2013 – August

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2 August 2013

Fight! 

The weather was perfect at the park. Shakes, Mariah and Little Jake were sitting quietly in the shade. I made sure Jake saw me before I went to shake his hand. Yesterday, he nearly freaked out,  He said, ‘Jesus, Dennis, don’t sneak up on me like that.’

Jake said, “I been alone most of the morning. Before Shakes showed up at ten, there was nobody but me. Since then a few people stopped by, for about ten minutes, then left.”

Mariah said, “I just came down to pay a bill, but they’re in the middle of upgrading their equipment. They asked, “How do you want to pay this bill?” I said, ‘Cash.’ The guy looked in the till. He said we’ve got no money to make change. Can you use some other method.’ I asked, ‘How about my debit card?’ The guy checked the machine and said, ‘Sorry, that’s not working either. Do you have a credit card?’ I said, ‘Yes, but it’s maxed out.’ So that was a waste of time. That’s when I came here to visit with Jake and Shakes.

“I had something weird happen today. I was doing my laundry when I heard a dog barking. I looked outside and my friend was on her balcony with his dog, some kind of a pit bull mix. When he saw me he said, ‘I’ll be right down.’ We were  chatting near the gate when this guy, from across the street, came over with a stick in his hand. He demanded a cigarette. My friend said, ‘I told you a hundred times, I’m not giving you any smokes.’ The other guy started swinging the stick near me. My friend took his dog inside, then came out with a stick of his own. They were going at it in the middle of the street, swinging these sticks. I got on the phone and called the cops. They got there really fast, in about five minutes, but the other guy had already gone back to his apartment. When the cops confronted him he denied everything. Said he wasn’t even outside.  I pointed to the sticks on the ground and said, ‘That’s evidence right there.’ Anyway, he took our statements, and said they’d had other complaints against this guy, so they’d keep an eye on him. Can you imagine that? You’re not even safe in your own yard.”

A man walked  over and shook the hands of Shakes and Jake. He asked, “And who is this lovely lady here?”

“I’m Mariah,”

He said, “They call me Peanuts. Don’t ask why. It’s a long story. Anyway, the last time I saw Shakes was on Yonge Street, in front of the liquor store. I saw this young kid, about twenty, punch Shakes. He must have hit him about six times in the face and was trying to go through his pockets. Shakes had a black eye.  I ran over and grabbed the guy. I said, ‘Do you know who you’re hitting? Shakes is a legend. It’s like hitting Muhammad Ali. You just don’t do that.’

“Shakes got up off the ground and fists started flying. He was like a whirlwind — ‘floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee.’ Soon the cops came by. The first thing they did was put Shakes in handcuffs. I said to them, ‘Hey, Shakes is the victim here. He’s the hero not the villain. Take those cuffs off immediately’ Store employees came out and said, ‘We saw the whole thing, officers. He’s right, this guy had been in the store and when he left we saw this other guy punching him. We’re the ones that phoned you guys.’ At that point they removed the cuffs and told Shakes he could go. The other guy was thrown in the back of the squad car.

“Did you have much money on you, Shakes?”

“Yeah, I had two hundred and twenty dollars, I’d just cashed my check and still had the money in the brown bank envelope, but he didn’t get it. Nobody steals money from me.”

“I just came through some hard times. I was at the Shepherd and met this woman. She was beautiful, fifty-two years old, same as me. We got on really well. We went out and had a few drinks and she said to me, ‘I got eighteen hundred dollars. We could rent an apartment.’ We looked at a few places and found a really nice one for nine hundred a month. We moved our stuff in. I don’t want to get gross here, but we made love at least twice a day, in every room of the place.

“One morning I woke up, she was wrapped in my arms, I looked down, there was a rat curled up at the bottom of the bed — a big fucker, about a foot long. The place was infested with them.

“Her sister came over and while they were talking a rat ran across the floor. She screamed and said, ‘My sister can’t live in a place like this.’  To her she said, ‘You’ve coming home with me.’

“I went back to the Shepherd. After a few days I was feeling really sick, had the sweats, the shakes, the DTs, because I hadn’t had a drink for about four days.”

Mariah said, “I know. I bin there.”

Peanuts continued, “I couldn’t buy a drink, because I’d given all my money to this woman, three hundred dollars. I’ve always given my money to my women to look after. They give me some to spend each day. I’m no good at looking after my own money, never have bin. I went back to the apartment and all her things had been moved out. Didn’t leave a forwarding address, telephone number, nothing.”

I asked, “So, she didn’t leave you any money?”

“No, but the money wasn’t a worry, I can always get more money. I packed all my clothes, my leather jacket, into a recycling box and went back to the Shepherd. When I woke up the next day, all my stuff had bin stolen. All I got to my name is what’s on my back.

“I’ve had three wives before, but I didn’t love any of them the way I love this woman, even though we hadn’t bin together that long. She broke my heart.

To me Peanuts said, “I think I’ve seen you around before.”

‘Yeah,” I said “I’ve been coming around here for a couple of years. I work in that tall building over there.”

Peanuts said, “I think the last time I saw you was on the corner of Queen and Jarvis. You were charging fifty bucks.”

I said, “You must have me confused with someone else, I’ve never charged as much as fifty bucks. A twenty could get me anytime.”

