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Chester Gets Robbed
1 June 2012
The weather today was uncertain, overcast, but not quite raining. At the park, the usual suspects had congregated.

“Hi Hippo, How have you been?” I shook his broken hand very gently.

“My head hurts.”

“How is your hand?”

“It hurts too. Jake and I slept at ‘the heater’ last night — not together, just in the same place. The streets aren’t safe anymore.”

“Hi Jake, How are you?”

“I’m drunk. Hippo and I started early.”

“I guess that’s a good thing.”

Shakes was sitting on the lawn and was having trouble getting up. “I’ll use this wine bottle and this container as a crutch to help me up.” He made it half way then tumbled over. Jacques stood up and took Shakes’ arm to help him to his feet. “Did you know that Rocky got jumped last night. It was the same guys that jumped me. He’s in about the same shape as I am.”

“Do you know why they jumped Rocky?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“Hi Donald, how are you?”

“I have my methadone treatment at one o’clock. Everybody hates me. I don’t know why. They make fun of me.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say anything against you.”

“I appreciate you being my friend.”

“Hi Shark, how is Irene feeling today?”

“She’s with Anastasia. They’re drunk to the tits. They bought a case of Labatt Maximum Ice. It’s  7.1 % alcohol. I bought myself a twenty-six ounce bottle of watermelon vodka. It’s 37 % alcohol. I thought I should get something to catch up. You don’t need any mix with it. Have a swig.”

“That’s smooth. I’ve never tasted that before.”

“I had to kick Irene out at eleven o’clock last night. She was drunk. When she gets like that her mind goes on retard. She’ll have about five conversations going and she keeps repeating them. I guess she forgets that she’s said the same thing five minutes before.

“We’re planning to get an apartment together, the problem is she wants to go through the Salvation Army. I want to get something through my landlord. He owns a bunch of buildings. If we get these workers involved, one group doesn’t talk the same language as the other group. I’ve been in the Welfare system for twenty years. I know what to say to them, so they’ll understand it and I’ll get what I want.

“Maybe it would be better if Irene and Joy got an apartment together. The only problem is that Irene drinks more than Joy. Joy has her drinking fairly well under control.

“Anastasia wants us to go with her to her mother’s house near Goderich. It’s on Georgian Bay, so there would be boating, swimming, fishing. The water isn’t very deep but you can still catch bass. The only problem is Anastasia is a bit nuts. You must have noticed that yesterday.

“I have to be back every week to see my doctor and pick up my meds.”

“How old is Anastasia, and how old is her mother?”

“I guess Anastasia is about sixty-one, her mother is in her nineties.

“The problem would be getting back. I guess we could arrange something with the bus. It’s a long trip. Something to keep in mind though.”

Chester and Outcast were going over Chester’s bank statement. Outcast said, “We were playing cards last night and then I left. What’s the last thing you remember buying.”

“I bought beer at the Beer Store.”

“Okay, that’s listed here. Then, there’s a purchase in Scarborough. Did you go to Scarborough?”

“No.”

“There’s also a purchase at an Exxon gas station. You don’t drive a car, so that’s not you. There are withdrawals of two hundred, three hundred. These are since you lost your card. Do you remember giving your card to anyone?”

“No.”

Silver said, “Look at Donald, he’s never going to make his methadone appointment. I’ve been drinking since four thirty this morning and I can stagger straighter than that. I get up at four thirty, have a shower — yes, I drink beer in the shower. It’s okay as long as I don’t fall and hurt myself.”

“Hello Wolf,” I said.

“Have a look at my dog.”

“Is that a different dog? That doesn’t look like Shaggy.”

“That’s Shaggy, they clipped her, did all kinds of stuff to her. I brought her blanket and her bed so she’ll get acclimatized. Is she breathing?”

“Yes, I can see her chest going up and down.”

“I was just joking. I guess I haven’t known you that long. You haven’t seen Shaggy when she’s been clipped? I have her done once a year.”

“No, I only met you in January, so it’s been about five months.”

Donald didn’t make his methadone treatment. He was too drunk to walk. Even if he had made it there, they wouldn’t have taken him in his inebriated condition.

~~~

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 Silver and Starbucks

26 June 2012

This morning I pulled up a plastic crate and sat beside Silver in front of Starbucks. 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 on Queen Street. 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 dont 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 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 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 anybodys 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 to Toronto, I lived in Osgoode. 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 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 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 beers 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 Luther 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 Downsview. 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 than 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, a hundred and twenty-five bucks 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.”

