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group3

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17 September 2012

I was greeted this morning, as usual, by Metro and Dave.

“Good morning, Dennis,” said Dave. I think Joy’s there this morning.”

“Thanks guys, have a great day.”

I saw Joy talking to a woman, who handed her a package in a gray plastic bag. The woman smiled at me. I said, “Bless you!” She winked at me and left.

I asked Joy, “Was that your worker?”

“No, I ran out of tampons. That lady was kind enough to buy me some.”

I asked, “So, how did it go, Friday, with your viewing of the apartment?”

“It was good. The place is different from what I imagined. It’s on the corner of Montreal Road and Lavergne. That’s a good location for me. My worker said it was a large bachelor. I was expecting one large room, but the kitchen is separate. It’s the same size as the living room. The place is rather narrow, so I’ll have to get a futon, or something that folds up. A mattress would take up too much space. I wouldn’t be able to move around.

“The guy’s daughter was with him. She had all sorts of questions like, ‘Will the Salvation Army pay for any damages?’ My worker, Janice, had never been asked that before, so she has to check with her office and get back to them.

“I think if it was just the father I had to talk to there wouldn’t have been any problem. Maybe if I’d been dressed as a skid it would have gone better. As it was, I wore a dress and makeup. That’s what Janice told  me to wear. I don’t know what’s going to happen. She’s coming to see me at noon, so then I should know for certain.

“They keep asking me why Andre misses his appointments with them. I don’t know. She asked if they should keep wasting their time on him if he isn’t that interested. I said, “If I were you, I’d drop him.”

I said, “Andre will be happy as long as he can find a woman who will take him in for the night.”

“Exactly! Are you going to be at the park at noon? How be I see you then. I haven’t made a cent so far. I’m P.M.S.ing, and Menopausing, just generally pissed off.”

“I’ll be there. I didn’t come Friday because of the rain. I didn’t think anyone would be out.”

“We were there, huddling around.”

This afternoon, at the park, was interesting. The weather was pleasant, everyone was cheerful. The usual congregation was there.

“Hi Joy,” I said, “How are you doing?”

“A lot better than this morning. I actually made some money.”

Andre said, “I nearly had a job this morning. A guy came by the Sally yesterday and asked a bunch of us if anyone had experience raking asphalt. Inuvik said, ‘I’ve never done that kind of work, but I can learn.’ He’s from Baffin Island, what would he know about asphalt? All they have there is ice. Are they going to pour hot tar on ice?

“I told the guy, ‘I can do anything you want. I’ve worked hot tar, cold tar and cement.’ The guy said, ‘Fine, meet me here at 8:00 tomorrow morning. I’ll drive you to the site.’ I said ‘Great, I’ll see you here tomorrow morning.’

“I even went to a construction site to steal a cooler, so I’d have water to drink throughout the day. This is it here, I’m sitting on it.

”This morning I was on the steps at 8:00, right where I was supposed to be. I waited two hours. The guy was a no-show. I heard that he picked up some other guys at the Mission. So, here I am, I gave up my morning, and now I don’t have a plan for the rest of the day.”

Shakes said, “Hey, do you want to know what I did today? This morning, after I got out of bed at the Sheps, I had a shower and shampooed my hair.”

“What did you use on your hair, Shakes?” I asked.

“Finesse.”

Joy said, “A shower and using designer products on your hair. I bet that doesn’t happen very often. Shakes, some of us do that every morning.”

The Salvation Army Housing Outreach worker came by.

Joy asked her, “Has there been any word on my apartment?”

“I’m going to be checking on that this afternoon. I had to make sure all the paperwork was filled out and signed.”

Joy said, “I don’t think I’ll get that place. Do you?”

“I don’t see why not,” said Janice.

“I got the feeling that the daughter didn’t like me.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but we should find out for sure this afternoon. I think the daughter was just being cautious. If we can’t get you in there under the Salvation Army, we can submit the application through the city. Don’t worry, you did fine.”

“I wish they would tear that wall down between the kitchen and the living room.”

“Yes, it does seem odd, but don’t start thinking about tearing walls down. We don’t want that.”

“Have you been able to make any headway with my identification. I really need my medical card to have this pain in my legs looked at.”

Janice said, “You had arranged that through the Women’s Shelter, hadn’t you? Maybe we can put some pressure on them. Do you know who you were dealing with there?”

“It was a white chick with blue eyes.”

“Well, that covers about half the city. Do you know anything more about her?”

“I think she was married to a black guy, because her kids, in the photo on her desk, looked mulatto.”

“Anything else?”

“I think her last name was, something like, Havasaki.”

“Joy,” I said, “that sounds more like a drink order.”

“That’s all I know. She gave me a card, it may be in here somewhere. I know I have an appointment with her on the 26th, but I can’t remember if that was August or September.

“Can I give you this card? I’ve been trying to contact the Elizabeth Fry Society for over a month. They’re either on lunch, or they don’t return my messages. It’s my probie who wants me to contact them. It’s about anger management, but I’m not angry. I get angry about having to see my probie every ten days. I get angry when people don’t phone me back, but I’m not angry about Jake. That’s all in the past.”

Loretta said, “Way to go girl. I’m glad to hear you say that, Joy.”

Joy asked, “How about the check for my street allowance. Do you know when and where I’ll be getting that?”

“I’m not sure what the date is for check disbursement, you guys would probably know better than I would. I’m pretty sure that we made application for your street allowance. I’ll have to check. That was somewhat dependent on whether or not you get this apartment. When it comes in, we’ll let you know. You can pick it up at our office.”

Andre said, “When I was at the office last, I’m pretty sure, I saw a sign that said that checks were going out on the 27th.

“Do you know anything about how my place is coming along?”

Janice said, “You’re on the list.”

Andre said, “I was talking to Little Jake, here, he said there were some places vacant where he’s living now, on Moriset.”

“You’d be content living on Moriset? The reason I ask that is, we took some people there the other day. They looked at it and said they weren’t interested. I told them, ‘We’ll cover the rent.’ It didn’t make any difference. You’ve seen the building? It wouldn’t bother you?”

“I’ll go anywhere, Moriset is fine. It has to be better than living in a box behind a dumpster.”

Janice said, “Okay, we’ll see if we can set up an appointment.”

