They Call Me Red

……

 

23 September 2013 

“How are you this morning, Joy?”

“I’m fuckin’ freezing, man! I can’t stop shivering.  Jacques was by earlier.  He laughed so hard I thought he was going to piss himself, ‘What are you doing out here, Little One. It’s cold and it’s Monday. You don’t like cold and you don’t do Mondays.’

I said to him, ‘Look, dude, I don’t have a fuckin’ thing in the house to eat. That’s why I’m out here.  So far, I’ve made a dollar eighty-two.’

‘Little One, you come to my place. I make you a good meal. I also have a flyer from Luciano’s No Frills. They have some great specials now. I’ll give you the coupons.’

“It’s fine that they have a sale. Mariah is always stocking up when they cut prices, but I’ve got no fuckin’ money.  She gets extra cash selling pot.

“John is still trying to get me on subsidized housing, but I’ve got no phone for them to call me back, so I have to keep calling them. I’m going to get that sorted this week,  get Jake’s internet cut off — since I can’t get into his computer. His cell phone has been cut off since he hasn’t been making payments. I’m going to work something out with Bell so I can pay a monthly fee for just my TV and landline.”

I said, “Jake could wire you some money, or send you a check.”

“Yeah, I know, there are a lot of things he could do; but I don’t see it happening.

“I found another one of those babittes on my couch. I lifted the pillow — I’ve got one of those blue covered hospital pillows that I use for stuffing. I took it from the hospital — I didn’t see anything at first until it moved, then I grabbed it and pinched it… That same rotting wood smell. It was a bed bug, alright. The babies are invisible and they don’t have the numbing agent that the adults do. It really hurts when they bite. If you watch them feed, they gradually change to an orange color. That’s the blood they’re taking out of you.

“I’m afraid to even go upstairs to Mariah’s place. I just stand at the door and wave. I don’t want to be responsible for her getting bugs. I don’t even want to tell the landlady. She’ll blame me for bringing them in.  I may not stay after my lease is up in November.  I’ll see what happens between now and then. I’m still on good terms with the landlady.

“Buck thinks he may have brought some bugs over when he came Wednesday. He’s in a high-rise, they even come out of the electrical outlets. I’m going to the hardware store to get the bed bug spray that Shark uses. He seems to spray about once every two weeks. If he was more careful about who he let into his place, he wouldn’t have a problem.”

I said, “He was telling me that he thought they were in the walls.”

“They can be anywhere, in books, in the laundry, in carpets, under baseboards.  Shark has thrown out so many sofas, blankets and pieces of clothing. He usually gets them for free, but even so, it’s a real hassle replacing things all the time.”

I asked, “What did you do with the pillow and the blankets that were on the couch?”

“Bagged them up and threw them in the garbage. I have more I can use. I put a white sheet on the couch to see if any more came out, but they didn’t.

“I’m even afraid to turn the heat on for fear it will draw out the bugs. My apartment is as cold as it is out here.”

I asked, “Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was quiet. I didn’t go out, just sat and watched movies, some over and over again.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

19 September 2013

Sitting in the shade were Shark, Curt, Fat Chuck, and Jake. Shark said, “I’ve just been to my doctor, he’s also my specialist (HIV/AIDS) at the Hassle-Free Clinic at Gerrard and Church. That’s hard to find. Usually, if a doctor is a specialist he doesn’t do general practice.  I asked him when his contract is up if I could still be his patient. He said, ‘Sure!’ I’m really happy about that. It’s the only reason I stay in this city.”

Curt said, “I went to the clinic today. They had me in one of those paper gowns. They were saying, move this way, move that way. How does this feel? I said, ‘It feels drafty.’ I guess I’m too old to be modest.”

Chuck said, “Well, I’m homeless again. My landlord chucked me out. I slept at Bearded Bruce’s last night.” He threw an empty beer can toward the fence. He meant it to go over, but it was blocked by some branches. “I guess I’m going to have to get up for that. No wait, here comes Jake. He can throw it over for me.”

Jake kicked the can under the fence rail. “Somebody’s going to be able to get a dollar twenty from what’s down there.”

I asked Chuck, “Did Bruce cook a big breakfast. He mentioned yesterday that he was having a lot of people over.”

“Bruce always cooks a big breakfast. It may be at three in the afternoon, but it’s always big. Yesterday, we had chicken, steak, eggs and some leftovers he had in the fridge.”

Shark asked, “Chuck, why were you evicted. You’ve only been in that place a couple of months.”

