2013 – July

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3 July 2013

Moose Piss

There was a small group at the park,  sitting in a circle. I sat between Lucy In The Sky and Shakes.

Lucy said, “Dennis, you’re sitting in my spot. Would you move please?

“Sure,” I said, “Where would you like me to move?”

“Anywhere! You’re sitting in my spot.”

“I’ll sit beside Chester.”

“Chester said, “Hi Dennis, did you have a good Canada Day?”

“Yes I did.”

Lucy asked, “Did you get drunk?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Why the fuck not?” asked Lucy.

“What do you mean, not exactly?” asked Gene. “Either you got drunk, or you didn’t.  How do you get not exactly drunk?”

I said, “I was drinking non-alcoholic beer.”

“Ooo!” said Gene while making a sour face. “Why would anybody drink non-alcoholic beer? That defeats the whole purpose. That’s like fucking one of those blow up dolls. That’s what it’s like, one of those fucking blow up dolls. Why would you do that?”

I said, “It keeps me from doing a face plant on the floor, or whatever else is near.”

“I guess that’s a good reason. I’ve done that enough times.”

Keith said, “One thing about those dolls, they don’t grab your wallet out of your back pocket. And they don’t give you shit all the time.

“I broke my nose just last week. My old lady bought me a used bike. I was riding just down here. The whole front of the bike came off. I was knocked out on the grass. Somebody phoned the paramedics. All they did was give me a wet towel to hold over my nose, then they took me to emergency. I waited there for eight hours. One of the paramedics said, ‘Just hold each side of your nose and push upwards. That’s all the doctors are going to do.’  I tried it. I heard a lot of crunching, but I think it’s as straight as it’s going to get. Whadya think?

“It looks good, Keith.”

“Then I had to phone my old lady to leave work and pick me up. She wasn’t too pleased about that.

“Do remember Duane?…  Sharon and Duane?… He’s back inside. They had that brand new apartment. He threw a chair through the window. They got him on a domestic. You know all about that, eh Gene?”

“Yeah I know about that. I did eighteen months.”

“That Sharon, she’s a tough broad,” said Keith. Danny was playing his guitar down on Sparks Street and she asked him to play that Willie Nelson Song, Stardust. Then she asked him to play it again. He did. Then she asked him a third time. He said, ‘No, I  played that enough. I wanna play somethin’ different.’ Sharon kicked his guitar… kicked a hole clear through… I was able to fix it though… I brought it to him this morning. 

Shakes said to me, “Lucy stayed at my place last night. I told her she’d be safe there.”

I said, “It must be a nice change to be able to lock your door at night, instead of sleeping in the park and getting your stuff stolen.”

“Yeah, it’s nice. I been here Saturday, Sunday, Monday, that was Canada Day. I was here Tuesday and now it’s Wednesday…right?”

“Yeah, it’s Wednesday.”

Lucy asked, “Can I please have a cigarette?…Will somebody please give me a fuckin’ cigarette?…Shakes, give me a smoke… If you don’t give me one I’ll go through your pockets until I find one.” She climbed on Matches who was lying, propped up on one elbow. Going through his pockets she didn’t find any cigarettes. “Somebody give me a hand to pull him. He’s probably sitting on those damn smokes. Help me, God damn it!” Lucy had pulled Matches about four feet.

“Hey! ” said Gene, “you’re pulling his pants off.”

I said, “Shakes just wants to have his pockets searched by Lucy. Isn’t that right, Shakes?”

Lucy climbed on top of him again. All the time Shakes was laughing. She reached into the inside pocket of his leather jacket.”

“Hey, whadya doin?” Matches now seemed concerned. Lucy pulled a flattened pack of Players cigarettes out of his pocket and put one in her mouth.

“Now, who’s got a fuckin’ light?”

Keith handed her his lighter and she sat back down on the grass to enjoy her cigarette.

After all the excitement Shakes’ eyes started drooping.

I asked, “Are you getting there, Shakes, or are you done?”

“I’m okay, but I’d like a drink. Dennis, would you go to the liquor store and buy me a bottle?”

“Sorry, Matches, I have to get back to work.”

After finishing her cigarette, Lucy lay back and fell asleep.

Keith said, “He can really put it back, can’t he?”

Gene said, “I’ve drunk him under the table. He likes his Imperial sherry mixed with Jack Daniels. Do you know what that tastes like?…Moose piss, that’s what it tastes like… Moose piss.