Shakes said, “Hey, does anybody know about my apartment?

“Hey, chesty, do you know about my apartment?”

Janice asked Joy, “Did he just call me chesty?”

Joy said, “Can you imagine what he’ll say when you take him to view an apartment. ‘I want a fuckin’ apartment, right now.’

“Shakes, this isn’t your worker. You’ll have to get in contact with the people you deal with.”

“Shakes,” said Janice, “Do you know the name of your worker?”

“No, she wrote it on a card, but I lost it.”

“I’ll try phoning a few people and try to get you sorted out.”

“Okay, thanks.”

After they left I asked Andre, “How was your weekend?”

“It was good, what I can remember of it.”

I said, “Maybe it’s better not to remember too much.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right there. I remember getting in a fight with Jake and Weasel, both at the same time. They were drunk and talking stupid, so I threw Jake down, then I threw Weasel down. Somewhere, in all that, I twisted my knee. I jumped down from that concrete wall, across the street, and I felt a sharp pain going through my knee. Maybe I broke it.”

“It’s time for me to go,” I said and shook hands all around. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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ps2

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14 September 2012

This morning was pleasant. Metro greeted me waving a newspaper, “Good morning, Dennis. Are you going to keep out of trouble this weekend?”

“Not if I can help it, Metro. Have a good day.”

“Joy’s down there.”

“Great, thanks Metro.”

“Hi Joy, how did you sleep?”

“Great, when I woke up I thought it was 5:15, my usual time, but it was 6:15. I really had to scramble to get everything together. When I got outside the door, I realized that my keys were at the bottom of my bag. So, I just left the door unlocked. We always used to leave the door unlocked. We never had any problems.”

“Weren’t you afraid that someone would steal Chester?”

“They can have him. He was all pissed off last night because I came home late.”

“Why, on earth, should he care what time you come home?”

“Ever since he fell down the stone steps, backwards, he hasn’t been right in the head. Every woman he’s been involved with, in any way, he falls in love with. Sometimes, I hear him talking in his sleep, ‘Joy, I love you.'”

“Has he made any arrangements, with the Health Department, for an exterminator?”

“Yeah, somebody is supposed to come by on Monday, but I told Chester, ‘I don’t care. If everything goes well at my appointment this afternoon, I’ll be out of here soon — maybe, even next week.’

“He may come by later. He’s out of cigarettes, so he’ll probably be doing a butt run. He’ll be wanting to bum a cigarette from me as well; but I smoke natives, he prefers a stronger cigarette.”

“What are natives?” I asked.

“They’re made from the scraps of what they use to make tailor-mades. The tobacco is supposed to be for ceremonial purposes. It’s not meant for human consumption.”

“Who makes them?”

“Natives.”

“At $20 a carton, some young entrepreneurs from the Kanasatake reserve near Montreal are selling a lot of cigarettes. The brands they are pushing may be unfamiliar to most people – Native and Mohawk Blend – but they come from a manufacturing plant on the American side of the Mohawk reserve in Akwasasne.”

“Making cigarettes has become an important business in Akwasasne. There are two manufacturing plants employing a couple of hundred people. The cigarettes are sold in native communities all across the United States, and now in some Canadian communities as well.

“I was talking to Timmy the other day. He said that smoking them gives him the dry heaves in the morning, and he’s been coughing up blood. He figures it’s not the liquor that gives him a hangover, it’s the native cigarettes.

“On the number fourteen bus last night I saw, Kit’s brother, Ronny. He must live ear where Little Jake moved in, and where Irene move out.”

“I don’t want to live near any of those people. My worker was surprised that I wanted to live in Vanier. She said a lot of hookers are moving from Vanier to Carlington, but there are still a lot in Vanier. I probably know them all. Jacques won’t live in Vanier. I’ve never had any problems there.”

I said, “I’ve lived in Vanier. I liked it. I never had any problems.

“I couldn’t believe how quiet Shakes was yesterday,” I said.

“Yeah, that was something, wasn’t it? I think he’s still upset about being robbed. I’ve told those guys that sleep at the Sheps, or the Mission, “Don’t store money in your socks.” I said, “Put it in a plastic baggie and stuff it in your underwear. If someone touches your crotch, you’re going to wake up.”

“It’s strange that Shakes and Andre were both robbed within days of each other.”

Joy said, “I think it was Sharron who got Andre’s money. When she was at the park I saw her rearranging her bra a few times, as if something felt uncomfortable. I think that’s where she hid Andre’s money.” Andre said, ‘I had my hand down her top a few times. I’d have noticed if it was there.’ I said, ‘If she had it right at the bottom of her cup, you’d never know it.’

I said, “Andre told me that he was robbed by two guys and one of them kicked him in the head.”

Joy said, “He put up a fight when the money was taken from his sock, but I kicked him in the head. He kept touching me. I warned him, “Next time you do that you’re going to regret it. He put his hand on my thigh. I stood up and kicked him in the head. He tried it a second time, I kicked him again. You think he’d learn. He put his hand right on my crotch. I got up and kicked him with all my might. The third kick was the best. It connected with the back of his head, his head snapped foreward and bobbled — just like one of those bobble-headed figures. He was out cold. Chester and I left shortly after that. He said, ‘Do you think he’s okay? Maybe he has a broken neck. I said, ‘I don’t care if he has.” Then we left.

“He was by here this morning, he’s okay. He was hanging around — I finally had to tell him to move on. This is Friday, it’s government pay week. I’ve got to make some money.”

“Maybe I should move on.”

“Whatever you like. You could go talk to Andre. I saw him going around the corner. He’s probably panning in front of Timmy Ho’s. I’ll see you this afternoon anyway, I have to be at the park to meet my worker. She’s coming at 2:00.”

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Andre Shaved

Posted: April 24, 2019 in Dialog, Prose

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woman

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18 September 2012

This morning, as I was crossing Metcalfe Street, I met Dave.

“Good morning, Dave.”

“Good morning, Dennis. I don’t know if Joy is down there or not.”

“No, I saw someone different there. I don’t know who it is.”

“Have a good day.”

“You too, Dave.”