“I guess I’m too picky. I wanted him to fix the window and get rid of the bed bugs. Then my stove blew up, twice. Then my hot water heater blew up. The basement was full of water. I didn’t care about that, but I had no hot water. He walked around my apartment and asked, ‘How did you manage to break these appliances?’ as if it were my fault. I said to him, ‘What the fuck do you think I did, go around stabbing them with a knife? The element had a bubble in it. When I turned it on it exploded. That’s what happens.’ I said, ‘I don’t like you coming around here. I’ll see you when I hand you my rent and when you come to fix things. Apart from that, I don’t want to see you.’

“I asked him, ‘How would you like to see your daughter living like this, or your son? Would you live here?’ He didn’t like that. I got an eviction notice in the mail. I said to myself, Okay, you don’t get any more rent from me. I stiffed him for two months. I was paying eight hundred a month.

“I’ve been on the waiting list for housing for five years.  All my friends, Frank, Joy, Andre and Shakes all have places. I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I need to get a psychiatric evaluation. That might speed things up.

“Shark, you’ve got a nice place. It’s just like Las Vegas.”

“Yeah, we got a good deal. We’re paying eleven hundred for two bedrooms. We’re above a store. We’ve got nobody on either side, just the way I like it. The only problem is bed bugs. I had a nice couch that I had to get rid of. We’ve caulked all the seams, but they’re in the walls.”

Chuck said, “I was panning yesterday for  four hours and I only made eight dollars.”

I said, “Shakes mentioned that he only made two.”

Chuck said, “I know. With those two dollars he bought a beer from me. He was slow in paying up, too. I had to keep reminding him, ‘Shakes you wanted the beer, now you owe me two bucks.’ I’d have to go out panning to make that up. He could do the same.”

Curt and Shark were comparing their Maple Leaf hockey caps.  Curt said, “Yours is a different color blue.”

“I’ve only had this one season,” said Shark.

“I’ve had mine for three. I washed it once, but I still can’t get the stains out.  I paid twenty bucks for this, but I bet I’ve made hundreds. I do really well when the Leafs are playing Montreal.  A guy offered me twenty for it and a Canadiens cap, but I said no way.”

Jake walked away towards the bridge where he ‘worked’. Shark packed up and said he was heading home. Chuck loaded his backpack and sleeping bag. That left Curt.  I left to go back to work.

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

18 September 2013 

On my way to the park, I met Bearded Bruce and his girlfriend Inuk. “Dennis, mate, I haven’t seen you for ages. How’ve you been?” Being the bear that he is he gave me a big bear hug.

I said, “I’m, doing well, same old, same old. I managed to get away to the lake for a week, apart from that, nothing special. How about you?”

“We’re doing well.”

Inuk said, “It’s so good to see you.”

Bruce said, “Tomorrow, I’ve invited all my friends over for an English breakfast, a fry up we call it, pancakes, eggs, sausages, home fries. It’ll be good to see everybody together.”

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “do you know what happened to me last night? It was just after Dave left; he’s my downstairs neighbor. I heard a knock on my door. I thought, maybe Dave had forgotten something. When I opened my door I saw my landlord standing there. He said, ‘I don’t want any more smoking marijuana in the halls.’ I said, ‘I don’t smoke marijuana in the halls. I don’t even smoke cigarettes in the halls, not even when I’m coming in from outside.’ He said to me, ‘If it happens again you’ll be evicted.’ What do you think about that.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Shakes. He didn’t see you smoking in the hall, so there’s nothing he can do.”

“I think when Dave left, the fumes escaped into the hall.”

“You’re allowed to smoke in your own apartment, or on your balcony. He can’t do anything about that. I even smell marijuana on the bus in the morning. How well do you get along with your landlord?”

“Last night is the first time I met him. Not a very good start, is it?”

I moved down the line to talk to Mariah and Joy.  “How are you feeling today, Joy?”

“I still feel kind of rough. I didn’t come down this morning. I took one look out the window and decided, I don’t need to be out there, so I went back to bed. Mariah woke me at ten-thirty. I seem to have become nocturnal lately. I’m awake all night and sleep during the day.”

I asked, “Have you heard any more knocking in your closet?”

“No, not since Mariah did the thing she does.”