Peanuts laughed. He said, “That’s what I like, a guy that can take a joke. Hey, if you ever need anybody rubbed out, keep me in mind.”

I said, “I’ll call Mariah first, then you. This guy has to get back to work. I’ll see you guys some other time. Have a good weekend.”

Jake said, “You hear that? He’d call a woman first, then you.”

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15 August 2013

Mariah

A beautiful summer day.  Adding to my pleasure, in the lobby of the building where I work, the management company was giving out free ice cream. I walked to the park expecting a crowd; there was only Mariah and Big Chester. After asking for bus tickets he left. Shortly after, Little Chester arrived.

“Happy vacation, everybody!” he welcomed.

I asked Mariah, “How has Joy been doing lately?”

“Her legs are a little better, she managed to climb the stairs to my place the other day. Her worst problem is getting rid of Big Jake. He’s paranoid, because he can’t contact his parole officer. He’s been phoning, but never gets an answer. I don’t know why he doesn’t just go to their office. I know it’s difficult for him, getting around in a wheel chair, but he should be able to manage; other people do. He keeps the door locked, the blinds pulled and is worried that people will be able to track him through the GPS in his phone. Joy feels like she’s back in prison.

“At first he’d go back every night to where he was staying; either the Shep’ or the alley, wherever; but when Joy’s legs got bad he started staying the night, and for the past two weeks he hasn’t left. He doesn’t even go outside in the afternoon for some fresh air.”

I asked, “He hasn’t been drinking and beating Joy has he?”

“Not that I’ve heard of. They can’t afford to drink.”

How have you been lately, Mariah?”

“Whew, I bought myself a treat on Friday, some fresh lobster. I got them from the Chinese place on Dundas near the beer store. He keeps them live in tanks, in the front window. You can pick whichever one you want. There must have been something wrong with it. After boiling, the flesh seemed a bit mushy. I thought that was odd, but I didn’t want to waste food, and I love lobster. I started puking and couldn’t stop. I’d poisoned myself. Charlie called an ambulance. I spent the weekend in hospital.”

“I guess they gave you antibiotics, did they?”

“No, I don’t take any pills. I let my body take care of itself. After a few days without eating, I wasn’t puking any more, so they released me. When I got home I had a glass of vodka and started puking again, so no more vodka for a while. I’ve got my mix with me, just in case, but, so far, I’ve been sticking with straight water.

“I’m feeling better now, but I’ve been getting these lumps around my knees and ankles. I squeeze them and a lump of pus pops out. I guess it’s the body’s way of isolating the poison. It has to come out somewhere — either you  throw it up,  poop it out, or it comes out somewhere else. With me It’s my knees and ankles.

“That reminds me, I have to go for one of those exams, you know, where they go up your behind.  It’s for acid reflux. Last time they went in fifteen units. This time they’ll have to go further. Whats really uncomfortable is the air they pump into you. It really hurts.

“My guy, Charlie is back staying with me. I kicked him out about six weeks ago. He’s nearly killed me before.  He has PTSD. He woke up in the middle of the night and tried to strangle me, tried to pull my face apart. I said to him, ‘That’s it!  You hit me,  you hit the road!’ ”

I asked, “Was he in the military? Is that how he got PTSD?”

“Yes, he’s being treated for it, but it’s when he’s into the booze that he has the flare ups.   I had a twenty-six of vodka. He asked if he could have a drink. He downed about six ounces in one gulp, straight from the bottle, went down just like water.

“He also has complications because of a collapsed lung. He had double pneumonia and had the tubes coming out of him to drain the fluid. I looked after him while he was going through that.

“I saw him a few days ago at the Mission. He asked if there was any chance he could come home. I said, ‘Lets walk and talk. I told him what he had put me through. He said, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry.’ I let him come back.

“When he’s sober he’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s gone into burning buildings to help someone get out. He even went back for their luggage, then I had to go in after him.”

Little Chester said, “That’s what we have firemen for. They have the protective suits, the masks, the fire hoses.”

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20 August 2013

Joy Returns

From the corner of Queen and Parliament I could see Joy. She stood up from her box, waved and gave me a big smile.

“How are your legs feeling,  Joy.”

“A little better, I was using a cane this morning, but forgot it on the bus. Oh well, I have more at home. It’s been so long since I’ve used the bus, I didn’t realize that they’d raised the fares and changed the color of the tickets. All I had was two of the old purple ones. I snuck them in, hoping the driver wouldn’t notice. Then I noticed a lady pointing at me, gesturing and pinching her nose. Then the smell hit me. The man in the front seat reeked of b.o. That’s what the lady was trying to tell me, to move farther back. I waved at her to let her know I understood.

“Someone was banging on my door at eleven o’clock, one night. It was really loud, like cops. Anybody who knows me, knows not to call on me late at night, so I ignored it and they went away. The next day Mariah, asked me, ‘What was that ruckus in the back yard last night? There were two cops with flashlights. They were looking around the yard.’

“I couldn’t think why cops would be banging on my door. I don’t have any outstanding warrants, not from Toronto anyway. The ones from Montreal are twenty years old. Anyway, they checked my record the last time I was taken to the Don Jail.

