2013 – June

.

4 June, 2013

Little Chester, Back from Hospital

When I arrived at the park the only friend I saw was Little Chester. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. He took a few unsteady steps forward. I was worried that he would fall into traffic, so I suggested that we sit on the curb.

“Do you know where I spent last night?” he asked.

“No, where?”

“In the hospital.”

“Why were you in the hospital?”

“I was drunk.”

“Did you pass out someplace?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you pass out?”

“I don’t know. On the sleeping bench. The police were by earlier. They asked if I was drunk . I said, ‘Yes.’ They left me alone. They came by an hour later and asked me if I was drunk. I said, ‘No.’ They left me alone.”

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

“I’m not really on the street. I have a place to stay, with my daughter. She’s twenty-seven. She’s into fitness. She has her own studio.”

“You told me where you’re from, but I’ve forgotten.”

“Newfoundland.”

“That’s  a  beautiful province . I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen it  featured on television.”

“They make that all up. It’s not beautiful; it’s ugly.”

“I like rocks and being near the ocean.”

“They’ve got plenty of that.”

Maryjane came by and asked, “Is anyone else here?”

I said, “Chester said it was just him and me. The police were by a couple of times.”

“I’ll go take a look.”

Wolf came down to the sidewalk, “Dennis, we’re over here! What do you think of my girl?” Shaggy had been clipped and groomed.

“She looks great, Wolf. It will be a lot cooler for her.  I see she’s not panting. ”

“No, she likes it. She’s still got a head like a lion, and a funny tail, with nothing in the middle.” Shaggy started barking. Shakes took her tail and pretended he was winding her up. She lunged and nearly bit his finger.

“That’s it Shaggy, take another bite. She’s acting like she’s hungry, but I’ve run out of biscuits. It’s not like she’s on starvation rations, she ate a whole bag this morning.”

Shakes said, “You know Dennis, since I’ve had my apartment I’ve slept outside two nights. Both nights it was friggin’ pouring friggin’ rain.”

I said, “You’re lucky the police didn’t find you. They would have taken you to The Shepherd.”

“Yeah, but they would have released me the next day. There was only one time that they kept me for three weeks. I was on probation and had a stipulation saying that I wasn’t allowed to drink. When I was in jail they asked me, ‘Shakes, why do you keep drinking when you know it’s not allowed?’ I said, ‘I didn’t listen to my parents either.’ The piggies have only been to my apartment once. It was the time I was jumped and the other guy said I had stolen money from him, can you imagine that?

“It was at Queen and Jarvis. I was on the ground, but I kept fighting. It was like a turtle on it’s back, my fists were going, my feet were kicking. Ha, ha, ha.

“I guess they believed your word over his. Was that it?”

“The police said to me, ‘Shakes, show us your money.’ It had been in a banking envelope in the inside pocket of my jacket. The guy couldn’t find it. I gave the envelope to the police. There was two hundred and twenty dollars there. They said, ‘Shakes we’re going to keep this and return it to the man you stole it from.’ I said, ‘You’re not taking my money. I’m the victim here.’ They let me keep the money.

“Tommy gave me a lighter and, you know, I lost it. This morning I was going through the pockets of my leather jacket. Do you know what I found — my lighter. The only thing I need to get before I go home is two bottles of wine and some shit paper. Tommy bought some groceries, so we got food.  I’ve got a gram.’

Wolf asked, “Has anybody seen my little buddy Jake? He wasn’t around yesterday and I didn’t see him Friday. You live close to him, don’t you Shakes?”

“Yeah, we live on the same street. There’s four buildings in a row. I live in one, he lives in the end one. I went over to his place Sunday at eight in the mornin’. I was afraid of making too much noise —  it bein’  Sunday and all.  He was sick — pukin’ all mornin’. I brought four bottles and two grams. I said, ‘Let’s have a drink!’ H e said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’ I said, ‘You mean I have to drink these four bottles all by myself.”

I said, “That doesn’t sound like Jake.”

‘Then I said, ‘How be, I roll us a joint?’  He said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’

Wolf said, “That certainly doesn’t sound like that Jake I know. Here’s a little song that my dad used to sing:

Well, I walked round the corner
and I walked round the block,
and I walked right into a bakery shop.