I asked, “You mean the cleansing?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s what it’s called. Mariah, I’ve got something to tell you. I guess I’ll say it right here. This morning when I was fixing the couch; like I have to every morning since fat-assed Jake broke it. I pulled out the two sheets of cardboard and the blanket. I saw a spot on the blanket. I picked it up and squished it. It had that rotting wood smell of bedbugs. I freaked out! I was jumping around, screaming and swearing. I don’t want to go through another episode like I did at Chester’s. I looked all over, but only found the one bug and he was dead.

“The only person I know of that came from a place where they have bed bugs is Big Jake. He was staying at the Sally. That’s another thing I have to thank him for. I wanted to tell everyone, just in case.

“Mariah, can I borrow your phone. I want to phone Hippo. I tried six times yesterday and didn’t get an answer.

“Hello, Fat Boy, I’ve been trying to call you. Did you go home for the weekend? Has your mommy been over? How are you fixed for food? Nothing? Do you want to come to my place for supper? No? You’re going out? Your loss then.”

Shakes said, “I’ve heard strange noises in my apartment.”

Mariah asked, “Was it while you were sober?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe it’s Weasel and Silver roaming around in the ether.”

Shakes said, “I don’t know what it is.”

Joy said, “Loretta is getting very chummy with Buck, lately. Every time I go to see him she’s there. Maybe Buck is giving her weed in trade. She wanted to come to my place, but I told her I’d probably have to kill her.”

I asked, “She isn’t drinking is she?”

“Not yet, but she wants to. It’s just her boyfriend who’s keeping her sober. She said to me, ‘How about if I come to your place and bring some Rev?’ I know what would happen she’d guzzle that blue Smurf piss and then go wild. Then I would have to kill her.

“Yesterday, Mariah invited me up for a barbecue. Charlie asked, ‘Will there be enough food? You know how little I eat. His brother was visiting. He used to spar with Mike Tyson. He’s a bit punch drunk.”

I asked, “Does he still have his ear?”

“You’ll have to ask him that. I heard an interview with Mike Tyson a while back. I’ve never heard anybody sound so stupid in my life.”

Gaston and Yves stopped by. Yves offered his left hand for me to shake. I asked how’s your hand coming along?”

“It’s not too bad, a bit swollen from working this morning. My landlord came by to inspect the water damage in my bathroom, from the leak they had upstairs. I said, ‘Just leave me the stuff and I’ll fix it. You might as well, I’ll have to redo it anyway.’ So he left me a container of mud and a gallon of paint. I’ve been sanding all morning.”

I asked Mariah, “Did Jacques give you that electronic cigarette yesterday?”

“Yeah,” she said, “I’ve got it right here.”

Joy said, “Let me try that. Yuck, it tastes like cherry? Who’d want to do that to themselves.”

I said, “I  thought Jacques said it was mint?”

Mariah said, “No, see the pink swirls. That means it’s cherry. Mint would be green.”

I said, “Yesterday I Googled them. They cost upwards of fifty bucks.”

Mariah said, “If you get them from the pharmacy — the ones with nicotine — they may cost fifty, but this one is disposable. You can get these for thirty or forty.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

17 September 2013

At noon the only ones at the park were Jacques and another man who looked familiar. He said, “I can’t remember your name?”

“I’m Dennis. I forgot your name as well.”

“It’s Maniitok, it means wise man. I come from Iqaluit, but I was born north of there in Pangnirtung.

Jacques handed me his folded jacket to sit on. He said, “That’s near where that military helicopter crashed, isn’t it?

“No, that was farther north. The helicopter was being pulled by a ship, Something happened and it crashed. Three people were killed. Even the captain of the ship was on the helicopter. He was killed too.

“Do you know what an ultralight airplane looks like? My brother-in-law, Dave, had one.  It stalled in the air and crashed. He was killed.  We were never opposed. We always got along with each other. I miss him.”

I asked Jacques, “Did you go to the Mission today for breakfast?”

“Yeah, they have their big breakfast today — eggs, sausages, home fries and toast. Later I’m going to the Shepherd for a bowl of soup, and a loaf of bread. They have good bread there, the kind that’s good for making French toast. I have some eggs and milk, so I’ll have some tomorrow. I like that.

“Do you know what the latest electronic gadget is? Look, I have one? Do you know what it is? It’s an electronic cigarette. Watch.”

Jacques inhaled, the tip turned orange and smoke came out of his mouth. Then he spat.

“Did you see the smoke come out of my mouth? It’s like mint, with a bit of a nicotine taste. I think it’s for those who want to quit smoking. They’re expensive. I think they start at about fifty bucks.”

