good enough. He’s skinny. I’d be glad to throw in the first shovel of dirt.”

Hippo said,”I’m getting pissed off with Little Jake. We’ve been panning together and he keeps saying stupid things like, ‘This is my bridge.’ It scares people away. If that’s his bridge then this is my park.”

Pierre said, “I have to go home to feed my kid and me.”

Andre said, “What’s that?”

Joy said, “Pierre has a son. He has to go home and make his lunch.”

“Oh,” said Andre, “I thought he said, ‘I have to go home to feed my kidney. That just sounded wrong.”

Pierre said to Joy, “Do you want me to cut the ribs.”

“Separate them, don’t cut through the bone.”

“That’s what I meant.”

Rocky arrived and said hello to me. “Hi, Rocky, how are you feeling?”

“I’m good.”

“Is your stomach okay? Have you been eating?”

“I’ve been eating.”

“Have you received any more information about housing?”

“I move July fifteenth.”

“Do you know the location yet?”

“It’s in the suburbs. To get here, I’d take a bus,  a subway, then a streetcar. That takes about forty-five minutes. It’s about half an hour to downtown.”

“How did it go with your probation officer? You were worried about being breached.”

“No, he didn’t breach me. I’ve been going to my A.A. meetings.”

“That sounds great, Rocky. It sounds a lot better that when you were throwing up blood in the bushes.”

Andre said, “You know, I got five tickets the other day. I was sitting on the sidewalk with a couple of guys, actually it was Little Jake and Hippo. There was an open bottle in front of me. The cop said, ‘Whose bottle is that?’ I said, ‘I might as well own up to it.’ He wrote me up. I said, ‘Since I’m being charged can I keep the bottle?’ He said, ‘I’ll ask my partner.’ His partner was my cousin. Of course he said I could keep it.

“He said, ‘We’re going to come back. If you’re still here, you’ll be charged again.’ We stayed and we were charged again. I even got a charge for smoking within twenty feet of a doorway.”

Outcast said, “Something similar happened to me. I was drinking a big bottle of beer. The cop charged me and I said, “Can I at least drink the rest of this beer instead of dumping it?’ He said, ‘If you can drink it before I finish writing up your friend, you can drink it.’
Well, It went down in two seconds.”

Wolf said, “I was talking to Francois the other day. Remember he and I got tickets? I said to the cop, ‘It’s my fault that he’s here. Can you go a bit easy on him. The cop wrote him up. I only found out today that he only got a warning. I got two tickets, $125.00 each. He has a driver’s licence so he would have had to pay the fine before he could renew his licence. For me it doesn’t matter.”

.

 

 

Saint Nick

Posted: December 8, 2018 in Prose

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dog

22 June 2012

This morning was perfect. Joy was nodding on her plastic crate. I surprised her when I said, “Hello!”

“I wasn’t around yesterday,” said Joy, “I was taken to hospital with heat stroke. I asked the doctor , ‘How can that be? I’ve been drinking lots of water. I have two large bottles in my bag.’ He said, ‘Some people are more susceptible than others, especially if your immune system is low.’

“I hate hospitals. I couldn’t wait to get out. When I was in there in November, I picked up some superbug, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) or VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci). That’s why I was in so long. I could have died from those.

“When I got home, Chuck  lit into me, ‘Where have you been? I made supper for you!’ I said, ‘Before you get all wound up, listen to me. I’ve been in hospital. I had heat stroke and they kept me overnight.’ “

“Oh, I’m sorry. Anyway, there are a couple of pieces of chicken left, in the oven.”

I said, ” ‘Oh really? How long have they been in there? I think I’ll leave those for you, Chuck.’

He invited Nicholas and Corrine over for a barbecue yesterday. They were sitting on my bed. Chuck knows I don’t like that. I asked him, ‘Chuck, when am I ever going to get this place alone to myself?’ He said, ‘Maybe Sunday.’ I’ve got to get away from there.”

“I have the addresses and phone numbers for the YMCA. There is one a few blocks from here if you want to check it out?”