“Little Jake said he came by my place, but didn’t want to disturb me. He  was going to tell me to contact Rodent, because the cops were after him. Why the fuck would I care if the cops were after him? I couldn’t figure that out. Little Jake was too timid to knock on my door, but he wasn’t too timid to break into Bearded Bruce’s place. Bruce found him sitting on his bed, eating a cold pork chop.

“I think Rodent’s been arrested now, along with Big Jake, for parole violations. I think they picked them up at the Mission, or wherever they were staying.”

I asked, “What violations would he have had?”

“He’s been drinking, that would be a violation. Also, I don’t think he’s been keeping up with appointments to see his parole officer. That would be my guess. I haven’t talked to him for a while.”

From beside Joy, we saw a small mouse streak across the street. Some people on the sidewalk stopped to look at it. Then it went under a parked car.  Joy and I were hoping it would either stay there or run down to the parking garage. No such luck. It tried running back across the street and a big orange truck passed over. The turbulence from the wheels threw it off-balance. He limped away behind a car. We watched for it, but didn’t see it come out. Neither of us felt spry enough to dodge the traffic. Joy was going to check to see if it was still there, when she left for home.

Joy said, “I’m not a big fan of mice, but I hate to see any animal injured. One time I was sitting here and a tiny little bird was fluttering  nearby.  A sea hawk swooped down and grabbed him right out of the air. I could hear the sound of cheeping as he flew away with the bird hanging from its claws. I didn’t know they ate other birds.

Joy said, “This morning I ate a banana. I know I’m not supposed to have them, but I haven’t had any problems with my kidneys lately.  After I ate it I got this tingling sensation on my tongue, then my throat started to swell. A lady stopped to see if I was alright. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m just trying to scratch my tongue.’

“I haven’t seen many of our friends around. I was expecting  Jacques this morning. Tuesday they have the big breakfast at the Mission. He usually comes down for that.  Chester will probably be sniffing around, picking up butts. Most people are housed now, but I thought that we’d at least try to stay in contact.

“Mariah is fighting with Charlie again. She kicked him out. He has his own place near Chester. Deaf Donald and Tall Paul came by, they were arguing in French. I gave Donald shit for wanting to bum a cigarette. I can’t afford to supply these people.

“I haven’t seen Shakes for a while. Some of us were talking the other day about who would be the next to go. Little Frank was saying that Shakes is going downhill fast.  I hate going to funerals.”

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21 August 2013

Live Slow, Die Laughing

Another beautiful day at the park. Mariah spread a newspaper for me to sit on the grass. Shakes was wearing a marijuana tee-shirt with the slogan ‘Live Slow, Die Laughing’. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so close to the truth.

He said, “I may be a drunk and a stoner, but I’m still here.”

I asked Mariah, “How are you feeling since the food poisoning?”

“I feel better.  The last of the boils came out today. It was really uncomfortable sleeping; I was flip-flopping all night. They were itchy and burning.  With my sharp fingernails I cut myself a couple of times.

“Since the weekend I’ve been eating vegetarian. I’ve been popping baby cucumbers, snow peas, carrots and berries.  I love all kinds of berries, everything but meat.”

Steve said, “I can’t eat raspberries. They get stuck in my teeth. I’ve just been to the dentist.”

Mariah said, “Yeah, you really got to really crush those little suckers.”

Shakes asked, “How about ‘shrooms, Mariah?”

“No, I’m allergic to them. As soon as I eat one my tongue swells, my throat closes and I begin to itch.”

“How about the magic kind?”

“Them too. The next day I’ll be scratching all over.”

I said, “Joy has the same problem with bananas and carrots.”

Mariah said. “I haven’t seen Joy today. Jake left some cards on her table with his probation officer’s telephone number. She was wondering if she should call and see what’s happening. I said, ‘If he left them it must mean that he wants you to call.’ The police were over one night at eleven o’clock and again the next morning trying to serve her, but she didn’t answer. It must have something to do with Jake. Maybe they want her to appear in court, but she hasn’t done anything.”

Little Jake said, “Everyone was trying to get it contact with Joy. Rodent called me, I called Jacques, he called Mariah. Nobody could get through because Jake had unplugged the phone.”

I asked, “Why wouldn’t Jake keep his appointments with his parole officer? He’d know that  by missing them, he’d be going back to jail.”

“Beats me. All he’d have to do is take the bus, it would drop him off right in front of the office. He’s done that before.”

I said, “Even if he’s having problems with his wheel chair, he could always call Para Transpo. They’d pick him up right at his door.”

Steve said, “I’ve got a really good dentist. She’s just over there in that big tall building.”

Mariah said, “Speaking of dentists. I have to make an appointment to see my dentist. He pulled my two fangs out. That was quite a job. They were in so deep he had his knee on my chest trying to pull them out. I think I’ve still got bruises. Now I’ve got to get a bridge to fill in the missing spaces.”

Steve said, “My dentist kept telling me to open my mouth wider.  I had it open so wide I could feel it cracking at the edges. It was bleeding. She wanted to pull my front teeth and give me a plate, but they aren’t hurting me, so I don’t want to have to have to deal with a plate.”

Alphonse walked away. Shakes said, “Sometimes I just have to get mean. I get tired of people asking me for cigarettes and never paying me back”

Jake said, “I can’t imagine you getting mean, Shakes.”

“Oh, I can get mean, if I have to.”