“Where did you get yours, Jacques?”

“I found it. I thought it was a pen at first, but I couldn’t open it from either end.  I saw that little hole, I cleaned it, sucked on it. I was surprised when smoke came out  I think, maybe Mariah wants it. I phoned her. She said she was coming down, but I haven’t seen her.

“Did you see Joy today?”

I said, “Yes, she was at her regular spot. She even mentioned that she may come over to your place. She doesn’t have a phone.”

“Usually, before she comes over she uses the payphone, but she didn’t call. I hope she isn’t heading to my place now. Oh well, nothing I can do.”

“She wasn’t feeling well and was cold, so she may have gone straight home.”

“Cold? She’s always cold. There’s going to be a lot of that before long. I have something for her. It’s like a jumpsuit with a hood. It’s too small for me, but it would be perfect for her. I forgot to show it to her when she was over.”

Shark and Loon stopped by. Shark said, “I had to come down today to pick up my pills. Irene may be down later. Did nobody else show up?”

Jacques said, “There was a big bunch, but everybody took off. Try my electronic cigarette.”

“Shark looked at it and said, “What do you do with this?”

“Put the white end in your mouth and toke from it.”

Shark tried it, he coughed and said, “That’s horrible. I’ll stick to pot.” 

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

17 September 2013

Summer is definitely over. The temperatures at night have been dipping precariously close to freezing. Gardeners are warned to cover their tomatoes.  Joy was shivering on her plastic crate.

“I need a pair of gloves. I went rooting through my stuff and was only able to find two left-handed gloves and an assortment of different colored mittens. I’m not much into fashion, but I do like to have a pair that matches.

“This morning on the bus, I got so pissed off. An old lady was trying to exit the bus by the front door and two kids were pushing on either side of her to get on.  I said to them, ‘Off first, on later.’ They made some wise-ass comment to me.  I don’t know what’s with kids today. When I was young, I’d never talk to elders like that.  I was about to go to the back and throw them out the window. A guy saw me and said, ‘Don’t waste your energy, they’re not worth it.’ He was right, I probably would have ended up in jail.”

“Did the bus driver see this? Didn’t he say anything to the kids?”

“He didn’t do anything. He’s a new guy, one of those who jerks every time he hits the gas or the brake. I nearly fell before I reached my seat. The least he could have done was waited until I sat down, but oh no.”

I said, “It’s particularly bad now that school’s back in. Either the bus passes me by because it’s full, or I manage to get on and stand all the way.

“Have you seen Loretta lately?”

“I saw her about two weeks ago. She came over to my place. Her boyfriend is a real jerk, he doesn’t want her associating with any of us. She had a really bad accident a couple of years ago, that’s why she has the scars on her face and no teeth. She was in the hospital for nearly a year. A month after she got out of hospital she had a fight with her boyfriend. He tried to throw her off the bridge. The only thing that saved her was she got her knee caught in the metal railing.  He was still trying to push her over. Her knee swelled up like a grapefruit. Nothing was broken, but she still has trouble walking. Have you noticed her limp?

“I told her she should dump this guy. She said, ‘You’re one to talk, you’re still with Big Jake.’ I said, ‘I’m not with him, I put his ass in jail.’ She said, ‘Well, we’re getting married.’ I can see how that’s going to end.”

I asked, “She’s still not drinking, is she?”

“No, her boyfriend won’t allow it. I don’t think he drinks either. It’s all for the better when she drinks she gets a little loopy, wants to fight everybody.  She starts with Vox flavored vodka; downs about three, then switches to beer.

“I’ve got no phone now! I was down there yesterday and told them that I wanted Jake’s internet shut off because I can’t get into his computer. They cut off my landline, the internet is still working. I can’t call anybody, nobody can call me. I have to go upstairs to use Mariah’s phone. I need my own phone because of my health, I may have to call an ambulance.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to get a phone in your own name?”

“My credit’s not that good. That’s why we arranged everything in Jake’s name. I don’t even know where he is. They moved him to Joyceville Correctional Center, but that’s not permanent. I don’t know where they’re planning to move him next.

“Mariah said that Hippo came by when I was out. He may have some mail for me. I hope he would have had the sense to slide it under my door or something.

“I’m too cold to stay here much longer. I may go over to Jacques’s place, but it’s so far. I don’t know if I have that much energy today. I’ve paid all my debts. I just owe Buck some money for pot. He’s doing okay now. He quit drinking and has income from selling cigarettes and weed.”