I said, “I don’t think I’d like to get that close to a moose to find out.”

Cheap Trick 

On the bus home I saw a familiar face. “Hi, Jake, I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Yeah, I haven’t been down to the park. I’ve been staying at Debbie’s place. The other morning I was walking the neighbor’s four-year old, black lab. I’d never walked him before. He was on a leash but, he just took off. I ended up on my ass, I scraped my arm and tore something in my shoulder. I can barely lift my arm now.”

I said, “I suffered something similar when I was hit by a car. They called it a torn rotator cuff. It took about a month of physiotherapy before I was able to raise my arm, and months before I had full use of it.”

“The worst thing is trying to sleep. I always seem to roll over on that side and the pain wakes me up. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in days.

“I haven’t been drinking all week.”

I said, “That’s a good thing. What made you decide to stop drinking?”

“It’s staying with Debbie. She’s a heavy drinker. If we’re both drunk, it’s like oil and water; they don’t mix. I figured if I wanted to stay there, the only thing to do was to stop drinking.”

I said, “I was at the park at noon, so was Shakes, Lucy, Little Chester, Gene and a guy named Keith. Do you know him?”

“Keith? Yeah, I know him.”

“Lucy’s been staying with Shakes. He said she’d be safe there.”

“Yeah, he’s stayed at her place so I guess he’s returning the favor.”

“Have you seen anything of Daimon lately?”

“Yeah, I saw them both today, they were pretty wired. I hope they don’t try to rob Shakes. I think I’ll drop in on him tonight to see if he’s alright.”

“I worried about that too. They have a habit of beating and robbing people. Remember, that’s how Daimon got his ankle broken. He and Lucy were trying to rob Buddy. That was a mistake.

“How’s your ear, where Danny punched you?”

“It’s still bleeding. I should get that looked at.”

Jake said, “Look at that, they’re setting up for the Waterfront Blues Fest. I love going there.”

I said, “That’s a place that Shakes loves to go. He always finds someone to get him drunk and get him high. Except for the disaster in 2011 when the winds blew down the stage for Cheap Trick.”

“Yeah, that was something. We sere watching them, then all of a sudden the stage just started to lift. Then all hell broke loose. It’s a miracle that nobody was killed. One roadie was injured.”

I asked, “Have you had any luck with your worker getting you furniture? It must be ten months now.”

“Actually, I put the kibosh on that. When my lease runs out at the end of August, I’m going to find a new place.”

“Don’t you like your apartment?”

“I love my apartment, it’s just too far out. It takes me too long to get there and too long to get downtown. I don’t know anybody out there except for Shakes. He lives two buildings down. I get lonely. I want some place closer.’

“it’s more expensive downtown; isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s more expensive, but then I wouldn’t have to pay so much for bus fare. I only got out at four this afternoon. I panned for two hours and do you know how much I made?…one dime. A buddy of mine was out for four hours and he made forty cents. Problem is, our regulars aren’t around; they’re on vacation. There are lots of tourists, but they don’t give a shit. They’re not going to see us again.

“Jacques still owes me fifty bucks. I’m going to have to get that from him so I can get my bus pass. I know he’s good for it. I even borrowed money from him to buy some pot. That’s desperate, eh?”

The man sitting in front of us turned around and asked, “You wouldn’t have any extra pot you could sell would you? I’ve only got a few bucks, I guess that wouldn’t buy me very much; would it?”

Jake said, “I only got enough for myself. I’m just going home to get high.”

I asked Jake, “You haven’t seen Joy recently, have you? I haven’t seen her since last Wednesday. I know she was going to see Big Jake. I just don’t know how that’s going to work out for her.”

“With Joy, you never know how things are going to work out. She can be nasty sometimes. I don’t like to say it, but she brings on a lot of trouble to herself. She’s always down on somebody.”

“Yeah, last Thursday she left because Magdalene was there drunk.”

“I remember that. I was sure there was going to be a fight.

“My stop is coming up, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll be there.”

“Bye, Jake.”

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8 July 2013

Butthead

Joy was smiling when I greeted her this morning. “How have you been doing? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve just been chillin’ in my apartment. I didn’t feel like coming downtown.  Last Wednesday I had a fight with Magdalene, so I didn’t stick around. Butthead was over once.”

