2013 – December


2 December 2013

Nice Shoes

“Good morning Chuck! Hi Goldie!” I bent down and she licked my nose. “How was your weekend?”

“In some ways it was okay, but in another way it was the shits. It’s something I can’t talk about.”

“That’s okay, Chuck. I don’t want to pry into your personal affairs.”

“No, I mean I can’t tell anybody, not for the next five months, anyway.”

“After five months, will things be better?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that sometimes I’d rather not be alive.”

“I’ve felt that way, Chuck. I’ve even attempted suicide.”

“I have to get my money problems in order. Then I can look after other things.”

“Do you have any plans for Christmas?”

“I don’t know. I suppose something will come up.

“I haven’t seen that crazy lady around. You know, the one who is always picking up trash. She hasn’t been around for a couple of months now. She’s so skinny anything could have happened.  I used to watch her. People would give her food. She didn’t trust any of it. One time a woman gave her a sandwich. She broke it into pieces and fed it to the pigeons. Another time someone gave her a meal in a box. She threw that in the trash. Occasionally, she’d ask me for a dollar or two to make a phone call. I don’t know what it costs to use a pay phone these days. Anyway, this happened a couple of times. The last time I gave her some money she bent down and kissed me. She said she wanted to marry me. Imagine that!” Chuck laughed. “I was quite flattered, actually.” It was good to see the change in his mood.

“Have you seen Joy, or heard about whether Big Jake is out of prison?”

“I only saw her the once, last week. I’m not sure I know this Jake — you say he’s in a wheel chair.”

“He wasn’t in a wheel chair before. He’s the one who beat Joy and has served three years in prison. He’s a big guy, about six feet four, probably about three hundred pounds. They used to call him Mountain. Since he’s been in prison, he’s developed arthritis and has to have his hip replaced.”

“I guess I was thinking about another guy. It was when I was with my wife and three kids. We heard an awful racket coming from the apartment next door. This big guy was kicking the shit out of his wife and eleven year old daughter. Can you imagine a grown man putting the boots to an eleven year old girl? It’s disgusting. He went to prison. The guys in there didn’t take kindly to some one beating a girl. They broke his legs. He hasn’t walked since. Serves him right.

“Did you hear about the guy who cut his dog’s ears off, so it would look more vicious.  He served six months. When he was inside,  a bunch of guys held him down and bit his ear off.

“I had a friend who worked for the prison system. One of the questions they asked him during his interview was, ‘If you saw two inmates making out, what would you do?’  My friend said, ‘Well, I’d wait for them to finish, then I’d ask to take my turn.’ He was just kidding. They knew that.”

I said, “I knew a person who worked in the prison system. They asked her opinion on capital punishment. She said, ‘I’m in favor, as long as it’s not too severe.’ They thought that was funny.”

“As far as capital punishment is concerned, I’m all in favor.”

I said, “As long as they convict the right person. There are a lot of people who’ve served time in prison, then are found to be innocent.”

Chuck said, “All this talk about DNA.  It’s accurate, as long as it’s fresh, but after fifteen years it can’t be relied on. I remember in the park, a few years back, a guy was attacked, and murdered,  just because they thought he was homosexual. Those guys that attacked him should have  had a rope put around their necks and hanged until dead.


4 December 2013


“Sorry I couldn’t talk the other day,” said Chuck. ” When Goldie has to go, she gives me a signal and we have to go. I take her about a block up and let her walk for a while. I’m going to leave here in a few minutes and let her walk again.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here this morning. The weather forecast was for minus nine and freezing rain. I even stayed up late last night, slept late this morning. Had my shower, shave and breakfast. The weather report said it would be sunny and plus one. I was down here about seven, thirty. Usually, I’m here at six when the coffee shop opens.

“I said, You can never trust the weather forecasts.”

“It’s just another case of them not doing their damned jobs. I’ve been having trouble with my bank and with Bell. Bell says I owe them money and I don’t. I’ve got my bank receipt and my statement to prove it. I was on the phone to Bell last night. My cell phone was paid, and the other is from the same account. Why wasn’t that paid.? The money came out of my account. They must have transferred it to somebody else. There was a new girl on. They fixed one mistake, but not the other. That’s not my problem.”

I said, “What if you were to send Bell copies of your bank receipt and statement?”