“The problem with the Y is they don’t allow smoking and you can’t cook in your room. I can’t imagine living in a place where I couldn’t smoke or cook.”

“Nick, with the glasses, isn’t with Trudy any longer. He said I could stay at his place for free. I could even have my own bedroom. He’s a real sweetheart and he’s quiet.”

I said, “I’ve talked to Nick many times. I’m really impressed with him. He makes sandwiches and hands them out to homeless people. He’s really a great guy.”

“So what’s been happening at the park? What drama have I missed?”

“Chili is hanging out with Daimon and Lucy. That was a surprise! The other day she left with them. The three of them were heading downtown.”

“That poor kid, she just won’t learn.”

I added, “The police were by yesterday afternoon. I was sitting with Andre and Hippo. The cop couldn’t believe that Andre was sober. He said, ‘I drank so much last night that I woke up with the shakes this morning. I decided to give my body a break for the day.’ He held out his hand to show the cop how he was shaking. Hippo was sober as well.

“The cop said, ‘You guys know that they don’t want you here. Why don’t you find another place that we don’t patrol every day?’ Andre said, “Every place we go they tell us to move on. We’re in a small group, we’re not drinking or making noise. We’re just sitting here, enjoying the shade, on a hot day. Where do you want us to go?’ “

“That’s just it, said Joy, “they’re talking about that place being private property. I’ve never heard that before and we’ve been going there for fourteen years. The other cop said we could stay there as long as we weren’t in a big group, like twenty people. Otherwise we were okay.”

I asked, “What kind of a beef do Daimon and Lucy have against Alphonse and Magdalene. A couple of days ago, Daimon said they were in for a beating. Andre said, ‘Magdalene is five months pregnant.’ Daimon said, ‘I have no problem with hitting a pregnant woman.'”

“I told those guys, they should gang up, jump him and beat the shit out of him. I’d have no trouble one on one with Lucy and she knows it. The problem is Daimon. He can’t just go around beating and robbing people. When the cops were by the other day they were checking out some of the guys. I kept nodding towards Daimon and Lucy. They must have a breach outstanding somewhere. The cops just ignored them.

“Alphonse has always been a sweet quiet guy. I don’t know Magdalene.”

When I arrived at the park there were two groups of people. Sitting by herself, between the two groups was Joy.

“I’m not being antisocial,” said Joy. “It’s just that the reflection of the sun, from that building over there, was shining in my eyes. I think it’s moved now, so let’s go join the group.”

“Have you talked to Nick? Is everything okay about you staying there?”

“Yeah, I even asked him, if I paid by the month, would it be alright if I moved in permanently. He said we could work out the details, but it was fine with him. I didn’t want to talk too much. I don’t want everyone knowing my business.”

We joined the group and Nick said to Joy, “You come over any time you want – rain or shine. I don’t want to see you sleeping outside again.”

“I won’t come unannounced,” said Joy, “I’ll phone first.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’m usually home.”

“It’s just that Chuck always has so many people over.”

“I know, and who ends up funding these barbecues? You do.”

“I just can’t afford it. Even around here — I bought a carton of cigarettes from Wolf and I had maybe a third of them. The rest went to Hippo, Little Jake and Andre. Chester hit me up for bus tickets. I know his leg is still hurting him, but I have to get home as well. I don’t owe Chester anything. It’s him that owes me.”

Joy left to talk to Chuck. Nick said to me, “Every morning when I walk across the bridge, I’m surprised at who comes out. I have sandwiches that I distribute. I bought some of those plastic containers and filled them with stew. I gave out sixteen of them. I got one container back; the rest I didn’t.

“Sometimes I’ll meet someone and I’ll invite them to come with me to a restaurant for coffee or breakfast. They might ask, ‘Could you buy me a beer?’ I say,’ Coffee or food, but no beer.’

“I always have my bible with me and I’ll pray for people. We may not be the same religion, but it doesn’t matter. I think it helps them to have someone pray for them.”

Nick’s phone rang. He talked for a while then handed the phone to Joy.

Joy said, “Hi Pierre, how are you? Are you pissed with me? I was in the hospital. I had to stay overnight. I didn’t have my phone with my contact list. I didn’t know how to get a message to you. Am I still going to see you on the weekend?… Oh… I’ll call you then. Bye.