~~~

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Weasel in Hospital

25 June 2012

This morning Joy was seated on her plastic crate. Andre was standing next to her. I pulled up an extra crate and sat beside Joy.

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

“My weekends are always good. Every day is good. I’m just a carefree, happy guy. I’ve already made my price and enough for another (bottle). I don’t know why the Sally let me in last night — I was so drunk. I made my price, downed it, made my price again, downed that too. I was staggering from one side of the walk to the other.”

Joy said, “I saw you last night. I said to you, “Where’s the real Andre? I don’t think you knew your own name.

“It’s good that you left Hippo and Little Jake on their own. It’ll show them how much they depend on you to get drops.”

“Yeah, Jake works hard, but he’s got to open up more. Hippo does nothing. He has his legs straight out and his cup between them. People have to step over his legs to make a drop. Some people resent panhandlers taking up so much room on the sidewalk, especially when the walking traffic is heavy.

“I also try not to let people see me smoke. I’ll hide the cigarette behind a column or behind my back. If they think I can afford to smoke, they think I can afford to eat. I was panning with a guy one time. He kept checking his iPad. A woman was ready to drop him a five when she heard the guy’s iPhone ring. He pulled it out to answer it and the woman stuffed the bill back in her purse. She said, ‘I can’t afford an iPad or an iPhone. You’re better off than I am.’ ”

Joy said, “I keep telling Roy not to phone me here. He’ll ask, ‘What are you doing?’ I’ll say, ‘What do you think I’m doing? You’re spoiling my business, phone me back after nine.’ It’s not that he has anything to say, maybe, ‘If you see Buck, pick me up some cigarettes.’ ”

Andre said, “Well, I have to go.”

“Are you going to work?” I asked.

“No, I’m going on a run for Joy. Then I’ll go to the park. After that, I’ll go to work on Queen in front of the grocery store.

“I’ll see you later at the park.”

I said. “Take care, Andre.”

I asked Joy, “Did you work things out with Nick, for a place to stay?”

“No, I’m going to stay with Chester. I spent the weekend there. He’s still upset about Mary leaving him. He’s kind of let things go. I spent most of Saturday cleaning. He has a beautiful place. I sleep on a pull out couch in the living room.

“Sunday we just took it easy. I had some money, so I bought chicken. We had it with Kraft Dinner. Chester’s quiet. I like that. We just had a few drinks, a few joints. It was nice.

“When I got to Chuck’s place this morning all I could smell was V. There’s nothing worse than the smell of a wet dog.

“Chuck had a bunch of people over for the weekend: Nicholas and Corrine, Catherine and Nick, and Chili. All the food I bought last week was gone, and the place was a mess. I told him I was leaving. He said, ‘You’ll be sorry.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be sorry alright. Sorry to have extra food in the fridge.  Sorry to have extra money and cigarettes.’ ”

This afternoon was cool and windy. Near the park, I saw a police cruiser and an ambulance. I thought the worst. Chili was walking down the sidewalk, so I asked her, “Is the ambulance for anyone we know?”

“No,“ she replied, “I don’t know who it’s for. None of us.”

On the lawn were the usual people and Shaggy.

Loretta  approached and asked, “Dennis, can you spare me some bus tickets. I have to go to the hospital. It’s because of the car accident I was in a few months ago. I’m going to see a plastic surgeon. He’s going to do more work on my face and my knee. As soon as my gums finish healing, I’ll be getting a pair of dentures.”

“Sure Loretta,” I said, “Here are some bus tickets.”

“Thank you so much.”

Wolf came over to me. I tentatively reached out to shake his bruised hand. “It’s okay now, we can shake hands, the swelling has mostly gone. You can still see Bear’s teeth marks on my wrist.

“Dennis, would you do me a big favor. I’ve been looking after Bear since the police took Weasel to the hospital. The thing is, I just don’t know what to do with her. I haven’t heard from Weasel. I’ve asked people here, with phones, to check on him at the East General. He hasn’t any friends. Nobody will make the call. Will you phone the hospital and see if he’s still in there. If he is, try to find out if, or when, he’s getting out. If he’s been moved, try to find out where he is. Will you do that for me?”