“I’m not going to do that. There’s too much personal information on those receipts. The bank wont help. They said they paid the money to Bell; that’s all they can do.

“If I get any more fuss from Bell, I’m going to take my cell phone and that black box from the satellite. I’m going to their office, break them apart and smash them on the floor. They can take me to court, but that’s going to cost them about two thousand dollars. I don’t care.

“Anyway, it looks like winter is settling in to stay. If I don’t see you before, have a merry Christmas.”

“You too, Chuck.”

23 November 2012

Joy was sitting with Shakes when I arrived.

She said, “Shakes is here to keep my spirits up. I’m sure glad you guys are here. Do you see the short guy with the orange vest across the street. He keeps staring at me. I see him taking bags of cement into the underground parking garage. I had to go to the bathroom and I asked him if he’d keep an eye on my stuff. When I came back there was a coffee, a cranberry explosion muffin and a breakfast sandwich on my box. I asked the guy where it came from. He just shrugged his shoulders. I gave the coffee and sandwich to Shakes, I’ll save the muffin for Jacques.”

“Shakes,” I said, “Joy tells me that you two have been friends for a long time.”

“Yeah, since she was thirteen or fourteen. I used to take care of her. I took care of other people too, ha,ha,ha.”

I said, “That would have been when you were in your prime fighting shape.”

“Yeah, I was in my prime then.”

Joy said, “Remember when we ran through Allan Gardens, chasing all the drug dealers away?”

“Yeah, I remember that, ha, ha, ha.”

I said, “I lived just a couple of blocks away, near Parliament and Carlton.”

“Dennis, I slept last night at the Bank of Nova Scotia kiosk, where they have the banking machines. I’d been sleeping when a friend, Pauly came in. He said, ‘Hi, Shakes.’ He did his business at the automated teller machine, he gave me two dollars then he left. I heard a beeping coming from the machine. He’d forgotten to take out his receipt and bank card. I ran after him but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I looked at the receipt, he had seven hundred and thirty-five dollars in his account. I’ve still got his card, so if I see him, I’ll give it back to him.”

I said, “You could turn in the card to the bank. They’ll make sure it gets back to him.”

Joy said, “Shakes’s hoping to get a reward.”

Shakes said, “Maybe he’ll buy me a bottle.

“You know, I may have been a thief sometimes, but I’m an honest thief.”

Joy laughed and said, “Shakes, you kill me. That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.”

“What’s an oxymoron?” asked Shakes.

Joy said, “It’s two words used together that have opposite meanings, like jumbo shrimp, alone together or honest thief. If you’re a thief you can’t be honest. If you’re honest you can’t be a thief.”

I asked Joy, “If you could have three wishes what would they be?”

“I’d like a house in the country, all to myself, close to nature. I’d like just enough money to get by, and I’d like to be healthy.”

I asked Shakes the same question. He said, “I’d just like to be me.” He gestured with his hands as if to say, All this is mine.

Joy said, “You are YOU, Shakes, or maybe there is a real you and an imaginary you. I don’t even want to think about that.”

One of Joy’s regulars stopped by and said, “How are you, Joy?”

“I’m great. Two weeks ago I got my own place.”

“That’s great. How do you like it?”

“I’ll like it better when I have furniture and heat.”

The woman asked, “You don’t have heat? Won’t they fix that for you?”

Joy said, “I asked twice, I don’t want to ask any more. First thing in the morning, I turn the oven to 500 degrees with the oven door open. Once the place warms up I turn it down to 150 degrees. It turns off automatically. I don’t pay for electricity. I’m on an air mattress now and the floor is cold, but once I get my bed I’ll be up where the heat is. Also, my worker is supposed to bring me a space heater.”

The woman said, “Just make sure you don’t fall asleep with the oven on. That could be dangerous.”

Joy replied, “I always turn it off when I go to bed, or if I’m going out for a while.”


6 December 2013

Joy Still In Hospital 

I was late this morning, overslept. As I got off the bus I saw  Metro. He said,   “I haven’t seen her for a while. I wonder if she’s sick.”

“She’s been in hospital. I don’t know if she’s back in or not.”

“If you see her, send her my regards.”

“I will, Metro. Have a good weekend.”

There was a man standing in Joy’s spot. I said, “Good morning.”