Gaston said, “I had to get mean last night. My neighbor upstairs had the music playing so loud that all I could hear was the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of the bass. I took a broom and pounded the ceiling. I said, ‘If I hear that music again, I’m coming in.’ He said, ‘You can’t come in here.’ ‘Just watch me!’ I said.  I’ve got a temper and I can handle myself. Yves, my bitch, is more physical, but I’ve put him in the corner. Oh, yes!”

Shakes took his sneaker off and was waving it in the air. A hoard of fruit flies started circling around his shoe, everybody laughed.

I said, “Shakes is the only one who can clear a room with just one shoe. Shakes, watch where you point that thing. You could hurt someone.”

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22 August 2013

Cooking Crack

Rain was pouring, pedestrians were scurrying under umbrellas trying to avoid collisions. Joy was sitting hunched on her box below the overhang of the office building.  She said, “Come back here, I’m dry.  Just watching the puddles and people being splashed by the cars.  There’s another one. The ones with the umbrellas are dangerous. Everybody’s cranky this morning; they’ve all got scowls on their faces, as if they’d never seen rain before. I’ve hardly made a thing.”

I asked, “Have you heard anything about Big Jake? Did you phone his parole officer?”

“Yeah, I phoned, but didn’t get much information. He said it was confidential. I don’t like that guy, Jake doesn’t either.”

“That’s what happens when people are given power. They love to lord it over everybody else. What will this mean for Jake?”

“He’s got a parole violation, so that’ll mean an extra three months added to the five left on his sentence.”

“What violation was he charged with? Was it missing appointments with his parole officer or drinking?”

“He violated the restraining order that said he couldn’t come anywhere near me. He stayed over one night. Someone knocked at the door. I didn’t know who it was, but I answered it. It was the cops. It wasn’t like it was eleven o’clock at night. I never would have answered then.”

“How did they know he was at your place?”

“Someone must have told them, but not that many people know where I live. I’m thinking it may have been Rodent. That’s where Jake stayed when he first got out. He probably said, “Check with Jake’s old lady.’

“Mariah said she saw Andre yesterday. She said he looked like shit, just skin and bones. He’s either contracted something from his new girlfriend, or he’s back on the crack. That stuff will really make you lose weight.

“Mariah asked Andre if everything was settled between him and me. He said, ‘Yeah, it’s all sorted.’ I said, ‘Bullshit, nothing’s sorted. It’s just like the last time I told you’. Then she said, ‘So, it’s okay if I pound the shit out of him, next time I see him?’ I said, ‘Yeah, fill your boots.’

“The crack you get on the street now is combined with all kinds of shit that you can get under the kitchen sink. Some mix it with ammonia, hydrochloric acid and acetone. I see  people with sores on their mouths, it eats their skin, some have even lost their lips.

“When I was cooking, people knew what they were getting, just straight shit.”

“You cooked your own crack? How do you do that?”

“It’s just  four to one, coke to baking soda, in a teaspoon. Add a tiny bit of water, to make it muddy, and run a lighter until it  until turns into rock.  I messed up the first time, but the guy I was with had an eight ball. He said, ‘Try again, you gotta learn some time.’ So I did, and it worked. That’s all there is to it.

“Hardly anybody uses straight cocaine anymore, unless they’re shooting it into their arms.”

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23 August 2013

Every Woman Loves a Harley

When walking up the sidewalk to the park the only person I saw was Richard, shirt off sunning himself. I thought he was alone, but when I rounded the curve I saw Mariah, Shakes and Chester.

Joy was the first to speak, “Dennis, I’m hammered, man. I’m not even sure I can stand up. I was just thinking about how I can fuck my neighbor’s weekend. He said he knows cops that can put me in prison. He’s just a fucking gardener, for Christ’s sake. I’ve been in prison before, for some really nasty shit, but that’s all behind me. Who does this guy think he is? Cops have checked my record, there’s no way they’re going to bring me back to Montreal for things I did there twenty years ago.

“I even talked to my family. They were glad to hear from me and glad to help. The only thing is, I’ll have to put up with my uncle’s crazy, witch, girlfriend. She spends a hundred bucks a month on black hair dye and she still ends up with a white stripe down the middle.

“Are you with me on this, Mariah? I wish we had your Harley right now. I had a Sportster in Montreal that my uncle rebuilt specially for me. Then I lent it to my sister. You know what happens when you’re going up a steep driveway and you gun the engine?”

“I know,” I said, “you go right over backwards. I’ve done it myself.”

“Ass over tea kettle!” agreed Mariah.

Joy said, “My uncle was really pissed off. He said, ‘I built that bike for you. Now you’re barred.’ That gave me the opportunity to beat the shit out of my sister. I enjoyed that, but I missed the bike.”

I said, “I used to ride a 650 Suzuki GL, but I always wanted a Harley.”

Mariah said, “I usually rode a Shadow, I had a Harley for a while, but that was way back. What you need to do is get someone to rebuild you a bike. They’re a lot better.”

“Like a knucklehead or shovelhead?” I asked.

“Yeah, they have great vibrations. Every woman loves a Harley!”

Loretta, Buck and his dog Dillinger came by. Dillinger licked my face as I sat on the sidewalk. Joy said, “I’ve fed that dog, given him treats, looked after him; he doesn’t give me kisses.”