“I was thinking that I’d see Chuck’s father around today.”

“Does he drink?”

“I don’t think so. He has a pension, but he said he paid a bill of three thousand dollars for surgery on his dog, Goldie. That’s stupid! We’re covered for companion dogs. Wolf and Weasel never paid any vet bills. Both Shaggy and Bear were hit by cars. Even when Bear was put down there was no charge.

“Well, I’m heading off. I may be at the park at noon, I may just go home and keep warm. Anyway, if I don’t see you this afternoon, I’ll see you tomorrow — same bad place, same bad station.”

 

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

13 September 2013

It was cool this morning with a forecast of rain. The patrol car with its red and blue flashing lights was at the corner, again.  Joy was huddled with her sweater pulled over her knees.

“How are you feeling, Joy”

“I’m really freaked man. I’m tweaked. I’ve got to get back on my meds. I didn’t sleep at all last night. See my hand, it’s shaking. I was watching BTN (Black Television Network) last night and Steve Harvey was on. I was laughing so hard I said to myself, I’ve got to tape this.

“I must have fallen asleep because I woke up in some kind of nightmare. Really scary shit, anyway, I was awake for the rest of the night.”

I asked, “Since you don’t have your health card, what if you went to the emergency department of one of the hospitals? Wouldn’t they give you your meds?”

“They’d get me juiced up on Dilantin. That really screws up my brain and when I take it I’m not supposed to drink. My doctor gave me a prescription for a lower dose of the pills, that I’m supposed to take on a regular basis. I haven’t seen him for years. He’s across town. When I moved in with Chuck, I decided to go to his doctor since he was close by. He was really creepy, so I stopped going to him. Then, I went to another doctor, but he’s the same nationality as my landlord. I don’t get along with them.

“I really hate doctors and hospitals. A couple of years ago I was in and they told me that I had an ovarian cyst. They tested it and it was benign. That means it won’t hurt you, right? The next time I went in they checked it again and said that it had grown. I said, ‘Cut the sucker out. Give me a hysterectomy.  It’s cobweb city down there — I can’t have any more kids, my period has to stop sometime. I won’t miss that. I’m not with a man so I won’t be losing out there.  While I’m here anyway, just scrape it clean! Get rid of that junk!’ He said in a deep voice, all proper like, ‘I’ve never heard it described in those terms, but you understand the situation. We can’t operate because it isn’t causing any secondary complications. If that changes, then we’ll consider a hysterectomy.’

I suggested, “If you were happy with your first doctor, why don’t you go back to him?”

“I hadn’t thought of that. Do you think I could go back?”

“Phone him. I’ve gone back to a doctor I had twenty years ago.”

Michelle stopped by with a paper cup and a bag from Tim Horton’s.

“Hi Michelle,” I said.

“Hi, Dennis. I have your tea, Joy, one cream and three sugar just as you like it. Since I got large, I asked them to put the cream and sugar on the side, so you can mix it as you like. I also got you a cranberry lemon muffin.”

“Thanks,” Joy replied.”

Michelle left. Joy asked, “Is that what her name is, Michelle?”

“Yeah, she was by yesterday while you were in the restaurant. I think you passed her on the sidewalk.”

“Gee, I wasn’t expecting a frickin large. It’s nice to keep my hands warm though. Do you want this muffin? The thought of cranberries and lemon makes me gag.”

Chuck’s dad came by in his wheelchair.  Joy introduced us. I said, “I think I’ve met you in front of Tim Horton’s.”

Joy said, “Can you give me a ride on that? Does it have enough energy?”

“Sure, sit on my lap. You’ll see, I’ve got lots of energy. I was parked on the corner when a pretty young lady rode by. She was wearing a rucksack, but instead of having it on her back, she had it on her front. I said, ‘That’s it, honey, keep those breasts nice and warm for me.’ She didn’t answer.”

He went on his way. I asked, “How do you get along with him?”

“He’s alright, but he’s a dirty old man.”

I replied, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

The garbage man (I forget his name) came by. Joy said, “Hi, handsome! do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“Just hanging with my girlfriend.”

“Can you spare some time for me? I was thinking maybe we could go on a vacation together.”

“Sorry, we are planning a vacation though, maybe the Caribbean.”

“Do you have your passport?”

“I’ve got three of them. I have citizenship from the States, France and Canada. If one causes problems, I just give them one of the other two.”