I picked up a doughnut
and I wiped off the grease,
and I handed the lady a five cent piece.

Well, she looked at the nickel
and she looked at me,
and she said “Hey mister, you can plainly see.

There’s a hole in the nickel,
there’s a hole right through.”
Said I, “There’s a hole in the doughnut too!
Thanks for the doughnut, good-bye!”

I went by Little Chester on my way back to work. He was passed out, laying on the curb. The police will be taking him to The Shepherd,  if he can walk, otherwise it will be to the hospital.

.

5 June 2013

Shaggy’s Christmas

It was a wonderful day in the park today as, I suppose, it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. In attendance were Jacques, Gaston, Yves, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, I shook ha ds all around.  Wolf said, “Id get up, Dennis, but you know me. It’s one of those days.

I was about to sit down between Wolf and Gaston when Yves handed me a newspaper. “Sit on this, it’ll keep your pants clean.” I said, “Thanks Yves.”

Gaston said, “Now, isn’t that a lot softer?”

“Yes, it is.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got something even better. I’ll  go over to Shaggy’s cart.” He brought back a thick folded blanket. “Try this. I just got it this morning, rather Shaggy just got it this morning. A lady — maybe it was the Christmas lady for dogs — she brought a big bag filled with the blanket, a toy rubber boot, a stuffed dog and dog food, lots of dog food. Shaggy really  hit the jackpot. She gave me something too. I think I spent it.”

“This blanket is really soft and comfortable. Thanks Wolf.”

Wolf said, “This morning when I woke up the first thing I saw was a six-pack of beer, so that’s when I started. If I hadn’t seen it I would have been alright, but if I see it I drink it. That’s why I’m the way I am now. You understand?

“Dennis,  tell those fucking Frenchmen to shut the fuck up! I’m having trouble concentrating. Let them go ahead and mumble to themselves.

In unison Gaston and Yves said, “Ta Gueule!colis, tabarnac.”

Jacques said, “Wolf speaks  prefect French, he just doesn’t like to use it.”

Wolf said, “I’m German not French!  Don’t make me get up!”  He laughed, then continued conversing with them in fluent French.

I said to Wolf, “You couldn’t get up if you tried.”

“I know,” he said, “I just like to stir the shit sometimes.”

I asked Jacques, “How are you liking your new apartment?”

“I love it. Did you know I have a balcony? Yesterday I bought a mattress, a futon. I think that is the good one. I don’t buy the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I bought the next one up.  Me, I don’t like the coil mattress, because after a year, you get one coil sticking through into your back. I don’t want that.  In my other place I had been sleeping on the floor for the last four months, and I had no window.  This place is nice, and I can brew my wine again.

“It used to be that they would give you a start-up allowance when you moved and every three years,  but not any more. I had to pay for the mattress myself. I don’t mind.”

Shamus and Judy, from the Homeless Outreach Program, approached. They were wearing red vests with the crest of their organization embroidered in yellow. They had brought sandwiches, socks and a variety of other things to hand out.

“Wolf, what kind of sandwich would you like? We have egg, minced ham and tuna.”

“This is my drinking day, not my eating day,” said Wolf. ” I’m a shaving guy. Do you have any razors?”

“No, sorry , Wolf.”

Jacques said, “I’ll take an egg, and leave me a minced ham for Wolf.  He’ll eat it later. Can I have some socks?” Judy handed socks to Jacques, Matches and Wolf.

Shamus said to me, “Dennis it looks like you’re holding court.”

I said, “It may look that way, but Jacques is King”

Jacques said, “Shakes is King.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll go along with that.”

Judy asked, “Has anybody seen Serge? We haven’t seen him for a long time. I know he was in hospital, but then he was out.”

I said, “I visited him a couple of times in hospital, but he escaped, in his hospital gown. He was too sick and was taken back to hospital.”

Jacques said, “I was talking to Greg from the Sally. He got a message saying that Serge passed away April seventh. Nobody knew, otherwise we would have gone to the funeral.”

Judy asked, “He had cancer, didn’t he?”