I said to Loretta, “I see that you’re drinking coffee, or at least it looks like coffee.”

“It’s coffee. I’ve just passed my anniversary, eight months sober.”

“Congratulations, that is a great accomplishment. I’m so  proud of you.”

“Well, you saw me while I was drinking. I was a real mess.”

“I’ve been the same. Now is what counts.”

A plump, middle-aged woman stopped by. She asked, “Does anybody here know where I can buy some pot.”

Joy, nervously said “Yeah.”

“I’ve asked kids on the market, but they just laugh at me. I’m from the seventies, I just want something to mellow me out.”

Joy said, “You’d only get shit from them anyway.”

“How much can you sell me?”

“A gram.”

“What do you charge?”

“Ten.”

“If I want more can you hook me up with somebody.”

“Yeah.”

“Where can I meet you. Are you around here every day.”

“Most mornings until about one o’clock.”

“Okay, I’ll see you again.” She took her gram then walked away.

Mariah said, “I hate having to deal with strangers.”

Joy said, “Don’t worry, It’s my pot. You’re safe.”

Shakes said, “One time, in Montreal, a guy came by my place and asked to buy a gram. That was fine. Then he came again and wanted to buy forty grams. The third time he arrested me for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. I got ten years.”

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27 August 2013

Collins Bay

This morning was cloudy and muggy. It’s been raining off and on for the past few days.  As I got off the bus, Metro said, “Good morning, Dennis, she’s here today.”

Joy was sitting on her usual box, in her usual place. Her head was down, I could tell that things weren’t going well for her today.

“”Hi, Joy, how’s your day going?”

“Shitty! I’ve made a dollar, eighty-six so far. I don’t get my check until Thursday and I need some tampons. I’ve asked all my regular ladies. Nobody has any.  I’ve only got one left. I asked Mariah, but she’s on now and doesn’t have any extra.

“I’ve been avoiding her lately because she’s having problems with Charlie.

“I think I’m coming down with a cold or something. My throat is scratchy and I’m coughing up some grody stuff; but I’m still smoking.

“I went up to Mariah’s to borrow a tea bag.  I wanted a cup of tea with honey. She went on and on, Charlie this, Charlie that.  She said, ‘I have to do dishes four times a day because he never cleans up after himself.  I go through a loaf of bread every second day. He eats six eggs for breakfast, along with half a pound of bacon, home fries and toast.’ He’s a pig alright from rooter to tooter. He was working, but for some reason he isn’t any more, and he doesn’t do anything around the house. He just sits around. Occasionally, he’ll take the cat out, so that Mariah can clean and do dishes, just so he can mess up the place again. I said, ‘Throw the bum the fuck out! That’s what I’d do.’ ”

I asked, “Have you had any news from Big Jake?”

“Yeah, he wants me to go to court to drop the restraining order. I don’t know why I should do anything for him. He’s the reason I’m out here. He even wants to borrow money from me. He had two hundred dollars when he came out. He couldn’t have spent all of that, so soon…

“I’ve got his laptop, but I can’t get into it. He gave me the code, but It doesn’t work for me. I’m no good at computers. I’m going to have the internet cut off. No use paying for that…

“He’s going to Collins Bay.”

“So he’s not going to Millhaven?”

“He’ll be admitted at Millhaven, then be sent to Collins Bay, it’s medium security. He said, ‘I want to go to my mother prison, as if he’s a career criminal or something. Since they tore down P4W (Prison for Women in Kingston) I’d be out of luck if I wanted to go to my mother prison.

“The new prisons are a lot nicer. I have a girlfriend who is doing two years for armed robbery. They sent her to Kitchener. She sent photos to me — they have big rooms with TVs, computers  —  i t’s like Club Med. I can’t get over it.”

I asked, “Do you have reunions, like Class of ninety-two.”

“We should have, but I can’t think of anyone I’d want to see again…

“I’m surprised I haven’t seen Chester. He’s usually down here by now, doing his butt run. I haven’t seen Jacques either. It’s Tuesday, the Mission has their big breakfast today. He usually comes down for that.

“He’s got a girlfriend now.  I asked, ‘Are you feeding her?’ He jabbered on, ‘No, she brings her own food, her own wine, her own pot. She cooks my meals,  sleeps the night and is gone by morning.’ I said, ‘Sweet!  You got a keeper.’ She has a job doing auto body repair, works three days a week. Can you imagine what she looks like if she’s going out with Jacques? He’s no prize.”

I said, “I saw Craig yesterday. He was panning up past Silver’s spot. He’s not on his meds. When I walked up to him he said, ‘My fuckin’ father! I hope he dies of bone cancer!’ I offered him a card and he said, ‘What I want is change! I need four dollars to buy what I need, and I can’t get it!’ I said, ‘Sorry, Craig, I don’t have any change.’ When I left he said, ‘Cheapskate motherfucker! I’m so mad!’ He’s not going to get anywhere that way.”

Joy said, “When he was panning near me he’d sometimes yell at my ladies. Sometimes they’d say, ‘Be careful, he’s coming!’ I told him that he was chasing off my regulars and if he did it again I’d give him a shot in the head. He was okay around me after that.”

At noon the usual suspects were at the park: Joy, Debbie, Little Jake, Shakes, Chester, Alphonse and Andy. I hadn’t met Andy before.