“You’re the guy aren’t you? You said good morning to me yesterday, but I don’t think you recognized me. You’re the guy, who sits with Joy most mornings, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I didn’t recognize you. What’s your name?”

“It’s Ghyslaine! We’ve met before.”

“Yes, now I remember. How are you?”

“I can’t complain. I haven’t seen Joy for a few weeks.”

“She had been in hospital, but I haven’t seen her for a while, neither has Chuck, on the corner. Big Jake was supposed to get out of prison last Tuesday. I don’t know if he was released, or if his parole was revoked.”

“He’s bad news for Joy.  I don’t know why she keeps getting back with him.”

“He’s in a wheelchair now,  so she thinks she can handle him.”

“In a wheelchair? Maybe he’s not so arrogant now. Used to be he was arrogant to everybody. I didn’t like him for what he did to Joy.”

“I’d better get to work, but it’s great seeing you Ghyslain.”

On the corner I met Chuck and Sandy. “You’re late!” he said.

“I know, I overslept.” I bent down. Goldie just sniffed me this time.

“Do you know who won the game last night between the Leafs and Montreal? I haven’t even heard the score.”

“Sorry, Chuck. I didn’t see it. I have to go.”

“Could you just take this bag and hook it onto the handles of my chair, at the back?” Chuck seemed to have received more gifts than he could handle.”


27 November 2012

There was a crowd at the traffic island. The first person to greet me was Jacques, “Have you any news?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I visited Joy last night at the hospital.”

“How she?” asked André.”

I replied, “She is in a lot of pain from her fibromyalgia. The pain was previously just in her legs, but now it has moved into her back and neck. She was first given an injection of delaudid. She threw up, but felt better later. Then they started giving it to her in pill form and it just made her nauseous. She’s hoping to get morphine, but in that case she’ll need Gravol.”

“She’ll get a good buzz from that,” said Jacques. “This is the third time in hospital for her this year. That’s not good. I don’t know how much time she has left.”

André said, “That’s a wake up call from the Man upstairs. She has to quit drinking altogether.”

I said, “At least she has her own place now.”

Jacques said, “Yes, that’s good, but you can’t stay all by yourself, all the time. I can’t. She’ll want to come down and talk to her friends sometimes, even when it’s cold out.”

Timmy said, “I saw my workers this morning. I’ve been leaving messages. This morning I decided to go to the office and they were there. They’re going to look at a place for me in Cabbagetown. If it looks alright they’ll show it to me tomorrow. They have to check it out first, to see if it’s livable. I don’t mind Cabbagetown, I grew up in a worse place than that. Do you know Lachine?”

I said, “No.”

“I’ve got to get off the street. I’m losing my patience with people in Toronto, they way they treat us. One day, I’m just going to flip out. I’ll need Valium just to pan.

“I have some skills, I’m a specialized gas fitter, but there’s not much work in that field. I’m a welder, but I don’t have my ticket. They offer a seven month course in welding at Seneca, that I might qualify for. It costs about five thousand dollars. The government will cover one time re-training. It’s sort of like a student loan.

“It’s a vicious cycle living in shelters. In order to get a job they want me to have an address where I can receive mail and phone calls. If I’m living at a shelter it’s sometimes difficult to get any sleep, so I’d either miss work, or be so tired that I’d get fired. In order to get an apartment, they want me to have a job. I can’t win.”

I asked, “How long have you been on the streets, Timmy?”

“For a while, in Montreal, then Vancouver, but I really can’t count Vancouver, because I was working there.”

I said, “You’ll never freeze to death in Vancouver, but it costs a lot to live, doesn’t it?”

“It depends on how you live. I had a bachelor apartment with an adjoining bathroom. They call it a Jack and Jill. I didn’t mind. I just had to make sure that when I went to the bathroom I locked both doors. It cost me four hundred a month.”

I asked André, “How was your day after I saw you at noon.”

“It was cold. I tried panning in a few places, but there was nobody out.”

Jacques said, “I talked to Mariah, she’s coming down here tomorrow. She will bring Joy’s keys, or some of her stuff. We’ll work it out.”


I went to the East General Hospital tonight. All the information desks were closed. I asked two paramedics if they knew where the Acute Recovery Area was. They’d never heard of it. One said, “They keep changing the names around here. “I showed the paper where I’d written the room number — 505. “Take the main elevator in the old section and go to the fifth floor, maybe someone there can direct you.”