“Sure, Wolf.”

“I’ve cleaned my balcony and Bear’s staying out there. She really made a stinking mess, but I cleaned that. She has a big pail of water to drink and she’s used to living outdoors. Of course, when it is really hot I bring her inside. Stella likes Bear and she’ll take her to the farm, if that’s what Weasel wants. I’ve taken good care of her, but when I tried to attach her leash, to take her for a walk, she bit my hand. I’m only starting to gain use of it again. I can’t leave her alone with Shaggy, because they don’t get along. Shaggy is eleven years old. Bear could kill her. I don’t want that to happen.”

“I understand, Wolf. I’ll phone the hospital and see what I can find out. I’ll let you know any news tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Dennis. I really appreciate that.”

“How’ve you been, Norman?”

“It’s Gaston, but that’s okay.”

“I probably called you Norman last Friday. I’m sorry, my memory for names isn’t very reliable.”

“I understand. I’m the same way. Often, I’ll be in the middle of a conversation before the person’s name comes to me. The message is more important than the name. That’s been my experience. I study communication with people. I teach communication with people. If I could, I’d study at the university all my life. I’d love that.

“I also like working with people – sometimes at the Mission, sometimes at the HIV Clinic, sometimes here. What I’ve learned about homeless people, alcoholics and drug addicts is that they’re not always connected to their true selves. They put up barriers. They lose control. A few beer or a few glasses of wine will give you a small buzz, but you’re still in control. Drinking more than that — it’s the alcohol controlling you, not you controlling the alcohol. It’s used to get away from memories that are painful. Memories of abuse and neglect. I’ve suffered from abuse and neglect.

“I went through years of university on heroin. I used very small quantities to give me a lift; just a pinch here, a pinch there. I’ve never come close to overdosing on drugs. Are you familiar with what an 8-ball is? It’s an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. I’ve seen people do an entire 8-ball.

”There is an article in the paper about homelessness. They’re going about it all wrong. Instead of dealing with the problem they spend more and more money to inconvenience the homeless. This is a public park. The police have no right to ask us to move. Look how much time and money they put into that. What we need is more support for addiction facilities, better sleeping accommodations for the homeless, more access to food. I analyse all these things and try to come to some sort of resolution. Then I write about it.”

On my way back to work I saw Serge sitting in the bus shelter. “How are you doing, Serge? I see your eyes are black, did someone beat you?”

“It happened right over there, where that man or woman is sitting. My shoelace was too long. I fell on the sidewalk.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you feeling better now?”

“I’m fine. I’ve fallen before.”

I phoned the East General Hospital. By telling them I was Weasel’s brother, Wolf, they put me through to him. I said, “Hi Weasel, Wolf asked me to give you a call. He was wondering how you were doing, when you are getting out and what to do with Bear.”

“Tell Wolf I’m getting out right now. I’ll be home in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll tell him that. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well, Weasel. It was good speaking with you.”

~~~

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22 June 2012

Saint Nick

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

“Jeez, you scared me.” she said, “I wasn’t around yesterday, 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.’ ”

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

” ‘Oh really?’ I said, ‘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 said, “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?”

Joy said, “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?” said Joy, “What drama have I missed?”

I said, “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.”

Joy said, “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. Andre 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.’ ”

Joy said, “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.”

At noon, when I arrived at the park there were two groups of people. In the first group were Shark, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, Silver, Nick ‘with the glasses’, Mary and Trudy. In the other group were Andre, Hippo and Little Jake. 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.”

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

Joy replied, “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.”

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

She said, “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.” said Joy. “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,” said Joy, “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.”

 ~~~

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21 June 2012

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

“So, Silver, have you made a decision about moving out of your place?”

“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.

“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 doorway. 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 sleepwalking.’ That could be dangerous. He could fall 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 panhandle.”

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 Rosar Morrison 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.”

Chester said, “I had a nice breakfast at the Mission: bacon, eggs, toast, home fries. The only one at the park now is Jacques.”

This afternoon the park was hot. Everyone was drained of energy. There were two groups of people; Trudy, Mary, Little Jake, Wolf and Shaggy were in one group. 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 Bear 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, Trudy and Mary then wandered up to the other group. Daimon and Lucy in the Sky were just leaving with Shakes. Seated on the grass were Hippo, Andre, Gene and Fran.