Joy said, “He’s not really one of us anymore. He doesn’t live in Toronto, he has a job as a Security Guard, ugh.”

I asked, “Where do you live, Andy.”

“In Val-d’Or. I work as a Security Guard but I don’t arrest people. Usually when I say I’m going to call the cops they run away. Sometimes I have to get physical. I stare them down and say, ‘You really don’t want to do this.’ ”

Joy said “That scar down your face might intimidate a few people. You’re the first native I’ve seen for a long while who had a full set of teeth, and they’re white, just like mine.

Debbie said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there’s a murder of crows passing over head.”

Joy questioned, “A murder of crows?”

Andy said, “That’s the right word for a flock of crows  — a murder. Do you want to know where I learned that? The Simpson’s. I never thought I could actually learn something from the Simpson’s, but in the episode where Homer gets stoned on pot, Marge says to Homer, ‘Hmm… Homer, I’m very uncomfortable about having a gang of crows in our bedroom.’ Homer replies, ‘It’s a murder, honey. A group of crows is called a murder.’ ”

Debbie said, “It’s a good omen to see crows.”

Joy asked, “A good omen for who?”

“For anyone who is there to witness it.”

Joy said “When I was seventeen, that would be back in ’82, I was driving a brand new Honda.  I was going down O’Connor Drive. I came to a turn so I cranked the wheel, but it locked.  I drove straight into a house.  There was five thousand dollars damage to the house and ten thousand to the car. These scars on my shins are from, dashboard, dashboard, and this one below my knee is from a hatchet.”

I said, “Tell us about the hatchet.”

“It was an old boyfriend. When I told him I was leaving he said, ‘If I can’t have you, then nobody can, Stumpy. That took eighteen months to heal. At one point, they thought they might have to amputate my leg. He got his back though. He now has two fingers on his left hand and none on his right. That’s what happens when they’re pushed through the spokes of a Harley when the back wheel is spinning. Just like a meat grinder. I was forced to watch. I didn’t mind that so much, except I was sprayed with blood from head to foot. I wasn’t pleased about that”

I asked, “How are you, Shakes?”

“You know me, I’m always the same. If I ever change I’ll let you know. The happy hunting ground isn’t ready for me, they don’t want me down there, so you’re stuck with me.”

Joy said, “They don’t want me up there and they don’t want me down below for fear  I’ll start a union. I don’t think I’d like Purgatory after all the episodes I’ve watched of Paranormal.”

Debbie said, “My kids asked me what I want them to do with me after I die. I said, ‘Just take me to the deepest part of the forest and leave me there.’ My spirit won’t be in my body anyway, so it really doesn’t matter.”

Shakes was lounging on the grass as usual. He waved his feet in the air and said, “See, last night I stepped in dog shit.”

Joy said, “Please, Shakes, you’re disgusting.”

Alphonse said, “Did you hear that Shane died last week? He had a heart attack. He was only thirty-three years old.”

Shakes said, “He was drinking three bottles of rubby a day. I gave him shit for that. I said to him, ‘For all the money you spend on that friggin stuff, you could have bought a real bottle.’ That’s why I stick with my Jack.”

I said, “And Jake sticks with his Jake-anators.”

Joy said, “That’s too many that have died. Silver, Serge now Shane. Whose going to be next?”

Debbie asked, “Dennis, what do you think of my hair?”

“It looks really great, Debbie.”

“Little Jake did it for me this morning.”

“Jake, I didn’t know you were so talented.”

As I was leaving, I met Hippo. I asked, “How are you doing?”

“I’m just coming back from court. I gotta go back at one, thirty, to sign a Peace Bond.”

I asked, “Is this from the time at your apartment building, when you attacked the cop with a hammer?”

“Yeah, I’ve got restrictions: I can’t drink, use drugs or carry weapons, that includes hammers. I guess even a tooth pick could be considered a weapon.”

.

29 August 2013

As I approached Joy, she was hunched over some kind of smart phone. She was madly tapping the screen with her finger.

“This goddamn thing, it’s Big Jake’s,  I had music playing before, then I couldn’t turn it off. Finally I got it turned off; now I can’t turn it on.”

Two-four was crossing the street between cars. I asked, “Still dodging cars? Do you have another job yet?”

“I just finished installing a security system for someone in Oshawa. I get my old job back when Lou retires for the season. He doesn’t do winters. I’ll be at the corner of Queen and Sherbourne. I should see some of my regulars there.”

“Two-four,” I asked, “Do you know anything about these smart phones. Joy can get the radio turned on. She wants Q-107.”

“I don’t know about these Android phones, maybe you need to be near a WiFi station. Some of the restaurants nearby have them, even Tim Horton’s.”

“Thanks, Two-four, we’ll see you around.”

Joy said, I’ll just put this away. I’m no good with electronics. I’m going to have the internet cut off anyway. I still keep getting calls from Bell about an unpaid bill. I don’t know what that’s about.”

I said, “Maybe Jake, has his bills e-mailed to his laptop, and you can’t access that. Is the account in your name?’

“No, I asked the woman if Jake had listed anyone else on his account.  She checked and said that he was the only one listed. I said, ‘Then what are you calling me for? Fuck off!’