I went to the fifth floor and asked a nurse (or an orderly — someone in scrubs) where the Acute Recovery Area was. He said, “Go straight down the hall until where you can see the single door open. Turn left, pick up the telephone receiver and tell them the name of the patient you’re here to see.”

I managed that. Looked around, couldn’t find a bed or room number. A voice behind me asked, “Sir, can I help you?”

I answered, “I’m looking for bed number 105.”

“Right here, sir,” said a nurse with blond wavy hair in the style of Madonna or Lady Gaga.

Joy said, “I saw you go past my bed. I tried to call to you, but I’ve lost my voice. I’m susceptible to pneumonia and this is the way it usually starts.”

“I could tell right away that Joy was feeling better. The pained look was off her face. She said, “I wasn’t expecting you to come tonight.”

“I said I’d be back.”

“I know, but I thought you meant later in the week. Now they have me on Dilaudid and Morphine. My skin is really itchy, I can’t help scratching. It’s a good thing I don’t have long fingernails or I’d be cut to shreds. I’m also on Heparin so my blood doesn’t clot. I talked to my doctor about getting back on Seroquel. He said, ‘Why do you think you need Seroquel?’ I said, ‘My mind feels like its traveling a hundred miles an hour in a ten-mile an hour zone. Can you wrap your head around that?’ He said, ‘Yes, we’ll put you on Seroquel.’ I can now look forward to a good nights sleep. They don’t give it to me until ten o’clock. I don’t know why they wait until ten o’clock. Where I was before they gave out all the meds at nine.

I heard a banging sound on the other side of the curtain. Joy said, “Sometimes I think that woman is possessed. She makes the strangest sounds.” Soon, I heard a wailing noise, ‘Piro, Piro!’

“It wouldn’t be so bad if she spoke English, but I have no idea what she’s saying. She was at the other end of the ward. I don’t know why they put her beside me. Sometimes I feel like strangling her, or holding a pillow over her face. The nurses also lose patience with her, especially the blond one.”

I asked, “Do you have ear plugs with you?”

“No, but the dark-haired nurse said she’d get me some. I’m going to need them. Now that they ‘ve got me hooked up to all these wires and tubes I can’t go anywhere. When I was just on the intravenous, I could get into my wheel chair and pull the intravenous stuff along with me. I was told not to leave the area, but I slipped past them five times already. I needed to have a smoke and I wanted to go to Tim Horton’s for a decent cup of tea. The last time it was security guards that brought me back. They asked, ‘Are you Joy?’ I said, ‘Who wants to know?’ They said, there’s a nurse up on the fifth floor who thinks you may have gone AWOL.’

“The nurse made me a cup of tea. It tasted like garbage. I asked her, ‘What did you do to destroy this tea?’ I couldn’t drink it. I left it on the table and asked Al to dump it when he came in. They asked me if I wanted a nicotine patch. I said, ‘I had one of those the last time I was in. I was throwing up for three days.’ She asked, ‘Do you want to try a Nicorette Inhaler?’ I said, ‘I’ll try it.’ All it does is give me a sore throat.

“Good news is, I was able to eat a piece of toast, mind you it was after taking Gravol. When they brought in this heart rate and blood pressure monitor I thought I was getting a TV. At least I have something to look at as the numbers go up and down. It’s good now, 127 over 113. It had gone as high as 180. They were worried that I might have a stroke.”

I asked, “Have you had high blood pressure before?”

“Yeah, when my oldest son was born. I’ve always know I had high blood pressure, but it didn’t bother me.”

I said, “I notice that you have a phone now.”

“Yeah, I tried phoning Jacques, but all I got is his voice mail. He’s probably drunk by now. I’ll call him tomorrow.”

I said, “André told me that your workers know you’re in hospital.”

“Yeah, they’re going to visit me sometime. My check should be coming tomorrow. I have to find someone to bring it to me, then find a way to get to Money Mart.”

I noticed that Joy had difficulty even lifting a paper cup full of tea. She said, “The nurses told me to ask for help going to the commode, but I told them, “It’s only two feet. I can manage that. I don’t like that thing. I’d rather go to the washroom, but I’m too wired up. Earlier, when I snuck away, I just pulled out the intravenous needles, but I got shit for that. The nurse said, ‘We have enough trouble getting blood as it is. Every time you pull the needle out we have to flush the vein.’