I was curious to know who was in Joy’s spot. It must be someone she knows, and who knows that she won’t be there — no one else would dare. As I approached, I recognized William standing, Andre squatting and Joy sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. A lady stopped and handed Joy a folded five dollar bill.

She said, “This is for yesterday — remember, I said I didn’t have anything with me, but would catch you tomorrow? Well, here I am.”

“I remember. Thank you so much.”

“Bless you,” I said.

Joy said to Andre, “This is kind of embarrassing, but yesterday that lady stopped by. She asked if I’d like a coffee and, maybe, a bagel with cream cheese. I said, ‘What I really need are tampons.’ She was kind enough to get me some.”

“That was nice,” replied Andre.

I asked Joy, “Have you heard anything more about your apartment?”

“Today is the day. They’ve sent the faxes. I find out at noon what the verdict is.”

“Congratulations!” I said.

“We’ll see.”

“Andre,” I said, “you shaved.”

“Yeah, it happens.”

“Have you heard any more about getting an apartment near Jake’s place?”

“No, but I’d sure like to. They have some nice units there.”

“Joy,” I asked, “will you be at the park at noon?”

“I’ll be there with bells on.”

“I’ll leave you then, so you can get some work done.”

“I’ll see you. Now, if I can just get rid of these bozos.”

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group3

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13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Joy seemed in good spirits.

“How did you sleep? Were you outside on the balcony?” I asked.

“No, it was a bit too cool for that, but I slept okay. I took the sheet off my air mattress and made sure that none of me touched the carpet. The bed bugs didn’t seem to have been able to climb up the shiny plastic. I didn’t get any bites during the night. I have a chalk line of powder around where I sleep.

“When I was in the bathroom I saw something move. I squished it. Sure enough, it was a bed bug. I could tell by the rotting wood smell. I’ve never known of bed bugs to crawl across tile.”

I said, “I’m still pissed off with Chester.”

“Why is that? What’s he done now?”

“I just think it’s very selfish of him to turn the exterminator away. He knows how much the bed bugs bother you. Just because they aren’t bothering him, that’s no reason not to have them exterminated. It’s not a safe, healthy environment for you.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off about that, alright. I stayed out until 9:00 last evening. He was upset that I came home so late. I said, ‘I’m forty-six years old. Are you saying I have a curfew? I wasn’t planning to come back at all.’ I told him, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll phone the Health Department and have them come another day.’ I said, ‘They’re not going to drop everything and come here, when they’ve already been turned away once. They may charge you for the visit.’

“I do the cooking, the cleaning. Before I moved in he said he kept his place very clean. It was a mess. It took me an entire day to wash the floors, the fridge. There was some kind of dairy product that had gone bad in the sink. That nearly made me sick. I bought groceries. He was supposed to buy some, but he hasn’t. We’re down to our last slice of bread.

“He doesn’t do anything, but make messes after I’ve cleaned up, and piss on the toilet seat. He said that if I’m concerned with the bed bugs he’ll share his bed with me. ‘No, thanks!’ I said. ‘I have no interest in sleeping with any man.’

He said, ‘Oh, Joy, I would never touch you. You don’t have to worry about that.’ I said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’

“I wish Chester would bathe more often. I have a shower every morning. He has one a week. All the guys are smelling a bit ripe now.

“I’ve heard from Rodent that Jake wants me to write to him. Why would I do that? I still love him, but I don’t have a death wish.

“I heard that Silver is at the Mission Hospice recovering.”

I said, “I know that he had an appointment with his doctor, last Thursday, to see about the swelling in his ankle. I haven’t seen him since.”

Joy said, “Chili may have to have both of her legs amputated. I’m so angry with her. I told her months ago to have the swelling in her knee taken care of. She’s been smashing cocaine into her arm and it’s become infected. The infection has spread to both legs as high as her hips.”

At noon I met my friendsat the curb near the park. Joy was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Joy walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Joy was away I talked to Jacques. He said, “I’m looking for a new apartment also. They raised my rent in June by three percent. It was $685., now it’s $710. I can’t afford that. I’ve had to cancel my cable. I tried to fix up an antenna using wire, but now I only get a few channels and they aren’t very clear. I saw an ad in this newspaper — on Donald Street I can get an antenna for $6.99. That’s not too bad if it works. I’m going to go there this afternoon to talk to them about it.”

“You’re going to miss living by Dow’s Lake.” I said.

“Yes, it’s a great bachelor apartment, but it has bed bugs. I’ve told the landlord about them, I suggested that he remove the carpet. It doesn’t matter what kind of floor is underneath. He isn’t interested in having it removed. I’m not paying $710. for a place with bed bugs. I hear that Chester has them too. They’re everywhere.

“I talked to Serge yesterday about us sharing a two bedroom apartment somewhere. He seemed interested, but today he isn’t here. I think he’s staying at his friend William’s place, while he is away. He has his own key.”

When Joy came back she said, “That was a waste of time. I still can’t see a doctor until they get my identification sorted out. They’ve moved the viewing of the apartment to two o’clock tomorrow. At least that’s something to look forward to.”

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bench

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12 September 2012

Joy was in good spirits this morning. The sun was shining.

“Hi Joy,” I said, “you have an appointment with your worker today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be meeting Janice and Darla at the park at 10:30. I have the same workers as Andre.”

“What will they be talking about today?”

“Just details of the place I’ll be moving into.”

I said, “You must be excited. This is the first time since I’ve known you, that you’ll be having an apartment of your own. You’ve always shared with somebody.”

“Yeah, it’s exciting and scary. It’s been so long since I’ve lived alone, I’m not sure how I’ll cope.”

“It has to be better than living with bed bugs, and you won’t have to put up with Chester’s noises. You’ll be able to watch English television, whatever programs you choose. There’ll be no one to beat you.”

“Yeah, that will all be good. I just worry about my mind. The last time in prison I was in the psych ward, under suicide watch because I kept stabbing myself with pencils. That was when they put me on Seroquel, it’s an antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m on that I don’t hear the voices. Lately, it’s been television commercials that are going around in my head, like the one for Yop. It has kind of a reggae beat:

When I wake up in the morning I’m still asleep
I really don’t want no toast
I want no water, no tea, no cereal
give me a yogurt drink I’m wanting first.

Ooooooh! Give me Yop! me mama oh
Yop! me mama when the morning come.