“Which Butthead was that? Jake Butthead or someone else?

“My Jake, he reeked. I told you he gained a lot of weight in prison because of his bad hip. First he used a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair.  I asked him, ‘Babe, don’t you ever take a shower?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I had one yesterday.’ I said, ‘You need to take one every day, being stuck in that chair. You smell like piss. Have you been pissing yourself? He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You can take a shower here if you like.’ He said, ‘No,’ so I left it at that.

“When he was ready to leave I went out to the hall to get his wheelchair. I could smell it from ten feet away. He had a folded blanket to sit on. I asked him, ‘Where did you get this blanket?’ He said, ‘The Sally Ann.’ I asked, ‘Was it clean?’ He said, ‘No.’ I haven’t seen him since then. Maybe I hurt his feelings. I don’t know; I don’t care. He phoned once and asked if he took the bus to my place would I push him up the hill. I said, ‘No, dude. You’ve been in that chair long enough, you should be doing wheelies. I can after all the time I’ve been in a wheel chair, for my broken ankles and my fibromyalgia. You really need the exercise.”

“Is he still drinking?”

“After his piss test, he drinks as much as he used to. That’ll never change.

“I’ve been picking away at the stitches in my head. Sometimes, I’ve scratched some hair out — they didn’t shave my scalp where  they stitched me. Mariah was looking at my head the other day and said, ‘You’ve got a bald spot!’ All day long she was calling me Spot.”

I said, “I’ve got a scar on my head where I had eight stitches as a kid.”

“Yeah, “I’ve got a scar from my forehead right to the back of my head. My sister pushed me down the stairs on a stuffed lion. I’ve got another one on the side where Buddy hit me with a crowbar. My scalp isn’t a pretty sight. It’s like a road map. There’s no way I’m going for that shaved look.”

A lady stopped to put some change in Joy’s cap. “Thanks, Sweetie, I haven’t seen you for a long time.” It’s true, I wonder if she changed departments or something.

“I’m still getting those headaches and dizzy spells from, the concussion I got.”

“Have you seen a doctor? Do you have your health card yet?”

“I’ve been leaving messages with my workers, but they don’t get back to me. I’m hoping to see one of the outreach workers on the street. They haven’t been around lately either.”

Another lady stopped, smiled and dropped some change, “Bless you, dear,” she said.

“Bless you too,”  said Joy. “Have a nice day.”

Joy asked, “Have you been up to the park lately? I haven’t been keeping in tough with anybody.

“I hope Chester doesn’t come by. He’s been getting really cranky lately. I don’t like being around him.”

“I saw him Wednesday. It was after you had the fight with Magdalene.”

“Yeah, I went after her because she was harassing Chili, in her walker.”

“I was talking to Magdalene. She was drunk and nobody else would talk to her. I didn’t know the circumstances from before. Anyway, Chester asked me for some bus tickets. I said, ‘Okay, Chester, hold on, I’ll get to you.’ Magdalene was sobbing and talking about going home on the weekend.  I agreed with her and said it was a good idea. Then I went over to talk to Shark and Matches. Chester  was getting so agitated, he was shaking.”

“Magdalene didn’t go home. I’ve seen her since then, but she needs to get straightened out. I don’t know how old she is, but she seems like just a kid.”

I said, “She’s twenty-four. Alphonse is forty.”

“I thought she was young,  just like Sinead, who sometimes hangs around with Ricky. I think she’s twenty. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen her passed out in the bushes with her panties  around her ankles.  She probably doesn’t even know what happened while she was unconscious. I never let myself get that wasted. After I get a little buzz I go home.”

I asked, “Have you seen Matches lately. Lucy has been staying at his place. Little Jake was worried that she’d beat  and rob him. I thought that maybe she had split with Daimon, but I saw Little Jake on the bus, he told me that he’d seen them together. They were both wired.”

“That’s bad news. Lucy told me they had their own place… Why would she be staying with Shakes? She’s smacking that stuff in her arm… I’m worried about Shakes.”

It was time for me to go to work, Joy said, “I’m off vacation now. I’ll be at the park for most of this week except for tomorrow. I’m getting a land line hooked up and cable installed. I’ll be human again. I’m tired of watching the same DVDs over and over again. Last night I watched Pirates of the Caribbean for about the hundredth time. I have all the dialog memorized. That Johnny Depp is weird.  Did you know that he based the Jack Sparrow character on Keith Richards? Now there’s a pot headed, druggie to have as a role model.”