The blond nurse came in to take a blood sample, but was unsuccessful. She flushed the vein, still no luck. “We’ll try to find another vein. It’s not going to be easy. She tried three or four times with Joy saying, ‘ouch’ and ‘oh, that hurts’ each time.

Joy said, “I’m a real wuss when it comes to needles. I always have been.”

I asked, “Is all this due to your fibromyalgia?”

“It’s caused by a combination of factors, lack of exercise, poor diet and drinking. I’m guilty on all three counts.”

It was approaching nine o’clock, the end of visiting hour, so I said, “Good-bye. I’ll try to get back, later in the week.”


10 December 2013

Pee Like a Chick! 

Snow was blowing, my face was covered by a scarf. Blizzards had been reported in the out-lying areas. Joy was  wrapped like a mummy, with only her eyes showing. She pulled down her scarf and said, “Hi Sunshine, did ya miss me?”

“Of course I did. How have you been feeling?”

“I’m okay. Jake got out on Monday instead of on the second. He’s got his electric wheelchair, so he’s zipping around all over. He’s got a new parole officer. He doesn’t like her, but who ever likes their parole officers?”

“Yeah,” I said, “it’s not as if they’ve won a personality contest.”

“He’s got to meet with her at nine. He’ll be coming down here.”

I asked, so how has it been with him back?”

“Lousy, sometimes he’ll come in at three-thirty in the morning. He came at eight yesterday morning. I said to him, ‘You got to quit doing this. I’ve got a life.  I’ve got things to do.’ He comes in, eats, then wants to go to sleep. I told him, ‘This ain’t no flop-house. Come over when you’re ready to stay awake.’

“He doesn’t pick up after himself. I had the place all scrubbed. I walked into the bathroom and there’s a puddle in front of the toilet. I mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Maybe the toilet’s leaking.’ I said, ‘Jake, the puddle is yellow. It’s not the toilet that’s leaking. if you can’t hit the bowl, you’ll just have to sit and pee like a chick.’ So he does. Hell, I can stand up and pee into a toilet.  He’s got the proper equipment; I don’t see why it should be difficult for him. He said, ‘I’ve only been here a few days and already you’re nagging at me.’ I said, pick up after yourself, do your share and we won’t have a problem.

“Here he comes now. See the size of him?”

I turned and saw a huge bearded man in a wheelchair.  “Hi,” I said, “you must be Jake. I’m Dennis.”

“Hi, Dennis, I’ve heard a lot about you.” We shook hands.

Joy said to Jake, “I’m glad you’re here. I have to go for a pee.”

I said, “I should head to work. I’ll see you, Joy, Jake.” We shook hands.


12 December 2013

You Piece of Shit!

I saw Ghyslain, standing in Joy’s spot. “Hi, man, it’s cold this morning,  minus twenty-three (minus ten degrees Fahrenheit). There’s no wind, but it’s too cold to sleep outside. I tried it until two this morning, then I had to go into Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I have a warm winter coat, a winter sleeping bag, but it’s still too cold.”

I asked him, “Are there still people sleeping behind Tim Horton’s, or Starbucks?”

“Yeah, my friend Gilles. He sleeps just down the block, behind Tim Horton’s. Last night I went back there to check on him. He was drunk. I said ‘Hey, man, get up, you’re going to freeze!’ He said, ‘Don’t give me that bullshit.’ I said, ‘It’s no bullshit, get up, have a coffee, get warm. He said, ‘I don’t have money for a coffee.’ I said, ‘I’ll buy you a coffee.’ So, I bought him a coffee. We sat inside there, holding our coffee cups to warm our hands. Then went to someplace else.

I asked, “Do you sometimes go to the Mission, or the Salvation Army?”

“Yeah, I did that Monday, but too many bed bugs. They’re everywhere.  I had to throw away all my stuff. I’m not going back there, ever.”

“I was sleeping behind the Legislative Buildings a couple of nights ago. There was this nice little doorway where I could get out of the wind.  A guy came out to have a smoke.  He said to me, ‘Move along, you piece of shit!’ He said it in French, because I’m French. I said, ‘Don’t you call me a piece of shit. You’ve got no authority. Who owns this building? I want to speak to the owner.’ It’s our own Legislative Buildings, we should have some rights there. Anyway, I moved on.”