Give me Yop! me mama
Yop! me mama
Yop! for when the morning come…

I said, “Andre was really wild yesterday.”

“Yeah, he was being a real asshole.”

“He said he got rolled. Where did he get $140.00”

“The workers arranged that for him. It was his street allowance. On Monday he got a check for $150.00. With the last of his money he bought three bottles. Little Jake invited him over to his new place. Andre didn’t even have bus fare. Jake, of course, is all proud because he has a bus pass.

“Andre is going to get the shit kicked out of him, or else he’ll be exiled. I’d rather take the beating. Being exiled is hell.

“I saw Hippo this morning. He’s been hiding out with Jacques at Dow’s Lake. He’s afraid of Bearded Bruce.”

I asked, “How did that all come about?”

“Hippo was drunk. he was ten feet tall and juiced to the gills. He was in Starbucks performing when someone called the cops. They knew he was staying behind the dumpsters so that’s where they went. They recognized Bruce because of his record, and were holding him up against the fence. Bruce was upset with Hippo. He said, ‘I could have been breached.’

“That doesn’t make sense to me. Bruce said he took jail time instead of probation, because he knew he’d never show up for appointments. For missing appointments they’d put him back in jail. If he’s not on probation he couldn’t be breached.

“There’s something funny. Bruce tried to sell crack to an undercover cop and he gets probation? Crack is a narcotic, that’s automatic jail time. I know. He does the same thing again and they only give him 180 days. That’s unheard of! I think he’s a chatter, someone who will rat out his friends. It’s the same with Weasel.

“The exterminators are coming today. I just hope that Chester remembers to tell them about the day bed. The stuff they spray will completely soak the mattress. I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the room on an air mattress. I was thinking, there’s no way they’ll be able to hold onto plastic, but sure enough they were there. I could feel a bump in my sheet, and it moved, so I squished it and smelt my fingers. It had that rotten wood smell of bed bugs. In the morning I saw a streak of blood where I squished it.

At noon the regular crew was at the park. As soon as I sat down Shakes asked me, “Dennis, how do you like my shades?”

“Very nice Shakes! Are they yours? I guess they’re yours now.”

“My worker took me shopping for clothes today. They didn’t have everything I wanted, but I did get a nice winter coat and a belt. Now, I don’t have to wear this dog leash to hold my pants up. When we got to the cash the guy said, ‘Shakes, you need some sunglasses, don’t you?’ I asked, ‘Can I have these?’ He said, ‘Go for it, Shakes.’ ”

Joy sat next to me. I asked, “How did it go with your worker today?”

“Really great!” she said. “Friday I go to see a place. Janice said it was the biggest bachelor apartment she’s ever seen. The guy who owns the building is friendly to homeless people. I guess one of his family was homeless and they died.

“I asked what I should wear. She said, You don’t have to dress fancy, but lose the bandana.”

“I told her that I had paid all my bills and didn’t have any money left. She said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll cover it.’ ”

I asked her, “Are they any closer to getting you a health card?”

“They’re going to take me to a clinic doctor tomorrow. I said to her, “Things aren’t right in my head. I hear voices and they keep me awake all night. With them and the bed bugs I’m not getting much sleep at all.

“I told her that when I pee, there’s blood. I cough up blood, then my nose starts bleeding. I’m bleeding everywhere. That’s not right. I’ve got no energy. I can’t keep food down.

“If I get this place, and it could be as early as September 20, I’m going to cut back on the drinking. She asked me, “Why do you drink?’ I said, ‘I drink to pass out, to get away from the pain in my legs. My hip feels like it’s burning. I’m having seizures. I’m glad I haven’t had any here. Yesterday, I had two at Chester’s place. He didn’t even notice. My eyes just rolled back in my head and my mind went blank for a while.

Jacques answered a call on his cell phone. He handed it to Joy. “Chester,” he said.

I heard Joy ask, “Did the Health Department guy come by to spray. He said he would… You told him what? I’m going to be coming home soon.’

Joy handed the phone back to Jacques. She said, “That stupid, stupid man.” Then she started sobbing. The sobbing turned to gasping. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her inhaler. After four puffs, the gasping stopped. Tears were still falling from her eyes.

I asked, “Did something go wrong with the exterminator?”

“Chester wouldn’t let him spray. He said it would be an invasion.”

“It is an invasion,” I said, “an invasion of bed bugs.”

Joy said, “After we sprayed Chester’s room the first time, they don’t seem to have gone back there. We found their nest under his bed and we soaked it with spray. Maybe they bite him and he doesn’t react, but I see him scratching. I’m going to have to sleep on the balcony. That’s the only way I can get away from them. They don’t like the cold.

“That really pisses me off. I paid him $400. for rent, I filled the fridge with groceries. He was supposed to buy more but he hasn’t. He says he has no money. He shouldn’t be spending it on the muk muks. I clean, I cook, I just can’t take it anymore.”

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bench

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11 September 2012

Today on the curb, by the park, were six of my friends. I sat on the sidewalk in front of Joy. Shortly after, Andre came staggering up the walk, followed by Sharron. The sides of his track pants were unsnapped, his shirt was off. He had a four-foot length of gold chain with two-inch links, a padlock attached to the end, wrapped twice around his neck.

“What do you mean I’m acting like an asshole?” asked Andre? He started swinging the chain. Joy said, “Andre, if you hit Jake in the back of the head with that padlock, I’m going to kill you. You know I mean it.”

Andre sat down, “I’m sorry for being an asshole. I’m just waking up. I passed out in a park last night. You all know what that’s like.”

Joy said, “Been there, done that, couldn’t afford the tee-shirt.”

Shakes, who was surprisingly sober, said, “I think Andre’s still upset about being rolled last night.”

I asked, “Is that right Andre? How much did they take? Was it a gang?”

“No,” said Andre, “It was just two guys. They got a hundred and forty bucks, but I did quite a bit of damage to one guy. I had him in a head lock and was punching him in the face, when the other guy kicked me in the side of the head. Things are a bit confused after that.”

Shakes asked, “Do you have my radio? I lost it twice yesterday.”

I said, “That means you must have found it once.”

“Yes, I did.”