I said, “I’m not sure. He didn’t talk much and when he talked it was in French.”

Judy said, “I hear that Outcast is in remission. Is that right?”

I said, “I knew that he had lung cancer. I didn’t hear that he was in remission.”

Jacques said, “I saw him a few days ago. He seems fine. He doesn’t come here any more.”

“How about Joy? How is she.?”

I said, “I saw her Thursday, she seemed fine then.”

After they left Jacques said, “They gave me all these bars that I can’t eat. I don’t have enough teeth for things with nuts.”

Shakes said, “You, know, Dennis, I’ve known Wolf since ninety-five. I’ve always called him Pudding, because he looks like a pudding. I’m the one that got Bowser for him. He looks like Shaggy, but he’s stuffed. I remember bringing him home on the bus. I barked and pretended that he was going to bite people. Now, he sits on Pudding’s balcony.”

“Yeah,” said  Wolf, “People will say they passed my place, I must have been home because the dog was there, but he wasn’t barking.

“Shaggy loves Bowser, they lay beside each other all the time. One time when it was raining Shaggy went out on the balcony, grabbed Bowser with her teeth and brought her inside the living room. Isn’t that something?

“Dennis, we should pick on you for a while.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was going to get Shaggy to bite Jacques, but you’ve got some meat on your arms.  Shaggy, bite Dennis! She won’t bite you, she likes you.”

Shaggy wandered around and lay next to me, her warm side pressing against mine. I petted her. After being freshly clipped she felt like velvet.

It was time to leave, so I returned the blanket to Wolf,  and shook hands all around. I said, “Bye, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

.

10 June 2013

Bearded Bruce 

After leaving work I noticed Craig sitting in his usual spot on Jarvis. I handed him a Subway card and he asked, “Is that change I hear jingling in your pocket?”

“No,” I said it’s keys. I never carry change.”

“I could sure use some change right now, but thanks for the card.”

On the next corner, sitting beside a Metro newspaper box was Bearded Bruce. When He saw me coming he opened the door of the box and pulled out a paper. “Have a seat, if you’ve got  a few minutes.”

I positioned the newspaper and sat down. “I haven’t seen you for a while, Bruce.” I handed him a Subway card.”

“What’s this, you used to hand out Tim Horton cards?”

“Joy requested a change of menu.”

“So, I’ve got her to blame for this. Next time I see her I’m going to demand my money back. Seriously, thanks for the card.

“I don’t go to the park much any more. It’s always the same people, they’re always whining the same things. And I’m trying to control my drinking. This is a drinking day. I was up there at noon, so was Little Jake, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Joy wasn’t there.”

“I haven’t seen Joy for a while.”

“She’s doing okay.”

“How is Little Jake?”

“Jake is Jake. He’s supposed to meet me here, then we’ll take the bus to my place. He asked if he could stay over. I told him, ‘Sure, man, I’ve got pork chops, chicken, anything you like.’ I’m guessing that he jumped the bus and is at my place waiting for me. What can I say? He’s not taking his meds. Sometimes he won’t even come over to my place, because he knows I’m going to nag him about it.

“I got caught jumping the bus the other day. A security woman came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to have to put you in handcuffs.’ I said, ‘Look little girl, do you see the size of me, do you really think I’m going to let you put handcuffs on me? You’d better call for backup.’ So, two more security officers showed up. I said, ‘You caught me. I didn’t put in a ticket. That’s three dollars and fifty cents. I’ve got my Welfare check right here. I’m just trying to get downtown to cash it. If you like I’ll come back and put in two bus tickets. Do you think handcuffs are really necessary?’ They wrote me up a fine for a hundred and thirty-five dollars, then gave me a day pass. I said, ‘Don’t you think this is a bit foolish.  I’m not going to pay the fine, but if I get a day pass every time I jump the bus, I’m never going to put in a ticket. You’ll see me back here tomorrow.’

I asked, “doesn’t O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cover bus passes?”

“I’m not on O.D.S.P. I have the papers filled out, my doctor’s signed them, buy I haven’t handed them in. I qualify, because of my back injury and my addictions, but I don’t think I deserve it. I feel I can get along without it. It’s just the way I am.”