Joy said, “Since you’ve got your truck here, maybe you could turn around and pick up that patrol car.”

“That wouldn’t be a good idea. We’re trying to get the military contract.”

“Did you say you’re joining the military? Like, to go fight in wars?”

“I’d like to, but my boss won’t give me the time off to take basic training. I’d join the reserves. I probably wouldn’t see combat.”

He left. Joy said, “I saw Marissa and Teddy last night. He was gunning at me. She’s a big girl, must be five foot ten at least.  All her weight is on top, she’s got skinny legs, skinnier than mine. One kick I could break her leg like a twig. She wasn’t even wearing a bra. Her jugs were hanging around her waist. That’s disgusting. I don’t have much, but gravity takes its toll. At least I keep mine packaged. I can imagine her with André. It would be like Chewbacca with one of the Ewoks.”

It was time for me to go, “Will I see you at the park, Joy?”

“No, rain is forecast for this afternoon. I’m going straight home. I’m feeling really happy now. Even if my check doesn’t come today, I’ll still be happy”

 

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

12 September 2013

This afternoon at the park I met the usual crowd. The grass was slightly damp from the morning rain, but I sat down anyway.

Shakes said, “Dennis, I met a friend of mine yesterday. His name is John, but I’ve always called him Tom Sawyer. I don’t know why. I told Tommy that he was going to spend the night at our place. The only thing that Tommy said was, ‘Just make sure that my portfolio is put in the bedroom. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.’ I gave Tom Sawyer two bus tickets and said to the bus driver, ‘I don’t have a pass.’ He said, ‘That’s okay, just take a seat.’ He even gave me an all-day pass, because we had to transfer.”

I asked, “Do you always get the same bus driver?”

“No, but they’re getting to know me.”

Jake looked different for some reason. I said, “Jake, you’re looking very stylish today. Your hair looks nice, You’re wearing an orange shirt.”

“The only thing I did differently today was to take a shower. Jacques gave me the shirt.”

Joy said, “There is something freaky going on at my place. I hear knocking inside the closet. My sofa keeps moving away from the wall. I talked to Stella about it yesterday. She said, ‘Maybe It’s kids playing a prank.’ I don’t think so.”

Mariah said, “It’s the house. It’s over a hundred years old. I’ve had problems with a presence in my place. Sometimes cans are moved around. One time, everything on the TV was brushed to the floor. I can feel cold spots in the room. It just means that it’s time for a cleanse. I’m trying to get Charlie to leave. He smokes a lot of pot. I have to be free of all of that stuff, purify my body and clear my mind. I leave one door open. Then I meditate.  I’ll ask, ’Who’s there and what do you want?’ Then I tell them that it’s time to leave. I think there is more than one spirit. It’ll be quiet for a few months, then things will start happening again.

“Charlie is at the doctor’s today. He has to have a TTI (Tissue-type Imaging). They think he has some type of blood and bone marrow cancer. He’s already had his gallbladder removed.

“That’s why I had to move from New Brunswick.  I had a sunroom upstairs. It was the only room that had windows on two sides. I put my plants there, some on tables, others hanging in the window. It was like a forest in there.

“I was downstairs and I heard the sunroom door slam, I didn’t think anything of it. I figured it was probably a draft, so I got rubber door stops to keep the doors open. Some months later I heard the door slam. I thought to myself, It’s winter, there can’t be any drafts. The house is sealed tight. I went up to investigate. The door was closed, the doorstop was across the room and all the plants had fallen to the floor.

“When I was in school they thought I was some kind of whiz kid. I never took books home, never studied. When it came time for a test I knew all the answers. Sometimes I’d come into class and I’d see what they were doing. I’d ask, ‘Didn’t we do that yesterday?’ I was having déjà vu.

“I’m part  Mí’kmaq. Whenever I’m in the forest I hear drumming. Nobody else hears it.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

9 September 2013

The park was deserted today. I had turned to go back to work when I saw Little Jake walking towards me.

“Nobody here?” he asked.

“No, just me.”

“I thought Shakes would be here. He was broke last night. When he’s broke he usually comes down first thing in the morning so he can get something to drink. I was at his place last night. Tommy cooked us a real good meal. Boy, was it good? Then we watched a movie. I left my stuff there, my pot, my rolling papers. That’s not like me.”

“So you haven’t had a joint today?”

“Oh, yeah. I always have some extra put aside. I haven’t had a drink yet though. That’s another reason I was hoping Shakes would be here.”