Debbie said, “Have you seen Jake’s new apartment? I was there last night. It’s gorgeous. The walls are freshly painted, the floors have been varnished. Jake’s bedroom is as big as his living room.”

Jake said, “They even gave me fifty bucks for groceries. Tomorrow they’re going to see about getting me some furniture, even a television.”

Joy said, “I’ve got an appointment to see an apartment in Vanier. It’s six hundred a month.”

I said, “You saw one on Beechwood didn’t you?”

“I had an appointment, but my worker cancelled at the last-minute. They wanted seven ninety-five for that one. I’d only have fifty dollars left, after I cashing my check.”

Two workers from the Housing Outreach Program of the Salvation Army came by. One said, “Shakes, can we meet with you tomorrow around 10:30.”

“Sure.”

Joy said, “I’ll make sure he’s here, because I have an appointment with my worker tomorrow at the same time.”

After they left Joy said, “I got four dollars. Has anybody got any change? Andre, in the mesh pocket of your backpack I can see some change.” Andre threw over two quarters and a dime.

Joy said, “Okay, I’ve got $4.60. I still need forty-five cents.” Everyone checked their pockets and came up with the needed change.

To Chester, Joy said, “Honey, would you mind going to the World Exchange and picking me up a bottle?”

“Sure,” said Albert, “and if they don’t have Imperial? I’ve been there sometimes when they’ve been out.”

“If they don’t have it, don’t bother getting anything. It would only make me sick.”

“Jake,” I asked, “Are you moving into the apartment that Irene moved out of?”

“No, it’s the next building on Moriset — different apartment, different building. I’m really going to make it work this time.”

Joy said, “Every Fall the workers try to get us off the street and into apartments, that way they don’t have to bury so many of us.”

Shakes pulled a new bottle of sherry out of his backpack. He cracked the seal, poured some into the cap and threw it over his shoulder. Then he handed the bottle to Joy, who poured some into her coke bottle, then passed it back to Shakes who took a sip from the bottle. Joy then reached into her backpack for a large Sprite bottle of partly frozen water. She added water to the sherry then took a drink.

Jake said, “I’m going to get some sweet grass to smudge my apartment.”

Joy said, “Sweet grass has a beautiful smell, especially when it’s mixed with sage, burnt properly and wafted with an eagle feather. It’s so relaxing and peaceful.”

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10 September 2012

I wore my Autumn windbreaker today. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing. The congregation was at the far end of the park. Joy walked toward me and we met at the sidewalk.

“I didn’t know whether or not you’d be coming,” she said. “I was about ready to leave when I saw your head above the bushes. I’m feeling sick. I cooked some chicken from Loblaws and I’ve been throwing up all night. It didn’t affect Chester, but it’s the second time I’ve gotten sick after eating their chicken. I’m always careful to cook it thoroughly, same with pork, I know how sick it can make you. I’m going to leave now. I just want to lie down and take it easy today. I can’t even drink.

”You wouldn’t happen to have some extra bus tickets for Chester would you?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m all out. I’ll have to get more at the convenience store.”

“I just thought I’d ask. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, Joy. Get lots of rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hey,” said Andre, “Don’t I get a hug?”

“If I bend over, I might puke all over you.”

Andre put his wide-brimmed hat upside down on his head and said, “Okay, I’m ready. How about my hug?”

The grass was still wet from the overnight rain. Sitting on the curb, near the railing, were Timmy, Clint and Chester. On the lawn were Andre and Shakes. I sat between Timmy and Shakes who, as usual, was lying on his side, resting on one elbow.

“Shakes,” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”

“I just got back into town from Kingston. I spent the last week there. A friend took me. He wanted to get out of Ottawa for a while, just to have a change of scenery.”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“The first day was awful. A dog died, some women were fighting and one guy tried to commit suicide; but that was just the first day.”

“Were these friends of yours? Did the dog belong to one of your friends?”

“No, I didn’t know them.”

“I spent seventy dollars on food, but mostly I had meals, home cooked by friends I met.

“Since I got back, I lost my wallet. Could you give me another of those Tim Horton’s cards? The one you gave me before was in the wallet I lost.”

“Sure, Shakes.”

Timmy put some Kleenex in Andre’s wide brimmed hat. “That’s for Shakes, he’s drooling.”

“He’s just drunk, that’s all.“

“Andre,” I said, “you’ve got a couple of fancy hats, since I saw you last.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get a collection. This one has feathers around the brim. If I ever get lost in the woods, I can use them to tie flies for fishing. I lost most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. A friend, who’d been sleeping at the hut with us, was leaving town. He made a pile of all the stuff he couldn’t carry with him. There was a pair of size twelve work boots. I was going to bring them to Clint. There was also a pair of size ten, Gortex winter boots with Kevlar toes, heels and shanks. They were insulated and Thinsulated — do you know what I mean? — two layers of insulation. They came up to my knees. I’m guessing they were worth about $400.00. I stayed at the Sally Ann one night. The next day, I left my things in storage. They were locked and were supposed to be secure. I stayed at Katrina’s for two nights.

“When I came back to the Sally, I went to bed 245, where I thought I had slept; but the locker was empty. It looked like my bed, same color blanket, made up like mine. I always make my bed after I get up in the morning. I went to the desk and asked the guy, ‘What bed was I sleeping in? I thought it was 245.’ He checked and said, ‘You were in 295.’ I checked that bed and again, an empty locker. I was really pissed off. I figure the guys at the desk cut the lock and took my stuff.

“I went down and yelled at them, ‘I had two brand new pairs of boots in there, and a bottle and a half of sherry.’ One guy said, ‘Andre, are you ratting yourself out, telling us you brought liquor on the premises?’ I said, ‘I’m just being truthful.’ They said, ‘It shows on our record, that the contents of that locker were signed out.’ I said, ‘Well, I didn’t sign anything out. I don’t believe that. You guys cut the lock and took my new boots. They were so new they didn’t even have dirt on the treads. You don’t want to see any of us building up a stock of anything.’ I stormed out.” I was living outside for four months and after one night at the Sheps and one night at the Mission I’ve lost everything.