A gorgeous woman passed within a few inches of us. We both sighed, “Beautiful!” She turned and gave each of us a warm smile, then moved on.

“Sometimes,” said Bruce, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

I said, “Sometimes, Bruce, you do.”

“I got a real scare the other day.” said Bruce, “I thought I was having a heart attack. I got dizzy, I had tingling in my left arm and leg. I phoned an ambulance for myself. The lady on the line said, ‘Just go home and rest. We’ll pick you up at your house.’ I said, ‘I’m at a pay phone, this is where I’m having a heart attack. I can’t go to my house. I can barely stand.’ ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘wait there and we’ll have an ambulance pick you up.’

They took me to hospital and checked my heart. It was okay, but my blood pressure was through the roof. They gave me some medicine, then a doctor put on some rubber gloves and put his finger up my bum. I’ve had that before, but I said, ‘My heart’s over here. What are you doing back there?’ They checked on me in about forty-five minutes and asked me how I was doing. I said, ‘I feel fine.’ The medicine must have done the trick. I know my stomach’s bad. I haven’t been taking care of myself. Next week I have to go in for a gastroscopy, that’s where they put a tube down your throat to see your insides.”

“The doctor said, ‘Bruce, you’re going to have to quit smoking, drinking and eating fat. I told him, ‘I can use a patch to help me quit smoking. I’ve got the drinking under control, that’s not a problem; but there’s no way I’m giving up fat. I fry everything in bacon fat. Every time I cook a mess of bacon, I pour off the fat and store it in a can in the fridge. No, sir, I’m not giving up fat.’ ”

I said, “These people walking by, they don’t even look at us.”

“I know,” said Bruce, “it’s like we’re invisible, or else they’re blind. I wonder if they’re deaf as well? If I said, There goes an ignorant asshole! Do you think he’d hear me? I do that some times, but it doesn’t get me any money. Usually, if it’s a woman,  I say, ‘You’re looking good this evening.’  If it’s a guy I say, ‘Good evening, sir.’ I’m usually polite.

There was a man with a bicycle waiting for the ‘walk’ light. Bruce said to him, “How’s it going, man?”

The guy said, “It’s been a long day.”

Bruce said, “It’s been a long day for me too. I was out here at six this morning, and I’m still here, nearly thirteen hours later. Don’t you think that deserves a bit of change?” The guy pushed his bike across the street.

I asked, “Do you know Craig, down the block?”

“Sure I know Craig. We’ve slept together. I don’t man together, but we’ve both slept on the street near each other, if you know what I mean.

“Of the three fights I’ve gotten into, he was the cause of them all. People think he’s stupid, but he’s not. One day some guys walked past him and kicked over his cup. He was scrambling around, chasing this change when I came up. I said, Greg, do you have the twenty you owe me? He pulled all the change out of his pocket and gave it to me.  Then I said to the guys, ‘Now what the fuck do you want? If it’s what I’ve got in my pocket, you’re going to have to go through me.’ The police arrived and I had to go to court. I told the prosecuting attorney exactly what happened and he agreed with me. Case closed. There was another time though, that I had to serve three months. That’s when I was still drinking heavy. It wouldn’t take much to set me off.

Bruce said to me, “You’re too well dressed to be a panhandler.”

I said, “I could always say to people, ‘I’m trying to top up my R.R.S.P. (Registered Retirement Savings Plan).”

“Yeah, that would work.”

It was time for me to go, so I said, ” Goodbye, Bruce, until next time.”

.

11 June 2013

Clark and the Pigeons

This morning I sat beside Clark. He said, “I was told that Joy doesn’t use this spot when it’s raining, even though, with the overhang from the building, I’ve been able to keep quite dry.”

“That’s right,”  I said “or a few days after check day.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Within minutes a dark-colored pigeon jumped up on Clark’s knee. He looked me up and down, from side to side, then hopped back down.”

“He seems friendly,” I said.

“Yeah, at my other spot I feed them. This is the alpha male. I’ve seen him mating with four or five of the females around here. That gray one over there is distinctive as well. Notice, she has only two toes on her left foot.”