I asked, “Is there any chance that you may get a place of your own?”

“Yeah, January ninth. I was talking to my worker. She said I could have a place near Hunt Club, but that’s too far away. I have to get downtown to the Mission to have my meals. I have to see my worker. She thinks that she can find me something on Queen. That’ll be better.”

I said, “I guess it would be good if you were able to get a bus pass. That would help.”

“Yesterday, I was standing right here. A pedestrian was talking to a cab driver. He was telling him to park someplace else. The cab driver asked him, ‘Do you know how much I pay for a licence to park here?’ I guess the guy called the cops, because a cruiser pulled up. The cop talked to the pedestrian first. He said, ‘This driver pays fifteen thousand dollars for a cab licence. I’m not going to hassle him just because he’s beyond the taxi stand markings.’ Then he talked to the cab driver. He said, ‘I’m just going to write this up as a warning. You don’t have to pay it.’

“Have you seen Joy lately?”

I said, “Yeah, I saw her with Frank on Monday. He had to see his parole officer. She hasn’t been back since.”

Ghyslain said, “I saw Chuck on the corner, one day. I think it was yesterday. I also saw him with one of his sons in the Eaton Center.”

I said, “I know one of his sons, Chuck Junior. Joy calls him Roly Poly. He has another, but I’ve never met him.”

“It’s too cold to stand here any longer. I’m going in to get a coffee and to get warm.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Ghyslain.”

“See you, man.”


13 December 2013


This morning was painfully cold, minus fifteen degrees (five degrees Fahrenheit), and with the windchill it felt like minus twenty-five (minus thirteen degrees F.). I had a scarf wrapped around my face, but the wind against my forehead was a searing burn, near to being unbearable. Seeing my friend from yesterday was a surprise.

“Hello, my friend. It’s a cold one isn’t it?”

“Hi, your name is Ghyslain, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“I have a hard time remembering names. Even people I’ve known for five years; I forget their names. Where did you sleep last night?

“I slept inside.”

“Were you at the Mission or the Salvation Army…”

“Salvation Army. It’s really dirty there.”

“Were you bothered by bed bugs?”

“I didn’t ask for a bed, they’re on the second floor. I just asked for a mat. I slept in the basement.”

“Are there no bed bugs in the mats?”

“I cleaned it with alcohol before I put my sleeping bag down.”

“Jacques used to bring bed bug spray with him, whenever he slept in any of the shelters.”

“Yeah, alcohol does the same.”

“Do the mats have plastic covers?”

“Yeah, I just took a rag, poured alcohol on it and wiped the mat.”

“How long have you been on the streets? How many years?”

“Twenty. I started in 1995.”

“What was it that caused you to be on the streets?”

“I had an addiction problem since I was twenty-five. When you’re addicted you end up on the street. I used to live in Quebec, but I owe money there, so I moved here.”

“Do you get any pensions, or street allowance?”

“I get the GST (Goods and Services Tax) Rebate and some others. In January I’ll be getting Welfare. My worker has set up the papers for me.

“After twenty years on the street, they want to see you housed. She wants me to live at Hunt Club, but that’s too far. I need to be downtown.”

“Little Jake, Shakes and I live in Cabbagetown. Shark and Irene used to live there. It takes us fifteen minutes to get downtown on the 501.”

“I gotta get out of this cold. Thanks, man. Maybe I’ll see you next week.” He packed his belongings into a duffel bag and headed off towards the coffee shop.


16 December 2013

Under the Bus

Last night was the coldest we’ve had this winter minus twenty-eight degrees Celsius (minus nineteen degrees Fahrenheit).  I didn’t see Ghyslain, but his duffel bag was in his usual spot. I thought he must be nearby, so I waited. After a few minutes, I saw him coming out of Tim Horton’s. He waved to me.

“Man, it’s a cold one, especially with the wind. I can only stay out about fifteen minutes at a time.”

I said, “So, I guess you slept at the Salvation Army last night.”

“No, I slept outside. See that building on the corner. There’s a parking lot behind that. I slept at the far end.”

“I don’t know how you managed,” I said. “I’ve slept outdoors when it was plus nine degrees. I shivered all night.”

“It wasn’t so bad. I have a warm sleeping bag. It was just the wind, especially at around three thirty. I think that was the coldest part of the morning.”

I asked, “When you sleep at the Salvation Army, do they wake you up very early?”