“I’ve been getting these bites all around the waistband of my track pants.” He pulled his pants down to expose his hip and to show the red marks. “They’re some kind of mites, I think. I threw all the clothes I was wearing in the garbage, then took a shower. When I came out all I had to put on was a towel. The guy at the desk asked, ‘Why are you walking around like that, Andre?’ I said, ‘I need new clothes. My old ones were full of bugs.’ He said, ‘We can’t help you with that until 7:45.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I guess I’ll be walking around in this towel until 7:45.’ ”

I said, “I haven’t seen Hippo for a while.”

Andre said, “You’re not likely to, either. He’s probably in hiding. Jake was drunk and Hippo came up and punched him four times in the head for no reason. Then he was causing trouble at Starbucks. They called the police. The police knew we were staying out back. Bearded Bruce said the police ripped down our hut and threw all our stuff into the dumpster. Later, someone set fire to it.”

Shakes said, “I lost my brand new sleeping bag.”

Andre said, “Those women at Hope Recovery are really saints.”

Clint asked, “Do you mean at the Sheps?”

“Yeah” said Andre. “They all know me there. It’s funny though. I went downstairs and they said I was too drunk, so I went upstairs and they said I wasn’t drunk enough. One of them  even asked me, ‘Andre, do you have any more booze? Go out, have a few more drinks and we’ll let you in.’

“I went out back to, what we call, the pig pen. A sister came by and asked me, ‘Do you want to buy a twenty-six of rye for $13.00?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. That’s a pretty good price. I just happened to have $13.70. I’d already drunk two and a half bottles of sherry. A guy sat next to me, pulled out a fancy crack pipe and put a forty in it. His buddy, sitting next to him, said, ‘Be careful.’ The guy looked around for cops then lit his pipe. I drank more and more of the rye, straight up. Then I smacked the guy in the back of the head. The pipe flew out of his mouth, the forty went rolling across the parking lot. Some sisters picked the stuff up, but the pipe was fucked. The guy’s buddy said, ‘I told you to be careful. When Andre gets into the hard stuff, he gets crazy, especially around crack smokers.’

“I went back upstairs and they let me in.”

Timmy said, “That reminds me — we should have walkie-talkies. Then I could six you if I saw the cops coming from my direction, and you could six me if you saw them coming from where you were.”

Andre said, “They’ve got this new fangled invention now. It’s called a cell phone. That’s what people use them for.”

Clint said, “You know, one time a cop was really nice to me. I was up in North Bay. I asked him if there was any place I could set up a tent. He said, ‘Sure, get in.’ He let me sit in the front seat. He didn’t pat me down or anything. He took me behind this gas station, where some empty rigs were parked. He said, ‘You should be safe here.’ Then he left.”

Timmy said, “I’ve been given rides by the cops before, but they always frisked me. They even apologized, said it wasn’t anything personal, it was regulation. If a guy was in the back seat with a gun, he could shoot the cops and steal the car. They left the sliding window open so we could chat back and forth. I’ve never ridden in the front seat of a cop car. Sometimes, they even have shotguns mounted on the console, on a swivel.”

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bench

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7 September 2012

Today at the park the weather was pleasant, but the mood was tense. Sitting on the curb were six of my friends. Facing them on the sidewalk were Andre and Clint.

“Andre,” I said, “How did it go with your worker on Wednesday? Did you get your papers signed for housing?”

“I got a lot of things sorted. They set me up with a street allowance because I said, ‘Hey, I sleep behind a dumpster, or if I’m lucky I do some couch surfing.’ So, on Monday I’ll be able to pick up a check for $200.00.

“I’m forty-six years old, I can’t be on the street like Weasel and Jake. I’m going to get on the ball, go to my appointments — They’re giving me a monthly bus pass, otherwise I’d have to go there to pick up bus tickets every time I have to see somebody — With O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) alone, I have to go nine times a month. I have to go to the doctor twice a week, then there’ll be visits for housing.

“I’m staying at the Sally Ann right now. That’s good, because that’s where my workers are. If I need to contact them, after hours, I can just slip a message under their door. If they need to contact me they can come to my room, or leave a message for me. I know they’re going to work really hard to get me settled.”

Clint said, “The best fish and chips I’ve ever had were at the Sally Ann in Halifax. Every Friday they’d serve them. It was a great big plate and the fries were just like you’d get at a fish and chip shop — hand cut, crispy.

“I got in trouble at a dance there. I was dancing with a woman — I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. It turned out that he had boxed for ten years in prison. He broke my nose, broke my jaw — I had to have it wired shut. Now, If I yawn, sometimes it’ll lock open.”

Andre said, “That’s why I don’t go to dances. I was at a dance one time — I was drunk, I started dancing by myself, I turned around and, you know how it is, I was dancing with three women. I was having fun, clowning around, then three guys showed up. They’d been there all the time, but they didn’t want to dance, that’s why the women were dancing together.

“The first guy caught me with a left hook. It was a good left hook, flattened my nose to one side. The next guy hit me with a right hook, flattened my nose to the other side. By this time my white tee-shirt was red. I said to the third guy, ‘bring it on, let’s see if you can get my nose straight again.’ ”

“I’ve had my jaw broken, ” Said Joy. “Isn’t it great having to get all your nutrition through a straw?”

Joy kept looking down the line at Mina. Andre said, “Just take a few deep breaths and count to ten.”

Joy was punching her fist into her open palm. “You don’t know the half of it. That Chester is so stupid. It was Raven’s old man who stole Chester’s bank card and drained his bank account. And how did he get in? Raven! Now he wants to invite her over to where I’m staying. Over my dead body!

“I’m feeling really pissy today. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was awake chasing cooties most of the night. I’ve found out that the mature bed bugs have a numbing agent, so you can’t feel when they bite, but the young ones don’t seem to know about that. You can feel when they bite. They start out kind of colorless, then turn orange when they suck your blood. When you crush them between your thumb and finger, they have a rotten wood smell about them.”

I asked, “Do you sniff every bug you crush?”

“Every one. See all these bites I have below my knees? I’ve got them all over my body. They’re either from the bed bugs or from the spiders I bring in from the balcony to eat the bed bugs.”

Andre said, I remember going to visit a guy in Guelph, at the Bluebird Hotel, I think it was. It was a long time ago. Anyway, we were going to go to his room. He couldn’t get the key in the lock — he was that drunk. So, I had to unlock the door for him. I turned on the light and there were thousands of roaches everywhere. The walls looked alive with them scrambling away. He asked, ‘Do you want to sit down?’ I said, ‘No way, man! I don’t want to be carrying those things to the next place I go.'”