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09 July 2013

Paramedics 

This morning when I neared Joy’s spot I saw a Paramedic Vehicle parked close to where she sits. I thought the worst, then I saw her feet sticking out from behind a concrete pillar. Joy said, “I feel so bad. That poor woman was one of my regulars. She was reaching in her purse for change when she tripped on that uneven sidewalk — I don’t know how many people have tripped there. Anyway, she fell face down with her arm across her chest.  Her knees were scraped, her hand was scraped and swollen. I jumped up and helped her, then I held her hand until the paramedics came.  She acted so surprised that I stayed with her.  I said,  ‘I’m human, I feel bad when somebody gets hurt.’ She said, ‘But you people…’ I asked, ‘What do you mean, us people…street people… panhandlers? Just because people treat us like shit doesn’t mean we don’t  have feelings.’ At that point Joy’s eyes brimmed with tears.

“I think I freaked her out a bit. When I get nervous I start signing and scratching. I explained to her that I’m deaf in one ear and learned to sign when I was young. I don’t know what she thought of that.

“The paramedics arrived, checked her over and wanted to take her to hospital, but she refused to go. The van has been here for about an hour. I thought by now that the fat driver would have gotten out to get a donut at Timmy Ho’s, but he hasn’t moved. The woman is long gone. She’s gone to her office or somewhere.

I asked, “How are you feeling? It must have been upsetting for you.”

“I’m alright. They installed my land line and my cable. I still have to buy a phone. I didn’t know that Bell didn’t install their own phones, but the installer said that too many have been stolen. I guess I’ll try to get one at Giant Tiger, or someplace. I just want something really simple, but I want call display. I’m not sure I can get that at Giant Tiger. I want to know who’s calling. If I don’t know them, I won’t answer. Having a television and a phone makes me feel scared for some reason. It makes me feel too human, most times I just want to hide away.”

I said, “You don’t have to answer the phone. Maybe, you can find a used answering machine somewhere.  I never answer the phone. You don’t have to watch the television. I watch very little. I never watch the news, it’s too depressing.”

“I guess, it’s staying alone that I’m scared about.”

I asked, “Have you thought about Jake moving in with you?”

“No, not the way he smells. Even if he did clean himself up I’m not ready for a relationship.”

“How about having Loretta move in with you. She’s been sober for five months now. You seem to get along with her.”

“No, I’d kill her. I think I’m better off by myself. I’ve got my name down on a couple of different housing registries. I didn’t put down any restrictions as far as neighborhood is concerned. I just want someplace clean, with no bed bugs.

“I was over at Chester’s the other day. I checked his mattress. Beside the piping at the bottom, where that crease is, was black with bed bugs; big black ones. He said to me, ‘I don’t know where they come from.’ I said, ‘Did you ever think that they may come from the people who stay over. It just takes one bed bug to lay about a thousand eggs. I read up on them. I also had a friend whose husband was an exterminator. She told me all about them. They’re nasty.

“When I had them I put two in a sealed bottle and put it in the freezer. When my friend came over I showed her the bottle. They were still alive and crawling up the sides of the bottle. My friend said, ‘I’ve going to put these in my purse and show my husband.’ I said, ‘You’re going to put them in your purse just like that? I think you should double bag them. I gave her a couple of Ziploc bags to put the bottle in. When her husband saw them he said, ‘Get that bottle out of here! Put it outside somewhere! I don’t want it in the house!’ That’s from a guy who knows bed bugs.”

I said, “You can spray for them, can’t you?”

“You spray the first time, wait two weeks, spray again, wait another two weeks then do a final spraying. If I was married to an exterminator I’d spray every week.”

It was time for me to go to work.  I asked, “Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I don’t know. If nobody’s there when I go past, I think I’ll just go home.”

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15 July 2013

Joy Overdoses

When I approached Joy she was doubled over, holding her knees. When she lifted her head her face looked pale and gaunt.

“You don’t look very good,”  I said.

“I don’t feel very good. I’ve been this way for five or six days now. Can you spare some change so I can get some Gravol. I can’t seem to keep anything down. I even tried my grandmother’s remedy of burnt toast scraped into water. It’s supposed to have the same effect as the charcoal they give you when you o.d.