“What movie did you watch?” I asked.

“Forest Gump. Shakes has a big collection, about fifty. I don’t know where he gets them, but they’re cheap. I think he knows someone, who runs a store downtown. I always see DVDs on their window ledge.

“I’ve been feeling shitty lately. My eyes keep watering. I wake up with this crusty stuff on my eyelids. I can barely open my eyes. I should be going for my blood tests, but I haven’t”

I said, “Shark has his blood checked every month, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, that’s what I should be doing. I haven’t been for three months. It seems like such a waste of time. I answer the same questions every time. They weigh me, measure me and take blood.”

I asked, “Have you been up to Deep River, lately,  to see your family?”

“No, I mean to go up in another month. It’s really beautiful when the leaves are changing color. A buddy and I go bird hunting:  partridge, grouse, ducks. We get the occasional rabbit. It’s funny, though, it goes in cycles. One year there will be just a few ducks, but lots of partridge. The next year it’ll be the other way around.

“You haven’t seen Joy, have you?”

“No, she had pneumonia last week. I wasn’t expecting her because she doesn’t usually do Mondays.”

“That’s right, she had pneumonia. Mariah told me that on Friday.”

“I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but she still doesn’t have her health card. She can’t see a doctor, get meds for bipolar disorder or antibiotics for her pneumonia.”

“You couldn’t lend me seven bucks for a bottle, could you?”

“No, I don’t carry any cash. I use debit for everything.”

“Isn’t that expensive? Don’t they charge you some kind of fee for that?”

“The only time I get charged a fee is when I buy bus tickets. I can’t figure it. They tell me ahead of time, but I can’t get them anywhere else, so I’m stuck with the fee.”

“Well, I better go pan. I really need a drink.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

6 September 2013

From a distance, I could see Jacques and Deaf Donald sitting near the War Memorial.  When I came closer I could hear that they were both speaking French. Jacques had a newspaper open and was doing a Sudoku puzzle.

When Donald saw me he said, “Hi Dennis, it’s so good to see you. I lost my hearing aids, but I can read lips as long as you speak slow. I can even watch television with no volume, except for cartoons. They make no sense.”

I asked, “How did you lose your hearing aids?”

“I was at a bar in Scarborough. I got drunk. When I was walking home I tripped and fell. They must have fallen out then. They’re just tiny, they fit way inside my ears.

“The government paid for my last ones, but that was last year. I’m only allowed one pair every three years. I and my mom have to pay eighteen hundred dollars for a new pair. It’s okay, sometimes it’s better that I don’t hear what’s being said.

“Jacques, can I use your phone? I want to call Chester.”

Jacques said, “You tried using Shark’s phone. You couldn’t hear. You won’t hear any better using my phone.”

We saw Shakes ambling up the sidewalk. “Why aren’t you guys sitting in the sun? I’m going to sit over here.”

Jacques said, “You sit where you wish. It’s okay with me.”

Two bicycle cops rode up. One said, “Hi Shakes, I see you got a bottle there.”

Shakes grabbed it before the cop could pick it up. “Hey, that’s mine. It’s not even opened. You can’t take that.” The cop examined the bottle and said, “You’re right, it’s sealed. You weren’t thinking of drinking it here, were you?”

“No sir, that would be against the law.”

“As long as you understand that. I see an open can of beer in this backpack. Who does this belong to?”

Donald said, “That’s mine, officer. I’m not going to lie to you.”

“I need some identification. Do you have anything with you?”

“No, but I’ll tell you my name. It’s Donald Charlevoix.”

“Where do you live Donald?”

“145 Berkeley Street.”

“Is that your own place Donald?”

“It’s my mom’s. I live with my mom.”

“I see a prescription bottle in your pack.  Methadone, you’re a heroin addict. Your name checks out.” To the other officer, he said, “Do you want to phone this in?”

I could hear a voice on the other end of the line, listing charges.

“So Donald, why do you have a drinking restriction?”

“I can’t understand. I’m deaf.”

“What were you charged with, that caused the court to put a  restriction on your file concerning drinking?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t understand.”

“You’ve got an open beer in your pack and there’s an empty can behind you. I can tell that you’ve been drinking.  You realize, don’t you, that you’re not allowed to drink in a public place. You can be charged for this.”

“I’m sorry officer. If you pour that out, I’ll go straight home. I don’t want any trouble.”

“If I ever see you down here again, I’m going to charge you. Understand? If you’re here, I know you’re going to be drinking. Don’t come here again!”