Joy said, “I think my lungs are worse since I moved into Chester’s place.”

I asked, “Is it because of the bed bug spray, or are you using the powder now?”

“The powder is better, but I’ve run out of that too.”

Andre asked? “Do you dust it over all the carpets?”

“I sprinkle it only in the area where I sleep. Chester is on his own. I wash and dry my clothes, cook them, powder them, bag them and put them out on the balcony. Chester takes his clothes out of the bags and puts them in his drawers. He won’t listen to me.

“Now he says he’s broke. I gave him money for food, but that’s not what he spent it on. At least I have a Tim Horton’s card if I get hungry. Last night I made spaghetti sauce. Tonight I’m turning it into chilli. I’ve got it in the crock pot now. Chester asked, ‘Can I still put it on noodles?’ I said, ‘Do anything you want with it.’

“I’m going to go home now, before Chester gets there, so I’ll be able to watch English television. Sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of watching a movie and Chester will say, ‘I don’t like this,’ and he’ll switch over to one of his French channels.

“He gets up so early. This morning he got up just as I was falling into a deep sleep. First thing, he goes to the fridge for a beer, then he lights a cigarette. As soon as he does that I start coughing, and I have to use my inhaler. I wish there was a door he could close. At least he doesn’t smoke in bed. That would really scare me.

“Andre, can I ask you something that I never thought I’d ask?”

“Sure.”

“Will you come sit between me and Jake. He’s driving me nuts with his babbling. It’s all I can do to keep from punching him.”

To me she said, “The only reason I don’t punch him is because he’s HIV positive, or has full-blown AIDS.”

Andre said, “Jake, will you wipe your mouth, you’re drooling.”

To Joy he said, “If he needs straightening out, I’ll do it.”

Chester came over to Joy. She said, “What is it honey? Do you want to sit on your blanket?” She pulled it out from under her and handed it to him.. “Come sit down.”

Chester took the blanket and went back to sit with Raven. Andre said, “I thought he was going to sit with us.”

“So did I,” said Joy. “I think part of the reason I feel so schizoid is because of menopause.”

I asked, “Are they any closer to getting your health card and other identification?”

“Yeah,” she said, “I just have to go in and fill in some personal stuff about my parent’s birth dates and my mother’s maiden name. I have all that. They were both born in 1944, My father was such an asshole.” Joy was weeping as I left.

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4 September 2012,

Today is the first workday after the Labor Day, long weekend. I had a relaxing time at the lake and was anxious to hear any news from my friends. Metro was handing out newspapers as usual. “Good morning, Dennis. Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was great, Metro. How was yours?”

“Good! Are you hoping to see Joy this morning? I haven’t seen her. Maybe she’s still recovering from the weekend.”

I didn’t see her in her usual spot. I looked across the intersection for Silver, but his spot was vacant also. Pat was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised at how disappointed I felt. I wondered about the results of Silver’s appointment with his doctor. I wondered how Joy’s viewing of an apartment went on Friday. Even Shakes, who I sometimes see in the morning, is getting a new apartment. I wonder if he’s moved yet. Sleeping outdoors is so dangerous, I can’t help but worry. Hopefully I’ll see them at noon.

Sitting on the curb near the park, all alone, was Silver. “Hi,” I said, “How was the appointment with your doctor?”

“It was fine. He took some blood tests, but I won’t get the results until next week. I have another appointment for a week Thursday. He should be able to tell me something then. I showed him how swollen my ankles were. He didn’t tell me what was causing the swelling.”

“You were telling me that you had varicose veins, perhaps it’s a circulation problem.”

“That’s what I think it is, but I won’t know for sure until next week.”

“How are you sleeping?” I asked.

“I’ve been sleeping okay. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, did what I had to do, then went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours. I didn’t bother panning today.”

“How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. My neighbor, Don and I ordered a pizza and watched some movies. That’s about all.”

“I’ll talk to you a bit later, Silver. I’m just going up to say hello to the rest of the guys.” Sitting on the lawn was Little Jake. Standing at the park railing was Shark, Andre, Jacques and Danny who had a guitar case strapped to his back.

“Hi Danny, I said, “I didn’t know you played guitar.”

Shark said, “Either did he, but he knows how to hock it.”

Jacques said, “Maybe it’s not a guitar in the case. Maybe it’s a gun, like in a movie I saw a while ago. There was an Elvis convention and these five guys, dressed in Elvis costumes, robbed a casino. Kurt Russell was in it and another guy with long hair in a ponytail. He was a mean one, shooting into the crowd with a machine gun.”

Jake said, “That was Kevin Costner. The movie was called 3000 Miles to Graceland.”

Shark said, “Dennis meet your new neighbor, Jake. He’s moving into Elaine’s old place, if the landlord ever gets around to fixing it up. He’s supposed to change the carpet, but he didn’t do that when Elaine moved in. He’s drunk most of the time. He knows all the people in the building who drink and will come to the door and ask, ‘Can I have a beer?’ I’ll say, ‘No, but you can take these empties, since you’re here.’ Otherwise the maintenance man will go rooting through the trash for them. You’ll see the landlord drinking on the front steps. If not there, he’ll be on the back steps. The maintenance guy moves things from one apartment to another. When you view the place everything looks all nice and new, then they switch the nice furniture for crap.

“It took Irene ten months to get out of that place. The landlord said that she would be on probation for the first three months, then he was supposed to have her sign a lease, but he never brought it around. When she was moving out he said, ‘You know you’re breaking your lease.’ I said to him, ‘She never signed a lease you drunken bastard. There’s no lease to break.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to get nasty about it.’

“Eventually, we’re going to get all new furniture. Irene and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to buying things. She always wants to buy what’s cheap; like her mattress, she paid $125.00, I paid $300.00, but mine is twice as thick as hers. I don’t want to be sleeping on something that has pieces of metal sticking out. If I want something I pay for it, I don’t care what it costs.”

“So, when are you moving, Jake?”

“They’re supposed to get back to me, but I think it should be next week or the week after.”