“Are Daimon and Lucy heading off to work?” I asked.

“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.”

Hippo had been drunk when I met him the night before. I asked him, “How are you feeling, Hippo?”

“Hot!”

Andre said, “I was panning last night in front of Tim Horton’s on Dundas. 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  on 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.” He pulled out an egg salad sandwich from his backpack and 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  drinking 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.

  ~~~

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Psycho

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 asks 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 it’s, ‘No,’ ” said Daimon, you can wait until he passes out, then take it… I was just kidding!”

  ~~~

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Chili Beaten

19 June 2012

This morning was overcast and becoming muggy. It had rained overnight and we’re expecting a heat wave over the next few days.

Joy said, “I was late getting down here because of the rain, but once it stopped, I hopped the bus. I was here about seven thirty. It was too hot for me to come out yesterday.

“We had a barbecue on the weekend with Toothless Chuck’s parents. Chili had smashed some coke and was swinging on the pipes above Chuck’s mom’s head. Chuck was not impressed. He threw her out.

“She told us that Daimon and Lucy had jumped her for her drugs. Her eye is black and swollen now. I told her to keep away from people like that. Lucy is psychotic around women. The other day she saw my phone hanging out of my pocket and she asked to borrow it. I said, ‘I have no time left on it. it isn’t working.’ Then, of course, it rang. She grabbed the phone, we were struggling for it when Daimon came up behind me and smacked me in the head.

“Stealing from panhandlers is bad. Friends double teaming friends is just sick.

“I have to get away from people — into the woods somewhere.”

I said, “Shark and Irene  have mentioned vacationing someplace near Georgian Bay. I think Anastasia also has a place on a lake somewhere.”

“I’d love to go somewhere with Irene or Anastasia, but Shark and I would be at each other’s throats after a few days.”

“Daimon and Lucy are bound to be at the park today, because this is the day that Shark gets his meds. I don’t think that Irene will come down again. She’s too scared.”

“Shark said that Anastasia is a bit crazy.”

“Irene and Anastasia like to drink together. Usually Anastasia has gone through a bottle of vodka before she even comes to the park. She’s so pretty, but she can get weird.”

“So, is there any news about your birth certificate or your other cards?”

“No, I’m going to go to The Womens’ Center to see if I can find out what’s holding things up.”

At noon the sky was threatening rain, but it held off. Finally, the sun came out. There was palpable tension at the park. Three groups had formed. Daimon, Lucy, Jake, Hippo and Andre were sitting on the lawn in one group. Joy, Chili  and I were sitting on the curb. Facing us, on the opposite curb, were Outcast, Chester, Silver and Rocky.

Chili’s right eye, cheek and chin were bruised and swollen.

Joy asked, “Does it hurt when you smile or laugh?”

“Yes, it does.”

Joy said, “One time I was on the floor when Big Jake hit me in the cheek with a billy club. I had a bruise in the shape of an “L”. The cops asked Jake if he had done it. He said, ‘One of your finest did that.’

“I’m going to phone Toothless to see if he’ll change his mind about letting you stay at our place.”

“Hi Chuck, I’m sitting with Chili. She’s sorry for what happened on the weekend. She knows she fucked up, but she has no other place to stay and I’m trying to keep her away from Daimon and Lucy. Chuck, don’t hang up okay? Chuck… He hung up.”

“He’s still pissed about that thing with his mother.”

“I know I fucked up.”

Andre came over and gave the women a hug. “Andre,” said Joy. “How can you sit with that pair of assholes after seeing what they did to Chili?”

“It’s just that I’ve known Daimon for over twenty years. I used to hang out with his older brother who is three times his size.”

“Has Daimon always been an asshole?”

“Yeah, he’s always been the same.”

“Will you come with us to the bank? Chili needs to deposit some money, and she’s afraid that Daimon and Lucy are going to jump her again.”

“Sure, I’ll ride shotgun.”

“Thanks, Andre, you’re someone I know I can trust.”

Daimon and Lucy eventually walked away together.

Joy said, “I really wish someone would boot fuck those assholes until they were just twitching. Then, maybe, we’d call 911 — sorry too late.