“I understand officer, this is a bad place. I won’t come here again.”

“Okay, get going!”

The officer then turned to Jacques, “Have you been drinking?”

“No, my doctor told me it’s bad for my health.”

“What have you got in your bag here? He pulled out two drinking containers, one labeled an energy drink, both red in color. He also pulled out an empty sherry bottle. “What’s this doing here?”

“I turn it in for twenty cents.”

The police seemed satisfied so they rode away. Jacques laughed. “See what they missed. In my bottles here I have sherry mixed with strawberry cream soda. I don’t like the Imperial that these guys drink. I drink Pale Dry, but I don’t like it too dry, that’s why I add the cream soda, for the color and the taste. I like it sweet, me. In the zippered part, I have Jake’s half bottle of sherry. They believed me when I said, ‘My doctor told me it’s bad for my health.’

“Did you see what was in the Sun yesterday, on the second page? The whole page was about a guy from the Mission, who was beaten by the cops. Someone took pictures with their cell phone and the guy charged the cop. Yesterday the charges against the cops were dropped.”

Jacques said, “Those steroid monkeys act like they are kings. They can do anything they like. It’s the same with all these organizations, the Mission, the Shepherd. Shakes went to the Mission one time. His shoes were full of holes…”

Shakes said, “I’m barred for life from the Mission, it was the Shepherd. I showed them the holes in the bottom of my shoes and asked for another pair. They asked, ‘Are you a resident here?’ I said, ‘That sign up there says you are here to help the homeless, not the people who are staying here. Well, I’m homeless and I want a pair of friggin shoes!’ They took me into another office and said, ‘We don’t want any trouble, we’ll find you a pair of shoes.’

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

5 September 2013

At noon, I met Shakes and Little Jake. I said, “I was talking to Francois this morning. He said he went to court on a panhandling charge. They found him not guilty and he was awarded court charges of ninety-five dollars. Does that sound right?”

Shakes said, “He got paid to go to court? I’ve never heard of that. I went to court on a panhandling charge a year ago. They found me guilty before I even got into the courtroom. I was sentenced to six months of probation with no restrictions. I asked my lawyer, ‘What do I do now?’ He said, ‘You’re free to go.’  My probation ended last February.”

Jake said, “I’ve only been to court on drinking charges. Like Shakes, I got probation, but wasn’t allowed to be caught drinking for six months.”

I asked, “Did you stop drinking?”

“No.”

I said, “I was talking to Joy yesterday. She has pneumonia.”

Jake said, “Since I’ve had HIV I get pneumonia every fall. The last time they took me to the East General. That has got to be the worst hospital in the city. They were giving me really high doses of Demerol.  At seven in the morning, this great beast of a nurse came in to give me a shot. Do you know how she woke me? She banged her clipboard on the bed rail. I nearly freaked. I could have had a heart attack. I said, ‘You stupid fuckin’ bitch, go back to the islands where you came from.’ I was mad.”

“What did she say to you?”

“Oh, I don’t know, ‘You can’t talk to me… blah, blah, blah.’

“They had a tube coming out of my lung to drain it and they stuck a wire in my chest, close to my heart. Is that weird, or what? When it came time to take it out they said, ‘This won’t hurt a bit.’ then they yanked it. Christ, that hurt.”

“Shark came to visit me, and was going to give me a bottle of sherry, but the stupid fucker stuck the open bottle in his pocket upside down. He was leaving a red trail wherever he went. He was smashed. They got him out of there quick. Another time he brought me in three grams, but I was so drugged and paranoid I told him, ‘No, no, no, you take it. They’ll find me with it.’  I sure regretted that when I came down from the drugs.”

Shakes said, “Last time I had pneumonia they took me to the East General. Lots of people came by with booze, smokes and pot. I hate hospitals, I’d always have to go outside in the cold to smoke a joint or even a cigarette. They had a catheter in me, I didn’t friggin like that one bit.”

I asked, “Has anybody else been here this morning?”

Jake said, “I went to Shark’s place at ten, thirty — I had to get some smokes — everyone was there, Jacques, Loon, Hippo, Mariah, Irene of course. I did a beer run for Shark and came here about eleven-thirty, same time as Shakes. I got a bottle for him, that’s it.”

I said, “I haven’t seen Wolf for a while. Is he staying at home?”

“He’s got a broken jaw. Some crackhead hit him. He was letting them sell out of his apartment.”

 

~~~

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