Jacques said, “Those Salvation Army people, they don’t look very hard for an apartment for you. It’s okay if you find one yourself, then they’ll help you with moving. Otherwise, they’re useless.”

Danny said, “I nearly had a place lined up last week. I told the landlord that my disability pension would cover the first $450.00 of the rent. If there were any extras my mom would pay them. He could just give her the bank information and she would deposit a check every month. She’s an elder and a Clan leader. She’s been handling my finances for the last twenty years because of my addiction problems.”

“Andre, how was your weekend?” I asked.

“The weekend was pretty wild, but I’m trying to keep it cool today. I have to see my worker to arrange for my identification and my health card, again. This time I’m going to have them keep a copy on my file in case I lose them.

“Here are my workers now.” Two women walked into the park and Andre met them.

Jacques said, “Who are those two? I thought it was a big guy and a girl who came around. Maybe they fired him because he wasn’t doing his job.”

I asked, “Jacques, did you hear if Joy got her place?”

“I saw her Saturday, no it was Friday. She went with her worker, then she was going to 507 to pick up an air mattress.”

“Yes, she didn’t want to bring bed bugs into her new place.”

“It’s best if you don’t have carpets. They make nests everywhere in carpets. I found a big spider web with lots of dead bed bug husks. I love the spiders, me. I don’t mind how many I have of them as long as they keep eating the bed bugs.”

Jake said, “I saw Chester having breakfast at the Mission, but Joy wasn’t there.”

Shark received a telephone call, “Yes, Elaine?” he said. “What’s Hippo doing there? Tell him to get out. Tell him anything — tell him you and Kat have to go out. Tell him you have to go to the doctor. That’s what we had to do last night. We were at Buck’s playing Bingo. Trudy wanted to wash the floors. So Buck said, ‘Okay, Hippo, time to go.’ He left with no problem.

To me he said, “We’ve got Kat with us now.”

“You have a cat?”

“No, Kat is a person, a friend of Elaine’s. She’s over there now. She’s small, doesn’t take up much space — not like Hippo. When we sweep, we can just ask her to lift her feet, there’s no problem.

“Silver hasn’t moved in the last twenty minutes. Is he okay? I don’t think he’s drinking today, is he?”

“Yeah, “ I said, “he has a beer on the go. He’s not feeling too well.”

“I know he went to the doctor last Thursday. Elaine said to me, ‘Make sure he goes to his appointment.’ Our doctors are both in the same direction. He goes to Sandy Hill Clinic, my doctor is further up, but my appointments are Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursday he’s on his own.

I want to go to Brantford to visit my son, but my dad said, ‘It’s not a good time.’ I’d like to go for two weeks but I have to arrange it with my doctor. I said to him, ‘You phone my dad and arrange it. I can’t get anything out of him.’ ”

It was time for me to go. I said good-bye to everyone and headed on my way. Danny was walking ahead of me with the guitar case on his back.

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bench

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30 August 2012

At noon the temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. On my way to the park, I stopped to talk to Serge and William.

“How are you, Serge?”

“I’m tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night. I slept over there (he pointed north-west), outside.”

“You didn’t sleep at the Shepherd’s?” I asked.

“No.”

William said to me, “I forgot your name.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said. “I’m just on my way to the park. I’ll check on you on my way back. William, try to make sure that Serge doesn’t fall down.”

They both laughed, “See you,” said Serge. I waved at both of them.,

Sitting on the curb at the park were four of my friends. Buck and his dog, Dillinger stopped for a while then walked on.

“Hi, Loretta” I said, “You haven’t been coming around as much as you used to.”

“I live way out past Orleans. Do you know where Mer Bleu is? That’s where I live, Mer Bleu Road.

“Joy’s feeling a bit better than she was yesterday. She’s with her worker, viewing apartments. There’s one she could get for August 15, if she likes it.”

“I said, “That’s great. She’ll love having a place all to herself.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Fine, I’ve been working.”

The sandwich ladies came by offering juice, granola bars, sandwiches and socks. Danny took a peanut butter sandwich, Shakes asked for something with meat. Miles explained that he had severe allergies to mustard, mayonnaise and onions. He showed me the EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector) that he always carries.

Miles said, “Did you know that apple juice is poisonous? It contains cyanide and arsenic. Over a long period it can cause organ damage and cancer.

“I just came back from San Francisco. I have my own landscaping business there. When we first moved to the States we lived in Ocala, Florida. Later, we moved to San Francisco. I got a real break there. I got a job with a landscaping company. There was nobody to look after my daughter, so I brought her with me. My boss really liked my work and would always call for me if she needed something special done.

“One of our clients was Arnold Schwarzeneger. It would take a crew of us about three days to do his property. He would always give my daughter some money. He’d say, ‘Don’t tell your Daddy.’ She’s grown up now and has kids of her own. She lives with her boyfriend in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s studying accounting, business and something else she won’t tell me about. It has to do with the land.

“I have a proposal to build a three floor complex for homeless people. There would be the lower floor with facilities for storage, because that’s a problem for the homeless. We’d also have bunks for sleeping on that floor. Food facilities would be on the second floor and the top floor would be for games. My daughter and I would be partners. She would have her own apartment, on the third floor, for whenever she comes to town.

“It would be a safe place for alcoholics and the homeless. Even if people were drunk we’d let them in, but they wouldn’t be allowed to drink on the premises. I estimate the total cost would be about 1.3 million dollars. I even have a location picked out, near the river.”

Shakes said, “I’m going to be getting my own place soon.”

“Do you know the location, yet?” I asked.

“Right in the middle of ‘Crack Haven’, behind the Sally Ann. After I’ve been there for a while, I’m going to ask to be relocated. After I get my place they’re going to take me shopping for clothes. I’ve got a television set at my daughter, Betty’s apartment. I also have a DVD player put aside. The guy said, ‘As soon as you have your place, Shakes, we’ll deliver it.’ ”

“That sounds great, Shakes. It will be better than sleeping on the street.”

“I think I’ll sleep outside, sometimes.”

“I said, “At least you’ll have the choice of where to sleep. If it’s raining, or if it’s cold, you can come inside.

“It’s time I got back to work. Your plans sound great, Miles. Maybe we can work together.

”I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” I said as I waved good-bye.

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