“I’m really the matriarch around here. Jacques and I are the last two left from the old group, now that Rip is dead.”

  ~~~

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18 June 2012

Algonquin Land

Noon at the park was sunny and warm. Serge was sitting in his usual place.

“Hi Serge!”

“Hi.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“I’ve been feeling sick the past few days.”

“What kind of sickness did you have?”

“Too much booze. I’m taking a break for a while.”

“It’s good to take a break every once in a while.

“Are the others up top?”

“They’re all up there.”

“I’ll see you on my way back, Serge.”

“See you.”

There were several groups of people on the lawn. I talked first to Debbie, Little Jake, Wolf and Shaggy, who was very friendly. She rubbed against me, slid her head under my hand to be scratched and patted.

“Jake,” I said, “Friday you mentioned that You had a dream about me. Do you remember the dream?”

“No, it wasn’t sexual though. I think I may have dreamed that you gave me a hundred dollars. I don’t know.”

I moved to another group that included Shakes, Daimon, Lucy In The Sky, Hippo, Andre and Ian.

Ian was talking to Andre, looking very sombre. He had been sitting with his girlfriend Marlena and had touched her breast. The police saw it and charged him.

“You’re a marked man, Ian,” said Andre. Even if she goes to court and tries to have the charges dropped, you’ll have a stay on your record. If you get charged for anything else, you’ll go straight to jail, and as a sexual offender expect a lot of beatings. They’ll probably put you in P.C. (Protective Custody), but even there you won’t be safe.”

Ian handed Andre the summons. “I thought you just got a domestic, this says you’re charged with sexual assault. You’re fucked! If you go within fifty feet of her you can be charged.

“Don’t get me wrong, Ian, we’re family. We know you didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll always have your back. It’s just the police.”

Daimon said, “I’ve had domestics before. Even if you’re just arguing with your old lady, they can kick you out of your house or apartment. They won’t do a thing to her, but if you leave, they figure there’s no more problem.”

Andre said, “I’ve served twenty-five years in jail, in and out. If there’s one thing I know, it’s the law. Since it was the cops who laid the charges against you, it’s them you’ll have to deal with.”

“I have witnesses too,” said Irving.

“That could help. One time I was charged with uttering death threats against my wife, her parents and my kids — five counts I was charged with. I spent eleven months dead time before I went to court. When I finally did to court the judge said, ‘Is there anything wrong with this picture? Here’s a man pleading innocent, after eleven months, and he still hasn’t had a trial. I’m throwing this out for time served. Andre, you’re free to go.’

“Six-up to my left.”

One male and one female bicycle police officers rode up. The female officer said, “Hi Andre, Ian. Are you guys keeping out of trouble?

“You over there,” she said to Outcast. “Did I just see you kick a beer can over the railing?”

“No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some empties down there.”

“Shakes,” she said, “you’re sober. What happened?”

“What happened is you made me pour out all my booze last night. I have nothing to drink.”

“I’m going to lay it out for you guys. If you’re just up here shooting the shit that’s okay, but this is private property. Do you understand? If we see any liquor, you’re going to be charged. You got that?”

“Yes, officer,” said Andre. “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke would you?”

“No, Andre, I don’t smoke.”

After the police left Ian said, “This is Algonquin land. I’m Algonquin. There’s no way they can keep me off my own land.”

 ~~~

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15 June 2012

Millhaven Penitentiary

Joy was quiet this morning, “I didn’t have much sleep last night. Chuck had the television on loud until eleven thirty. The crack heads next door were so loud that he phoned the police. He woke me at five this morning. I said, ‘You didn’t need to wake me. I’ve been awake most of the night.’

“He’s getting lazier and lazier. He got the dog for exercise, but he hardly takes him out. I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for any dog food. He hasn’t been doing any panning, he just lies on the couch watching TV.  That means when I get home I don’t have any time to myself. He wants to have a barbecue tomorrow. His parents are coming over. I’ll have to check with him later to see if he wants me to get any groceries at the store on my way home.”

“I tried to check on Big Jake,” I said, but the information is only available to immediate family.”

“How did you check?”

“I Googled Jake’s name, but nothing came up. I Googled Millhaven and got a directory, but that’s as far as I could go. They don’t have any listing of inmates. They have instructions as to what to do if you want to visit.”