“Yeah, around seven.”

“So, how was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. There aren’t many people downtown, they’re all at the malls.”

I had to get to work, so I said, “Goodbye, Ghyslain, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, maybe. Joy might be here tomorrow. I don’t know.”


17 December 2013

This morning was the coldest yet. Numbers don’t give an accurate indication, but exposed skin freezes in ten minutes. Both Joy and Ghyslain were out today. Joy was sitting on a box wearing an army parka, scarf over her face, drinking a large cup of tea.  Ghyslain was standing, as usual.

“Hi, Joy, it’s good to see you. How are things going with Big Jake?”

“He’s starting to piss me off. He doesn’t get up until nine o’clock. I’m going to have to be out here every day until Christmas to get some money.”

“How are you doing, Ghyslain? Did you sleep outside again last night?”

“Yeah, same place. I went to sleep about seven o’clock. At two-thirty I was freezing, so I went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I stayed there until I was warm.

” Went to the Mission for lunch today. You know how they have the surveillance cameras and the guards posted at the door. They stopped this one guy, lifted up the back of his shirt. He was covered in bed bug bites. They wouldn’t let him in. I don’t know why they stopped him from coming in. It’s not his fault.

“Saturday, I go to Rimouski, to visit my brother and sister. I contacted Share Your Ride — have you ever heard of them? I got a good price. To go by bus costs a hundred and fifty bucks. It’ll be good to see my family.”

Joy was cold and had to leave. I walked with Ghyslain to the corner. He wanted to get a newspaper, probably for warmth.

I said, “I didn’t have much chance to talk to Joy. Do you know how she and Jake are getting along?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I don’t trust that guy.  I never have. Maybe he’s okay, but I don’t trust him.”


18 December 2013


Joy was huddled on her box, newspapers under her feet. She waved at me from halfway down the block.

“Am I ever glad to see you. I have to pee. I haven’t gone since I got here. I’m nearly busting.  There  was such a lineup I didn’t figure I could get through. It seems okay now. I’ll be right back.”

Ghyslain arrived with two large steaming, paper cups. “Where’s Joy?”

“She’s just gone to pee. She’ll be right back.”

“I got tea for her, just the way she likes it.”

“How was your night?”

“Not bad. It wasn’t as cold as the night before.” I handed him a Tim Horton’s card.

“Thanks, Dennis, I’ll hang on to this. I’ve still got two in my pocket, one you gave me yesterday, so I’m good. Don’t give me one tomorrow. A guy yesterday gave me a card. He said he’d put fifty dollars on it. I took it, said thanks. I didn’t believe him; I hadn’t seen him before, but I bought my coffee and it showed there was still forty-eight dollars on it. You never know.”

Joy returned, all smiles. Ghyslain handed her one of the cups.

“I got you a coffee… No, I’m just kidding. I know you don’t like coffee. I got you a tea. There’s cream and sugar in the bag.”

A woman stopped and gave Joy a bag. The woman left. Joy said, “I wish people wouldn’t give me food. One woman asked me if I’d like a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I just told her, ‘No.’ This looks like a muffin. I don’t know what kind it is. Half of the stuff I don’t like, especially granola bars.”

Ghyslain said, “Yeah, I can’t eat granola bars. Yesterday a woman was looking my way as she walked towards me.  She was also digging in her purse, so I thought she would give me something. Do you know what she gave me? … a peppermint. It’s thirty-five below and she gives me a peppermint.

“I see Chuck staring at me. I don’t know what he’s got against me, but some of the things he says piss me off. He told one woman not to give me money because  I smoked crack. You know me, I don’t smoke crack. Why would he say that about me. We’re all the same…”

Joy said, “He used to say things about me… before I straightened him out.”

“Here comes the old man. He’s got a doctor’s appointment today.”

Big Jake wheeled towards us. It was getting crowded so I said, “I’d better be getting to work.” I shook hands all around and walked away towards Chuck.

“Hi Chuck, how are you doing?”

“I’m here, that’s about all I can say. I don’t think I’ll be here tomorrow.  My nerves are shot. I’m not very good company when I get this way. Actually, this is the way I usually am.”

“I have to go to work, Chuck, but I hope you feel better soon.”


19 December 2013


A crowd of people surrounded Joy. One of her regulars was standing beside her, as was Ghyslain. Big Jake was in front of her in his electric wheelchair.