“He’s acting all pissy because he had invited me to his place for a barbecue and I was going to sleep over, but that was the day I went into hospital. I didn’t have my phone. I couldn’t contact him. He says that he has things to do on the weekend and he has a lot on his mind.

“His girlfriend is in Inuktuk with his year old baby. He’s heard that it isn’t his, but what’s he going to do?

I said, “It shouldn’t matter to him whether it’s his child or not.”

“I agree, a baby needs love. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

It was time for me to leave. “It’ll all work out, Joy. I see good things in your future. Have a good weekend.”

I said goodbye to Nick. He hugged me and said, “I love you, brother.”

I said, “I love you, Nick. We’re on the same path.”

.

Chateau Lafayette

Posted: December 7, 2018 in Prose

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21 June 2012

This morning was muggy. I had trouble staying awake on the bus. The only pan handler I saw was Silver. I sat down with him, then I saw Magdalene and Alphonse sitting across the street. Magdalene is five months pregnant. It appeared that Alphonse had bought her something cold to drink.

The-Laff-Ottawa

“So, Silver, have you made a decision about moving out of the Lafayette?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been there so long — over four years. There aren’t too many crack heads. There are a few pot smokers down the hall. Everyone, pretty much keeps to themselves. I like it that way.

“It’s really hot for sleeping, even with two fans going. They just move the hot air around. I have to get a new mattress. I burned the last one and threw it out, so now I’m sleeping on the floor. I just keep tossing and turning.

“I got my last mattress from the Mission. I don’t know where I’ll get the next one. I’m worried about bed bugs. I don’t have any now, but the landlord brought around some bed bug traps. I said, ‘Oh no, not this again!’ I hate bed bugs. It’s people who bring them in, especially the ones who stay at the Mission or the Shepherd’s.

“Something really spooky happened last night. I usually leave the door to my room ajar, for air circulation. I woke up and my room-mate was standing in the door way. I jumped up and asked him, ‘What’s going on, man?’ He was sound asleep. I shook him and he said, ‘I must have been sleep walking.’ That could be dangerous. He could have fallen down the stairs. I said to him this morning, ‘You really wierded me out last night, man.’ He didn’t remember a thing.

“After you left the park yesterday the cops showed up again — a sargent and a rookie. He said, ‘If there are more than four of you guys sitting around, we’re going to ask you to move.’ I said, ‘What if there are a lot of groups with just four each? Is that okay?’ “

“We’ll be back. You’d better be gone.”

“I wandered over to the loading dock. I’d bought myself a big sausage sandwich and I drank my beer. I know all the guys there. They don’t know that I pan handle.

I said, “I saw Hippo last night at about six o’clock. He was really drunk and said that he still had a bottle to go. He hadn’t been eating.”

“He can really eat when he wants to.We went to a funeral for Hobo at the Park Funeral Home. They put out six meals for us downstairs, before we went to the service. Hippo stayed behind. When we got back he’d eaten all six meals.

“Hippo really guzzles that sherry. I don’t know why people drink that. It’s killed so many of my friends, like Hobo and Rip — no, I think Rip’s still alive. They have him under house arrest. He wears one of those collars on his ankle. As soon as he leaves his front door, an alarm rings.

“He was nearly killed by a six-foot Amazon woman. I don’t know what he saw in her. She was nuts. She pulled a knife on him. He tried to defend himself. He got a slash across the palm of his hand and a stab wound to the groin.”

This afternoon at the park was hot. Everyone was drained of energy. I was about to shake Wolf’s hand when I saw that it was purple and swollen. He said, “I won’t shake your hand today. I was feeding Blackie and she bit me. It’s Weasel’s dog, he should be taking care of her, wherever he is.”

I said hello to Little Jake, Daimon and Lucy in the Sky were just leaving with Shakes. “Are they heading off to work (pan handle)?”

“Yeah, they’re taking Shakes to his office. He’s so drunk he couldn’t make it by himself.” I expect that his pockets will have been emptied, before they leave him.”