“One time I got picked up by the police and I had a bunch of prescription drugs on me. They didn’t check, they just threw me in the back of the cruiser. I wolfed down these pills, I nearly gagged. When they got me to the station I was kind of dazed. They said to me, ‘You weren’t like this when we picked you up. What did you take?’ They found the empty pill bottles on the floor of the cruiser. The Desk Sargent asked the cops, ‘You didn’t check her for drugs?’ They didn’t know how many pills I’d taken so they sent for the ambulance. I went to hospital and had my stomach pumped.

“Even granny’s remedy didn’t work. I couldn’t hold that down. Since last Tuesday I’ve been going from the sofa to the garbage pail. Half the time I don’t make it. I’m tired of mopping my floor. At least I don’t have the runs, but since I don’t have any food in my system there’s nothing to come out.”

A lady stopped by and handed Joy a blister pack of Gravol and two slices of dry toast. ‘Bless you,’ said Joy.   To me she said, “I didn’t think she was going to come back. I’m going to save the toast for later. I can’t face the idea of eating right now. I  think I’ll just stop for a cup of tea.”

She took two of the tablets and waited a few minutes. “These are supposed to make me feel better, but I feel horrible. They have an orange taste, like the Tang we used to mix with vodka. Remember that orange powder stuff? Supposedly the astronauts drank that —  Yuck!  I think I’m going home.

“I have to stop at Giant Tiger on my way. They have those frozen burgers on sale. I can just fry them or nuke them. If I can’t eat them it’s not much to throw in the trash. I hate going to Giant Tiger this time of day. It’s when all the skids are there. They smell so bad. I don’t know if I’m going to be able take it.”

“I haven’t had a drink for six days. Jacques is the same way. We just can’t face it. I feel chilled, then I feel hot. Jacques gave me this purple hoodie. I put it on, then take it off.

“I was really pissed off last week. I told you the cable guy was supposed to come by Tuesday. I waited around all day, but he didn’t show. He came Thursday — that meant I missed my appointment with the outreach worker to see about my health card. Greg was acting all pissy about that, but I couldn’t phone him to cancel or explain because the phone guy didn’t leave me a phone. He said, ‘We don’t do that any more. Too many phones were being stolen.’ I have to admit I’ve stolen a few in my time.

“At least I have television now. That makes a big difference. I don’t have to watch the same old shit all the time.”

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17 July 2013

Folded Harley

After I got off the bus I was approached by Two-four who hands out the free newspaper.  He asked, “Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Sun Media is shutting down the newspaper. I’ll be out of a job in two weeks.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been through this before. I’ll pick something up. Maybe,  Metro is hiring. Who knows, I might be back at this same spot. It’s not the job I’ll miss it’s the people. I’ve really gotten used to my regulars. They make the job seem worthwhile.

“That’s the way it goes.”

“Best of luck, Two-four.”

When I approached Joy, she had her head down on her knees. “Joy?’ I asked, “Are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah, I was just laughing. Did you see the guy who walked by with the Hawaiian shirt and the faux hawk hairdo? The lady I was talking to was saying what a womanizer he is. I said, ‘He’s gay!’ She said he’s always coming on to all the women in the office. He even asks them out. He’ll usually cancel at the last minute.’ Joy said, ‘That’s because he likes penises.’ The lady said, ‘Why would he go to all that trouble? We all know he’s gay.’

“I wasn’t here yesterday because I was still feeling sick. I didn’t go to the park, just went straight to Giant Tiger. I threw up three times in there —  great gobs of phlegm. ‘Cleanup in aisle 4!’ They didn’t have the hamburgers I wanted, so I got bacon instead. I threw that up too.”

I asked, “Do you think you’re suffering from withdrawal?”

“No, I’m drinking. It’s just the heat. I can’t take it.”

“Did you see an outreach worker to arrange for your health card?”

“Yeah,  I filled out all the papers. They mailed them. I should get my card in two or three weeks. Then, I’ll be all set.

“I’m half in the bag today.”

“Did you have trouble sleeping?”

“Yeah, Big Jake and Hippo were over yesterday. I said to them, ‘You guys can’t just drop over here anytime you want.’   Jake said, ‘Yeah, well, they kicked me out of the Sally. I’m over at Shepherd now and they don’t have storage space for my boxes.’ I said, ‘Jake, I got a small place here I don’t have room to store stuff for people.