“I talked on the phone to Jake. He said to just send them a money order, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay his bills.  He should have arranged to have his O.D.S.P. check automatically deposited in his bank account. As it is it’ll be sitting on the table until he gets out in January. He could have had access to that seven hundred dollars right now. That’s his problem.”

“I’m so happy today, I’ve made eighty-six cents, but I’m still happy. A woman took me to breakfast at the Pizza Oven. I had a sausage sandwich with fruit on the side; two types of melon, blueberries and raspberries. She had Eggs Benedict with salmon. It was gross. I don’t know how anybody can take the smell of fish in the morning. She must have paid twenty bucks for that. I thought I was going to have to quit, half way through my sandwich, and put the rest in a doggy bag for later; but I finished. I feel great.”

I asked, “Did I miss anything after I left yesterday?”

“Oh yeah, Andre and his skank of a girlfriend came by. She’s a skinny Inuit with a face that looks like it’s been smashed with a frying pan. Andre came by me, but I just said to him, ‘Keep moving!’ Mariah saw me gritting my teeth and swearing under my breath. She  said, “Keep it under control, Joy.” She grabbed him and threw him in the gutter where he belongs.

“His girlfriend was wearing shades and I saw her gunning for me. I asked, ‘What is it with you? You got a problem with me or something?’ She said, ‘I don’t like the way you talked to my boyfriend.’ I said, ‘Has he done to you, yet what he did to me. Put out, or get put down is his motto. He split my head open, broke two of my ribs, fractured two others. I’m still having trouble with one of them. The headaches have finally stopped. Now, what do you think I should say to him.?’

I got up, walked over to her, grabbed her sunglasses, broke them in half and threw them over the railing. ‘Now,” I said, ‘look into my eyes when you talk to me.’ Mariah held me back and said, ‘This isn’t worth going to jail for.’ Otherwise, I would have decked her.”

Chester stopped by, Joy said, “You look buzzed.”

“I got some good pot. You want some?”

“No, I got my own. What are you doing later?”

“First, I’m going for breakfast, then I’m going home to see my girlfriend. She’s meeting me there.”

I said, “I have to leave now, but maybe I’ll see you both at the park around  noon.”

At noon I was greeted by Joy, Chester, Deaf Donald, Shark, Little Jake and Jack.

Joy said, “I’m really fucked up, man. I bin smokin’ Chester’s weed. It’s really heavy shit.  I can hardly talk. Chester, what do you call this stuff, it’s twice as good as we get from Buck?”

“It’s called Beyond Kush. It’s stronger than Kush. (Hydroponically grown,   Kush is a type of marijuana which originates from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the north western part of India. It’s cannabis from the Hindu Kush Mountain. It’s considered to be a higher version of marijuana.)”

“How much is it?”

“Ten for a gram.”

“What if I wanted to but seven grams?”

“Sixty.”

“Put me down for some.”

Chester said, “I should be able to get a prescription for this from my doctor. He’ll give it to me for pain.”

Joy said, “Last time I went to my doctor he gave me these pills. I asked him how much THC is in these.  He said, ‘Six to eight percent.’ I was taking twelve in the morning, eighteen at noon and twenty-five at night to help me sleep. I was really buzzed — a nice body high.

“That’s when I was in hospital for my kidneys. I remember the nurse saying, ‘Okay now, were going to put this tube in your urethra.  I asked, ‘My what?’ She said, ‘It’s your pee hole.’ They tried the smallest one, then worked their way up to the biggest one, I was still leaking. I had to wear diapers the whole time I was in there.  I changed my own — there’s no way I was going to have an orderly do that. The thing that pissed me off the most was, I was capable of using the commode, if they’d only left it near by.

“One time, I woke up and the bag was full. My kidneys were hurting, since the pee was backing up in the tube. Then the bag burst. Bruno, the orderly, came in and slipped on the wet floor. He said, ‘You’re supposed to call me when the bag needs to be emptied.’ I said, ‘Don’t lay this on me. You’re the one whose supposed to be in every few hours, to see if I’m still breathing.

“The next time I was in hospital, they threatened me with that tube. I just turned and walked away. I’d rather have the pain.”

“Dennis,” said Little Jake. “I was really singing your praises this morning. Remember that coffee card you gave me?  I used it today. I love my morning coffee, after a couple of sips I was able to hork up goobers the size of quarters. It sure felt good to get that stuff out of my system. Thanks, man.”

Donald handed Joy his phone. He said “I can’t hear her.”

Joy took the phone, “Shut up dickhead, I can’t hear her if you’re talking. She knows you’re hard of hearing. Donald asks if his check arrived in the mail. If it has, he’ll come by and see you… Okay, bye.”

She say’s it hasn’t arrived, and you’re not to go there.”

To me she said, “That was Donald’s mother. She used to be one of my regulars, she’d always drop me two bucks. One day Donald came up as I was talking to her. He was drunk, I said to her, ‘Is this man bothering you, ma’am?’ She said, “That’s my son.’ She hasn’t dropped any money since.

“Occasionally, I’ll see her. She’ll say, ‘If Donald comes around, don’t tell him that you’ve seen me.’

Donald and Joy carried on a conversation in sign language. Joy would punctuate her signing with a raised middle finger. Donald walked away and said, “Bitch.”

I could see Shakes, from a distance, slowly ambling his way towards the group. Joy said, “Okay, Shakes is coming, now we’ll know for sure if the checks came in the mail. Does he have a happy or a sad face?  — No checks today.”