Another woman stopped and said, “Hi, Joy,  if I don’t see you before Christmas, here’s something for you.” It was a folded twenty-dollar bill.

“Oh, thanks!”

Joy handed me an envelope. It was a Christmas card that read:  ‘Wishing you all the peace and beauty the Christmas Season Brings.’ In a neatly hand-written message below was, ‘Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Thank you for everything. ~ Joy’.

“Hi, man,” said Ghyslain, are you working tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be working tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday and Friday.”

“You’ll get off early on the twenty-fourth, won’t you?”

“Not as far as I know. They may let us leave early if there’s no work coming in. I’ll have to wait and see.

“You must be looking forward to seeing your brother and sister in Rimouski.”

“Yeah, I have a mother there as well. She’s eighty-nine, lives in a nursing home and has Alzheimer’s. She won’t recognize me, but it’s for her that I’m going. This will be her last Christmas.  She broke a rib recently, so they put her in hospital. The doctor says she may only have two, maybe three months left. It’s sad, but they have her on morphine, she has no pain.”

Big Jake came over to talk to Ghyslain, so I took the opportunity to say a few words to Joy. “How did yesterday go?”

“It was okay, quiet. I bought some groceries, so we ate well. I cooked a chicken.”

“How did Jake’s appointment with the doctor go? Does he have a date for his hip replacement?”

“I don’t know, we didn’t get into that. He came down this morning because he has an appointment with his parole officer.

“As soon as Butthead leaves, I’m going home to get some peace and quiet. I guess I shouldn’t call him that at this time of year, but I can be an asshole at Christmas as well as any other time. He’s used to it.”


20 December 2013


Snow was blowing horizontally, cutting into my face. I used my umbrella to keep dry and to aid visibility. Ghyslain was in his usual spot. Snow had piled on the hood of his parka and on his shoulders. I crossed the street to talk with him.

“How is it going today, Ghyslain?”

“It’s okay, not as cold as yesterday. Last night at about eleven it rained for  a while. At about three it turned to snow.

“I heard that Shakes was nearly run over by a car. He was walking across Parliament.  Some drive really fast there. Anyway,  he stepped off the curb and a car came screeching to a stop. He just kept shuffling along. Maybe he was high.  I don’t know.”

“That’s the second time I’ve heard of that happening. This summer, on Jarvis, he was hit by a car.

“I guess Joy decided not to come down.”

“I didn’t think she’d be here. The weather is too miserable for her. I hope we don’t get too much snow tonight. They’re predicting five to ten centimeters (two to four inches) Saturday and Sunday. They’ve posted a  Storm Watch, they say ‘Freezing rain and heavy snow could result in dangerous driving across Ontario this weekend.’ I hope it’s okay for taking the bus tomorrow.  It’s a lot colder in Rimouski.”

“You leave tomorrow, don’t you?”

“Yeah, tomorrow afternoon. I take a bus to Montreal, then to Quebec City, then to Rimouski, three buses. My brother will pick me up at the bus depot. I have an appointment here on January ninth, so I’ll be back for that.”

“Would you like a sandwich or coffee?”

“No,  I’m good, man. Have a merry Christmas!”

“You too, Ghyslain. I’ll see you when you get back in January.”


17 December 2012

This morning, on the Queen bus, I met Ian. He’s now clean-shaven with short hair. We haven’t seen each other since the summer.

“How’ve you been Ian?”

“Okay, I’ve been staying at Seaton House for the past few months. I’ve been trying to get in there for five years. Finally my name got to the top of the list. Both me and my friend, Guy started at the same time, so that’s good. I’m in a no smoking building now. I’m trying to transfer to a building where they allow you to smoke in your room.

“They’ve got me on a program where I get an ounce of wine every hour. I’m not allowed to drink anyplace else.

“I went to court and the best my lawyer could do for me was six months probation and sixty hours community service. Also I’m not allowed to be anywhere near where they serve, or sell, alcohol. Right now I heading to a meeting with my probation officer.


  1. The longest article I’ve ever read, since it’s interesting i finished it. It’s like chatting diary, everybody love Joy is it, since everybody ask her since the first conversation ever made. Thank’s for sharing this Dennis, make my heart stay to read.


  2. I Follow. The Angel Hunts


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.