“It’s all his paper stuff. He can make a Harley out of folded paper —  little handlebars and everything. Something he learned  in prison.  He’s really good at it.  One sale was for a hundred bucks. He’s making one for me now. I said, ‘I want it purple with silver flames.’ He said, ‘I do them with black flames.’ I said, ‘Either do it the way I say, or I’ll paint over it with yellow.’ That changed his mind. I even showed him how to make a v-twin engine. He was just making two boxes, but the way I did it looks really neat.

“He was asking if I would take care of him when he has his hip replacement surgery. I asked him, ‘You want me to take care of you? After what you did to me? No way! I don’t do that care shit.’  I’ll help him out a bit when he gets out of hospital, but I told him, ‘You gotta get out of that chair and exercise. You can’t just sit there all day. Your joints meed to move around or they’ll get stiff.”

I asked, “Does he know when he’s going into hospital?”

“He’s on a waiting list, but his situation is critical, so he’s at the front of the line.”

I asked, “Did you hear that the free newspaper is shutting down? Two-four will be out of a job.”   “Yeah, he said he’s going to try at Metro. I hope he replaces that asshole they got now. He’s always asking me how my day is going. I’ll say, ‘Okay.’ He’s say you should be having an EXcellent day!  Bye now and have an EXcellent day!’ I’d like to ram that newspaper down his throat.”

Chester came by and said, “Hi Joy, hi Dennis.” He waited for a while without speaking then asked Joy, “Do you have some money for a coffee?” Joy handed him a Tim Horton’s card with five dollars credit on it. “How about bus tickets?”

“Chester, It’s Wednesday, seniors ride free all day.”

“Well, there’s always tomorrow.”

“You’ve had enough, Chester. I’ll see you later.”

After he left I asked, “Why doesn’t he panhandle, if he needs extra money?”

“I don’t know. He picks up butts and eats at the Mission, the Salvation Army or the Shepherd. He can be a pain in the ass sometimes. He’s too proud to ask the public for money, but he’s not too proud to ask us, who have hardly any.”

“Hi sweetheart!” Joy yelled to a woman crossing the street. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”

She said,  “I don’t work around here any more. I’m just dropping something off.” To me Joy said, “She’s lost half her ass. I notice everything.”

A ragged looking man wearing shorts walked by. Joy said, “Hey, Buddy, want a smoke?” She held one out.

“Yeah, thanks.”

“There was another woman by earlier who was really nasty, she had a kid with her too.  She said to me, ‘You’re no better than dirt.’ I said to her, ‘How would you like to see your hair on fire?’ That shut her up pretty quick. At first she wasn’t sure if I was serious or not, but the look I gave her told her I was.’ Sometimes I just like scaring people.

“After I leave here, I’m going to meet Tracey. She has a phone for me. I’ll really feel human then.”

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30 July 2013

Little Jake Rants

At the park today were Little Jake, Shakes (asleep),  Mariah, Wolf and Shaggy (asleep). Joy hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. I asked Mariah if she had heard from her.

“Joy hasn’t been too well lately with her fibromyalgia and headaches. At first her right leg and left arm were stiff, then it was her two legs. She was thinking that she’d have to go back to hospital, but she’s getting around with two canes. Every once in a while she manages to climb the stairs to my place. She hopes to come visit everybody shortly. She was asking about you. I’ll tell her you said hello.

“I don’t know how Joy will make out when I leave. I’m looking for a different apartment. It’s just getting too bad.”

Little Jake said, “You mean you want to get out of Regent Park. I don’t blame you.”

“No, Regent Park is alright, it’s just our landlady. She does nothing for us.  It used to be I’d keep everything under control tenant-wise.  We used to have a lot of riffraff, but I let her know what was going on. I helped her get rid of this schizo guy that lived where Joy is now. He was a real nut case. Every crack he saw he put duct tape over it; every seam in the tile floor, the seams around the door, cracks in the wall. He always carried around a bag of rotten potatoes. That was really smelly and gross. He took a hammer to the counter, the cupboards the walls. He destroyed the place, but he had a really good lawyer. It went to court and his lawyer claimed it was all wear and tear. The guy did it again before he moved out.