Gene said, “It’s too hot to do anything. I know that the money’s out there, but I hate to leave this shade. You guys with your long pants make me sweat just looking at you. Does anybody have a cigarette?”

“No,” all around.

“I’m going to have to go to work just to get a smoke and a drink.”

Andre said, “I was panning last night in front of Tim Horton’s. A guy dropped me thirty dollars. I thanked him and said, ‘Don’t forget my buddy across the street.’ He walked across and dropped Hippo a twenty. We did a lot of drinking after that. I had the shakes so bad this morning I couldn’t do anything.

“After last night, it’s feeling a bit rough, but I’ll be okay. I’m just going to take it easy.”

Andre pulled out an egg salad sandwich from his backpack. He said, “I’d better eat this before it goes bad.”

I said, “It’s Thursday, the ‘sandwich ladies’ must have come around.”

“Yeah,” said Hippo, “They were just here.” He was sipping on a box of apple juice.

Two bicycle cops rode up on the lawn, a male and a female. I had seen them there a few days ago. The female stopped to talk to Wolf’s group. The male rode up to where we were sitting’

“How are you guys doing?”

“We’re just enjoying the shade,” answered Andre.

“Andre, are you sober?”

“Stone cold sober.”

“Why is that?”

“I woke up with the shakes this morning and thought I’d better give my body a rest.”

“Why did you have the shakes?”

“I drank too much last night.” He held out his shaking hand.

To me he said, “Where are you staying, sir?”

“I live near Westgate.”

“Why are you here?”

“Just visiting with my friends.”

‘You guys know that they don’t want you here. Why don’t you find another place that we don’t patrol all the time?”

“No matter where we go,” said Andre, “they tell us to move along. We’re not drinking, there’s not a big group of us, we’re just enjoying the shade. Where do you want us to go?”

“I’ll check with my partner.”

I noticed that Wolf was being charged, probably with a liquor violation. After the officer finished writing the ticket they both rode off.”

Andre said, “I’m going to go pick some butts.” Shortly after that I left. I met Andre coming back with a handful of cigarette butts.

Psycho

Posted: December 5, 2018 in Prose

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cops

20 June 2012

“Hi Joy, how did everything go after I left yesterday? Was there any more trouble with Daimon and Lucy?”

“No, Andre walked Chili and me down to where she had to go, then I took the bus home. When I was on the bus I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it tucked into the cuff of my jeans. It must have fallen out when I was helping Chili. I tried phoning the number and it sounded like a kid that answered. I said, ‘Look, I’ve just gotten off the number fourteen bus. I really need my telephone. Would you do me a really big favor and bring it to the mall’ Then the phone went dead. I tried calling the number later, but it wasn’t in service.

“A guy gave me a phone, but I have to pay a thirty-five dollar activation fee. I’m going to check around and see if I can get a better deal than that.

“I swear that I’m going to give Loretta a shot in the head today.”

“What did she do?” I asked.

“She was panning in front of Tim Horton’s. I said to her, ‘You can’t stay here, you’re cutting my grass.’ I sent her over to see Silver. He sent her over to Hippo’s spot. She’s probably only got about ten minutes before the woman from the hotel asked her to move.

“Chuck has been real pissy lately. He’s always talking down to me. Last night when I came home I still had a piece of steak in the fridge. I nuked it, then put it in a bun with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It tasted just like one of those Philly Steak and Cheese sandwiches that you can get at Arby’s. I worked at Arby’s one time. It was mostly a front for a drug operation. I used to call it Garby’s. I left just before they got raided.

“Nicholas was really getting on my nerves. He just kept talking and talking about everything. He even followed me into my room. I said to him, ‘Nicholas, you may know about some things, but you don’t know everything. If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to do you right here.’ “

“But, I have a girlfriend.”

” ‘I didn’t mean that I wanted to have sex with you. I meant that I was going to punch you in the head.’

“Chuck was barbecuing and asked me if I wanted a sausage. I said, ‘No’ He got all pissy about that and I really lost it. I packed all my things, put them in my bag and walked out. I slept behind Starbucks. I had my blanket under me, a soft pile of cardboard underneath and another blanket that I pulled over my head.