Shakes sat on the grass beside me. “How is today going, Shakes.”

“Good, when I woke up this morning I saw that my flask from last night was still full, and Tommy bought me a bottle. He woke me at seven o’clock and asked me if I wanted a joint. Then he brought out my new chess board. I bet you didn’t know that I knew how to play chess. I learned when I was six years old. Playing chess is like playing the game of life.”

Joy said, “Tommy is a pompous asshole, and I know what a pompous asshole is. He acts all high and mighty. I asked him to do a wolf painting for me, he gave me one of an eagle. The same one I already have. He thinks that just because he paints, he’s better than everybody. Well I’m here to say, he isn’t, and I’ll tell him that to his face.”

Pay-day 

There was a party atmosphere at the park today since everybody had received their monthly check. Chester was passed out on the sidewalk. He was led away before it was reported it to the police.

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “Do you know what happened to me this morning?”

“No, tell me Shakes.”

“My workers picked me up to take me to my doctor’s appointment. I needed to have my blood test and some other things. When I got there, they handed the receptionist a photo copy of my health card. She said it had expired. I said to her , ‘You might as well say that I’ve expired.’ They wouldn’t take me. We went all that way for nothing. I don’t know what the problem was, they had my health number.”

I said, “You may have  past your best before date; but you haven’t expired. Your workers will make sure you get a new health card, won’t they?”

“Yes they will. This morning I was panning on Bank Street. A woman stopped and asked me if I’d like something to eat. I said, ‘Sure, but I have to make a stop on the way.’ I bought a bottle of Imperial at the liquor store, then we both went to Hartman’s. She bought me two frozen pizzas, two two-quart bottles of apple juice and some scalloped potatoes.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, he invited me over for supper and wouldn’t let me have any of the scalloped potatoes. The pizza was so friggin hot I had to take a swallow of beer with each bite. We watched videos, got stoned and drank beer. I live two buildings down from Shakes, about one hundred and fifty feet, still I managed to fall and bruise my arm.”

Shakes said, “Frank likes playing in the dirt.”

Frank said, “Last time I was taking a shower, I was leaning against the wall, looking down at the drain — the water was brown. I couldn’t believe it.”

“What movies did you watch?” I asked.

“What did we watch, Shakes? I can’t remember.”

“Gone in Sixty Seconds and True Lies.”

“That’s right. Shakes has a big collection, about fifty movies.”

“Yeah, I got a friend, I served time with about fifteen years ago. He’s got a used dvd and record store.  He always gives me good deals.

“I haven’t paid the bill for my telephone or my TV; but I got two friends that work for Bell. They’re going to hook me up.”

I asked, “How have you been Jake?”

“This abscessed tooth started bothering me,  a couple of days ago; but this morning it’s really swollen and painful.”

Shakes said, “I’m good at removing teeth, just lean in my direction.”

I asked, “Do you think a right hook would do the trick?”

Jake said, “I pulled this bottom one by myself. I tied some fishing line around the tooth, then tied the string to the door knob. I gave the door a kick and out popped the tooth. It flew straight up. I couldn’t find it until I looked in the garbage pail beside me — there it was. Isn’t that amazing? I couldn’t have done that if I’d tried.”

Raven had been here earlier, but she disappeared. Shakes asked, “Where’s Raven? Oh yeah, she’s down in the park with her crackhead. I meant to say granddaughter, but crackhead came out.”

Mariah came over, “It’s good to see you, Dennis. I don’t know where Joy is. I called her place, but there was no answer. She probably has her check now, so there will be people she has to pay back, and errands to run. We don’t expect to see her until next week, some time.”

“I heard that Andre came by yesterday and you took care of him.”

“Well he deserved it for what he did to Joy. He was with his new girlfriend and I didn’t like way he was treating her either. “I was talking to her for a while. I said, ‘Look, I don’t know you and I don’t have any beef against you, but if this guy ever gives you a hard time, just let me know. She was pretty quiet at first, but when Andre stepped away she said, ‘I’ve just had laser eye surgery and Andre keeps telling me to take off my sunglasses, but the sun really hurts my eyes.’ So I had a talk with him about that.  It seems every time I see him I’m either smacking him in the face or punching him in the belly. It started one time he was over at my place. He kept taking pictures of me with his phone. I said, ‘Don’t take my picture!’ He kept on doing it.  There are reasons that I don’t want my picture all over the place, so I let him have it. He was whimpering like a little kid, ‘You’re not going to hit me again are you?’ I said, ‘If you stop acting like a dickhead, I won’t have to.’ ”

Chili is still in her walker, I heard her mention that she was scheduled for an operation. She said,  “I’ve got osteomyelitis (infection of the bone, common to intravenous drug users).” In this case, injecting crack. “I’ve already had about a half-inch of bone loss. They’re treating me with antibiotics. If that clears it up the infection, they’ll schedule a hip replacement. That will probably happen in about four months.”

Jake said, “Shakes, hand her a drink will you. That’s the only way to shut her up, otherwise she’ll never stop talking.”

Before I left, Jake handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I asked, “What’s this for?”

“Just for safe keeping.  I’m sure to be broke before next pay-day, so you can give it back to me then.”

.

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