“No, I don’t want to visit. I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Hippo and Andre were by earlier. They’ve been sleeping behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks. I guess Hippo had been panning, across the street from Andre, and had only made a quarter. He came over to get a cigarette. He saw a woman reach down toward his hat. He thought she was dropping money, but she took his quarter. They seem to have been eating pretty well according to what they tell me.”

“You mentioned yesterday that your youngest son is still in school. Who is he living with?”

“He lives with my oldest, who is twenty-eight now. He takes really good care of him. The second youngest was adopted out. I guess I wasn’t a very good role model. Of course, I didn’t have good role models myself.”

“Chester hasn’t been doing too well lately. He had an inheritance of eight thousand dollars and it was gone in a month. He asked me to do a run for him one time and gave me his bank card and number. I asked him, ‘How many people know your bank number?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He’s been like that ever since he fell down that flight of concrete steps and split his head open. He forgets a lot of things, and people take advantage of that.”

Noon at the park was sunny and mild. Serge was lying down asleep on a park bench. Shakes was lying on the lawn.

Debbie borrowed Joy’s phone to check her bank balance. She didn’t know how to open Joy’s phone. She threw it back.

“Thanks for throwing it, Debbie!”

Joy said to me, “My mom was sort of a swamp lady. She’d catch bullfrogs and deep fry them in batter. She’d also make squirrel stew. It tasted a bit gamey. We also had deer and elk, that taste pretty much the same, we had buffalo, bear, rabbit —  pretty much anything.

“Jake’s parents live in Rockland. They never approved of me. We stayed at their cottage one time, they left to go back to Rockland, we were to stay there and cut firewood for the winter. Jake got into his mom’s codeine pills and spent all his time on the couch. I was the one who went into the woods with the chain saw, cut the trees, hauled them out, cut and split them for firewood.

“I said to him, “What kind of support is that. I don’t know what I’m doing up there. What if a tree had fallen on me?”

Little Jake had staggered away to lie on the grass with his head on his backpack. Debbie said, “Joy, I’ve got lots of newspapers here. Why don’t you sit on these instead of your blanket. I think Jake should have something over him.”

“First of all, Debbie, this blanket is going home with me, to go on my bed. I don’t want to be sharing it with Jake . Second, the weather is warm. he doesn’t need anything covering him.”

Debbie left to drape some newspapers over Jake. Silver yelled, “Will you just leave him the fuck alone? Jesus!”

Joy said, “Silver, you don’t get your balls up very often, but when you do, it sure is entertaining.”

Andre said, ‘Whatever kind of food I want to eat, that’s the type of restaurant I pan in front of. Last night Hippo and I had roast beef, maybe tonight it will be sushi.”