“Hippo and Andre came by sometime in the night. Andre peeked under the corner of the blanket and said, ‘Hey, it’s Joy.’ Later on he said, ‘I may accidentally put my arm around you in my sleep.’ The first time he did it, I just moved his arm. The second time, I gave him a shot in the head. I didn’t want any spooning going on. I was all snugly, Andre and Hippo shivered all night. I don’t know why they don’t get some blankets or a sleeping bag. There are lots available now.

“Hippo had a shower the other day and he’s acting all different like, ‘I’m King Hippo’. He’s still wearing the same dirty pants that are nearly worn through. He said to me, “Joy we should go down to Queen Street now.” I don’t need him telling me where I should and shouldn’t go.

“I have to see  my probie today. She wants me to move to a womens’ shelter. I don’t even know where it is. I’ve talked to a few women who’ve lived there. They say there are a lot of rules, like doing daily chores; not coming in drunk; once a week having to cook a meal for the entire floor. I don’t even cook for myself. If I can’t throw it in the nuker, I don’t buy it.”

I said, “How about sharing a place with Chili? You seem to get along fine with her.”

“The only problem is that she has a place In Scarborough. I don’t want to stay somewhere it takes three busses to get downtown. The only person I would consider living with is Pierre. He’s invited me over sometimes on the weekend. He has a twelve-year-old son that he talks to on the telephone. I hear him saying, ‘I love you, son.’ I can here the son saying, ‘I love you dad.’ That’s really special.

“Pierre says he’s not interested in a relationship. He’s interested in a friend with benefits. He’s a bit older than I am, but it’s something to think about.”

I said, “I met Pierre yesterday. He seems nice. I think he’d probably treat you well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Before getting ready to leave I asked, “So, what’s going to happen with Daimon and Lucy. Are they going to just keep on jumping, beating and robbing people?”

“Yeah, until Daimon goes back to jail again. I felt so bad when I saw that you weren’t wearing your watch yesterday. It’s really bad when friends can’t visit friends without stashing their stuff.

….

Before I left work I had taken the precaution of putting my watch in my pocket. Noon at the park was very hot and humid. Everyone felt drained of energy. Asleep on the grass was Shakes. Sitting in a circle were Daimon,  Lucy, Chili, Hippo, and Andre. In another group were Little Jake, Chester, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. The police had been by earlier and said that any groups larger than five people had to disperse.

I sat next to Hippo. Someone had found a newspaper photo of a hippopotamus. The photo was being passed around and someone was teasing Hippo that it was an image of his father. Hippo said, “Yeah, he’s famous. He got his picture in the paper and he’s being fed by a prince or something.”

“I remember one time going to the Clayton fair. It’s a tiny town but they have a big fair. That’s where I got driven over by a car. Another guy drove his truck straight into the swamp. He was just sitting there in the cab, he thought he was still driving. Somebody was there with a big winch truck. Nobody wanted to jump into the swamp to hook up the chain, so I did — ‘bloop.’  “

I was surprised to see Chili sitting next to Lucy and Daimon. Her bruises still haven’t healed from the last time she was with them.

“We went to pan this morning,” said Daimon, “There was a guy in our spot. I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here! This is our spot.’ He didn’t move so I kicked him in the head. Then he moved.”

Hippo said, “I had to ask Loretta to move. She was in my spot.”

“What if she hadn’t moved?” asked Andre.

“Then I would have asked Lucy to move her.”

Daimon said, “There is someone else that’s looking for a beating. It’s Alphonse and Magdalene.”

Gene said, “Daimon could take Alphonse, Lucy could take Magdalene.”

Andre said, “The problem is, Magdalene is five months pregnant.”

“I don’t have a problem with hitting a pregnant woman, ” said Daimon.

“It’s a shame,” said Gene, “that someone would beat and rob Shakes. All you have to do is ask him for something and he’ll either say, ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ That’s not complicated.”

“If he says, ‘No,” said Daimon, you can wait until he passes out, then take it… I was just kidding!”

.