“We got this one old lady who wears diapers and she leaks, if you know what I mean. It’s not her fault and she can’t clean it up herself, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to clean that shit every day. It’s disgusting to find that in the hallway all the time. I’m usually the one who phones the landlady.

“We got this other guy who just moved in. He bought some kind of air conditioner/dehumidifier and it’s always tripping the breakers. It’s a damn nuisance if you’re in the middle of cooking supper, or relaxing in the evening watching a bit of TV. Only the landlady has access to the breakers. Now, every time she picks up the phone she asks, ‘Has he done it again?’ Actually, it hasn’t happened for about two weeks.

“Then there’s this problem of the floor sagging. There’s a pole in the corner of my bedroom, that used to be the living room.  When I first moved in there was a gap above it of about a half-inch. Now it’s about four inches. I told her that if my floor collapses, my lawyer will sue her for alternative accommodation, for the whole time they’re fixing the floor. That has her scared shitless. I better not call her again or I’ll be out. A rat lives down beside the pole. I see him every so often.

“The thing is they just bought this other sixteen unit building that they put money into fixing up. Got it all freshly painted. They rented it to a bunch of crack heads;  now it looks like a disaster area. If they had money to fix that place, why didn’t they put some money into our place where we have decent tenants.”

Luther walked up the sidewalk, “I just got out of court.”

Jake asked, “What did you steal this time?”

“I didn’t steal anything. I broke into an Anglican church.”

I said, “…and stole a jar of peanut butter.”

“Yeah, I told you that already, didn’t I. I’m allergic to peanuts. I just had a craving. When I was a kid, I was abused by an Anglican minister in Saskatoon. Anyway, at court I told them I had a fit at the front of the church. They let me off. I just have to pay a hundred dollars for the door I smashed.”

“Luther,” asked Jake, “did you pawn your guitar again?”

“No, I got two guitars now, but I left them at home. It was too much trouble bringing a guitar in the cab and I’d have no place to leave it in court.”

“You look naked without your guitar, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I’ll have it next time. Gotta go.”

I asked Jake, “You’re looking for a new place aren’t  you?”

“No, I worked that out with my social worker. I’m going to stay there for the winter.”

“Has she arranged furniture for you yet?”

“No, I’m on a waiting list. I think a hundred and fifty-seven people are ahead of me.”

“Why is that, You’ve been there nearly a rear now, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but I missed a few appointments. Each time I miss an appointment I get moved to the bottom of the list.”

Mariah said, “You’re going to have to get that place cleaned up. Get all that garbage out of there.”

“Yeah, I know.

“Well, I paid all my debts and I got a hundred and thirty dollars to last ’till the end of the month. Jacques owes me fifty bucks.”

I asked, “Does he still owe you fifty bucks?”

“No, he paid that back. This was fifty he borrowed yesterday, just until he gets his check. I always get mine a day or two earlier.

“Whadyaknow, here comes Little Chester and he’s dragging his foot. That means he’s drunk. He was dragging his foot at eight thirty this morning. AND HE’S ALWAYS CUTTING MY GRASS, THE BASTARD. YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU, CHESTER!”

Chester said, “I love you too. What do you mean I’m cutting your grass. When you come along I move.”

“Yeah, you move fifteen feet up the bridge. THE BRIDGE IS MINE. That’s been my spot for ten years. Go downtown or find some other spot. How about going for a swim? I’ll push you off the bridge.”

“No, thanks.”

“Actually, I love jumping off that bridge, especially when it’s hot.”

Mariah said, “You gotta wait until they cut the weeds, otherwise those things can pull you down.”

“Yeah, I know, the last time I dove in there was last September. I was drunk and stoned out of my mind. I saw this gorgeous girl across the river. She had one of those big dogs with the blue tongue. What are they called?”

Mariah said, “Maybe an Airedale or an Akita?”

“Yeah one of those. Anyway, I just took my shoes off and dived in, pants on and everything. I got caught in the weeds and the more I struggled the further down I went. I saw a cop standing beside the river and I yelled at him, ‘Help! I’m caught in the weeds!’ Before he pulled me out with a pole he asked, ‘If I pull you out are you going to dive back in?’ I said, No, for Christ’s sake, just get me out of here before I drown.

“When I was living with Weasel and Bruce, sometimes I’d wake up with Bear right in my face. Weasel had his face in Bear’s ass.”

I said, “I remember you saying  you woke up one time licking Bear’s face.”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you live under a bridge.”