Hippo said he has been gaining weight since teaming up with Andre.

~~~

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14 June 2012

Hobophobia 

This morning the weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the temperature was not too cool, not too hot, humidity was moderate. I was welcomed by Metro.  Silver gave me a wave from across the street. Joy was smiling and waving. Soon, Hippo and Andre stopped by to chat.

“Where did you sleep, Hippo?” I asked.

“Behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks.”

Andre said, “I woke up and one of the waitresses came out and asked me if I wanted a coffee. ‘Sure,’ I said.”

Hippo said, “Andre and I both made our price (for a bottle of sherry) today.”

“I’m still short a quarter,” said Andre.

“Here you go,” said Hippo as he handed him a quarter.

Andre said, “I’ve got a peanut butter and jam, and a tuna sandwich, if anybody wants one.”

Joy said, “Neither of those appeals to me.”

“Me neither,” said Andre, “that’s why I still have them.”

“Hey!” said Hippo, “what about me!”

“Hippo,” said Joy, “you’re a human garbage can.”

“I know.”

Andre and Hippo wandered off, probably going to the park to relax and have a drink.

Joy said, “I wonder how long that tuna sandwich has been in Emile’s backpack.” She looked in her cap, “I’ve been here since six o’clock and I’ve made exactly four twenty. That’s depressing.

“There he goes , he’s the one with the sign that says, ‘Help Put An End To Hobophobia’. What does that mean?”

I said, “A homophobe is a person who doesn’t like homosexuals. A hobophobe is a person who doesn’t like hobos.”

“Hobos?” asked Mo, “People like me?”

“Yes, a misogynist is a person who doesn’t like women.”

Misogynist / Misogyny: is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women.

“That’s Jake. I’ll have to remember that.

“You have access to a computer, don’t you? I’d like the address of Millhaven Penitentiary. I want to write Big Jake a nasty note using the word ‘misogynist’.”

Millhaven Institution
Highway 33
P.O. Box 280
Bath, Ontario
K0H 1G0

telephone: (613) 351-8000

fax: (613) 351-8136

“I’m trying to get Fran away from Gene. I said to her, ‘Look at me. You’ve seen me with black eyes, a broken nose, cracked and broken ribs. I could hardly walk because of the chest pain. My legs have been black and blue, all because of Jake. I’ve seen you with black eyes. If Gene hit you once he’ll hit you again. I know what I’m talking about. If you’re ever worried or in trouble, promise you’ll phone me. Even if you just want to talk, give me a call.’ ”

Just then a pigeon, sitting on the roof of the library, shit. It landed on the knee of my pants. Joy laughed as she handed me some paper napkins and her bottle of water.

“That’s considered good luck. I’m morbid, but it reminds me of a place I lived – Laurel something or other. There were two apartment towers, one higher than the other. It was mostly elderly people living there. One day a friend and I were just leaving the building when I heard a ‘thud’ and noticed some blood on my leg. At first I thought I had scratched myself on something. Then I saw an old lady lying on the pavement. She actually lifted her head, then died. She’d jumped from the twenty-fifth floor. I guess she felt she’d lived long enough. Why would a person want to end their life like that? Her head made a dent in the pavement. They had to scrape her face up with a spatula. That’s really getting morbid.

“While I was living there, maybe five years, about fifty people jumped to their death. Usually they’d hit the railing. You can imagine what a mess that made.”

I said, “ There are also a lot of subway jumpers. In the first five months of this year, seventeen people jumped into the path of oncoming subway trains.  Nearly once a week, the subway shuts down because someone jumped in front of one of the subway cars.”

Joy said,“One time I was waiting at the bus platform. There was a woman beside me who looked like she didn’t have a care in the world. When the bus came she threw herself in front of it. I can still remember the sound of her scream. She wasn’t killed. They had to amputate one arm and one leg. I’m not sure what other injuries she had.

“I’m just babbling away here. I’m like dinner and a movie without the dinner. You can have this apple. I can’t digest the skin. I’ve also got a banana. I don’t eat much fruit. I’ll probably give it to Jacques or Hippo.”

At the park this after noon there were about ten people and one dog.

“How are you feeling, Rocky?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I have to see my probation officer at one o’clock. I think he’s going to breach me.”

“Why would he breach you?”

“I was supposed to quit drinking and I haven’t.”

“Have you been in any programs to help you quit drinking, like Alcoholics Anonymous or the Wet Program at the Shepherd?”

“I’m banned for life at the Shepherd and the Mission. I have six tokens from A.A.”

“What are the tokens for?”

“They give you a token for every meeting you attend.”

“Do you enjoy the meetings?”

“I do enjoy some of them. Some of the speakers are really good. Others take and hour and a half for what could be said in five minutes.”

“Have you been eating? Do you need money for food?”

“I had breakfast. It’s Thursday, so the ‘sandwich ladies’ will be coming by shortly.”

“Excuse me, Rocky, I’m going to sit down.”

I sat between Andre and Gaston. I mentioned to Gaston that I had visited his  website. He manages a  drop-in center for victims of AIDS.

“I’ve started several drop-in centers. One in Montreal and one in Ottawa for children who have been physically or sexually abused.”

“How do you go about starting a drop-in center?”

“First of all, I’m a very confidant person. Before starting any venture I know I will succeed. For funding, I approach groups such as the Wives of Lawyers Auxiliary group. I make my presentation to them and they convince their husbands to invest money.”

I noticed that Andre was eating his peanut butter and jam sandwich (pb & j was written on the plastic wrap). “I thought you didn’t like peanut butter and jam, Andre.”

“I don’t, but when I’m hungry it’s better than nothing. Here Shaggy, see if you like this?” Andre fed small pieces to Wolf’s dog who was hesitant at first, then decided that she liked it.

~~~

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