Shakes woke up, “Dennis, how’re you doin’? I haven’t seen you for ages. Where you bin? Dennis, do you have any bus tickets?… Great, now I’ll be able to get home tonight and get to the bank tomorrow. My check should be in my mailbox.”

.

31 July 2013

Blue Steel

Warm, clear and breezy, a perfect summer day at the park. Shark and Spike were standing at the rail. Sitting in a circle, in various states of inebriation were Manisee, Debbie, Little Jake, Jacques and Mariah. I hadn’t seen Shark for a few months so I walked over to him.

“Hi Dennis, haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve been around, but you don’t come down much anymore do you?”

“No, there’s not much here for me. I came down to buy some native cigarettes and a few prescriptions.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’ve got a pain in my shoulder and my right leg. It’s been twelve years since I’ve had this (HIV). There’s a cocktail of pills I take twice a day, then my morphine three times a day. I’ve got blood work to be done. That’s going to hurt. There’s only one type of pain medication that works for me. Sometimes, because I’m a junkie, they don’t want to give it to me. That’s when I get on the phone to my doctor and have them explain to him why they want to change my meds.”

“How’s Irene?” I asked.

“She’s fine. She never wants to come out, at least not when I want to come out. I can understand, we have the air conditioning there. She hates the heat.  If her friend Sue comes over then they both want to go shopping. I hate that. What is it about women and shopping?  For me, I know exactly what I want and where it is, so I get my own cart and I’m in and out. I tell Irene to meet me at the van, because I got beer in there. She has to read all the labels, she walks slow then she can’t decide. I hate it.

“I bought a little dinghy that I use at the bridge near the Don Valley Parkway. I can’t remember the name… the Queen Street Viaduct, that’s the one. I really enjoy it, in fact I’m thinking of getting a bigger one and towing the other behind.”

Mike said, “You have paddles for that don’t you? I mean, you don’t have to paddle with your hands or anything do you?  That would be exhausting.”

“It came with paddles. I started paddling with just one, otherwise it kept going in circles. I got it worked out now. I was out with a couple of friends a couple of days ago. They jumped in the water and got their feet cut on some sharp rocks. I gave them some alcohol to  clean the cuts with.  There’s stuff like e coli in that water. You gotta be real careful with stuff like that or you could get a blood infection. That’s painful. A friend of mine had that and was in hospital for six weeks.”

I said, “I’ve had blood poisoning before, but I went to the doctor as soon as I saw the red line going up my leg. It was the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Jake said, “That makes me want to jump off the bridge. I’ll end up doing it sometime this summer.”

Debbie said, “You wouldn’t really do that,  would you Jake? Don’t do it when you’re drunk. That’s a no no.” He was looking at three young women wearing tight pants and tee shirts in the park below.

Mariah said, “What are you looking at Jake… fresh meat?”

I said, “It’s a good thing they aren’t on the other side of the river.  Jake might just dive in like he did last September.”

Gaston and Yves came by. Shark said, “Here come a couple of queers!”

Mariah said, “Shark, be nice. They’re our friends.”

“I know, but that’s what they are.”

“How are you doing, Yves?” I asked.

“Exhausted! I cleaned three apartments today, then I’ve been running around.”

“Do you run?”

“I meant I’ve had a lot of errands to run. I think I many be coming down with some kind of virus. They mentioned it on the news today. At the apartment building where I’ve been working, a bunch of ladies are down with it. I didn’t catch the whole broadcast, maybe they’ll have it on the news at six. It seems to affect mostly people over forty. The symptoms are flu-like with sore muscles, tiredness. I hope I haven’t caught that.”

I noticed a DVD in Jacques’ back pack. I asked, “What movie are you going to watch. He pulled out a handful, mostly pirated. “This is a funny one, ‘Every Which Way But Loose’ with Clint Eastwood. It’s the one with the monkey, or orangutan. Then I got a bunch with John Wayne: ‘Blue Steel’, ‘The Dawn Rider’, ‘True Grit’. This one looks good,  ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ starring James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan.  I think I got enough to keep me going  for days. Of course I’ll have to put it on pause, every once in a while, to take a piss.

I asked Mariah, “Have you seen Joy today?”

“No, I rushed down here to pick up some cigarettes and some other stuff (marijuana) then I’m heading back.”

.

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