I asked, “How do you think that happened — maybe a fight with a cat?”

“More likely a snare of some kind. I was talking to a lady who works at a bird sanctuary. She said they’ve noticed a lot of birds like this. They’ve yet to pinpoint where the snare is located, but they’re looking for it. They’d like to introduce a humane trap that wouldn’t injure the birds.

“A lot of restaurants serve it on their menu. Bought locally it goes for about three dollars a pound.”

I said, “You’ve mentioned that you’ve done tree planting in British Columbia. Would you rather live in the city or someplace in nature.”

“I’d far rather live in nature. Every time I come back to the city, I can feel this wave of stress come over me. ”

I said,  “I have a small cabin that I get away to, most weekends. It has no heat, electricity or running water.”

“Have you ever thought about solar power. They’ve done studies that show it’s much less expensive than hydro. They’ve developed a new solar heat conduction vacuum tube,  in glass or metal. They’re also called evacuated heat pipes. You should give them a try.”

“I will.”

“I’ve heard that the government is cracking down on marijuana production.”

I said, “That seems silly, since people are licensed to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Why doesn’t the government just take over production. Then, there would be quality assurance and tax money coming in. With drugs on the street, you never know what you’ve getting.”

“When I was tree planting a lot of guys used to grow pot or hallucinogenic mushroomes hallucinogenic mushrooms. They put the mushrooms into brownies. A guy from another camp came over, ate too many brownies, along with lots of liquor and nearly died.

“When I was in university I studied Psychology. I was mostly interested in Humanism.   That’s an ideology that promotes reason, ethics and justice, while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of morality and decision-making. It makes sense to me.”

I said, “I like to keep an open mind. I listen to all ideas; accepting the ones with merit, rejecting the others. I’ve developed my own personal philosophy.

“Well, It’s time I headed to work. I enjoyed our conversation, Clark. I look forward to doing it again. Perhaps, the next time it rains.

.

12 June 2013

Five Months Sober

The park was welcoming today. “The sun was shining the weather was warm and the regulars were sitting on the curb. “Shark, ” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I don’t come here very much any more.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. My feet hurt —  that’s because of the HIV.”

“How is Irene?”

“This morning she was puking her guts out. It’s a reaction to the new medication. She hasn’t been outside since winter;  just doesn’t have the energy. There is always an excuse, ‘It’s too hot? It’s too early. It’s too cold.’ When she does invite me out with her, it’s evening, and I’m drunk by then. I keep telling her, “Let’s do our shopping in the morning when it’s cool and the crowds aren’t as large. I have to stop by Wal-Mart for groceries on my way home. I’ll be leaving shortly.”

“Joy has been staying at Chuck’s place, just around the corner from me. She wouldn’t come over to our place because of me.  Irene didn’t want to go to Chuck’s place, so they didn’t get to see each other.”

Loretta came down the sidewalk and stopped to talk.

“Loretta, ” I said, “Shark and I were just discussing how complicated women are. They always invent new rules and forget to tell us about them.”

Loretta said, “Yeah, I can’t even figure myself out.

“Shark, did you hear that I finished a two month program? I’ve been sober for over five months.

“Congratulations, Loretta! I said. “You mentioned that you’re going back to school. When does that start?”

“In another month. I have to finish my grade twelve first, then I’m going to secretarial college.”

” Scarface has quit smoking. He’s got two patches and a puffer. It’s been four days now.”

“Yeah, ” said Shark, “I saw him this morning to by some smokes. He told me all about it. He’s been sober four years, hasn’t he?”

“Five.”

“Good for him, ” said Shark. “I should quit smoking. It would save me a lot of money. Mind you, I’ve been saving money not buying diapers. I get a two hundred-dollar allowance for those. This morning, at Scarface’s place I let a wet fart, I said, ‘Oh, oh, I better go home.'”

Loretta said, “Nothing a shower and a change of clothes can’t fix.

“I had his dog Dillinger all day yesterday. He loves to chase a ball.”

Shark said, “He can play with it all by himself. He bats it with his paw, then runs after it.

“What’s happening with that asshole?”

“He’s in detention now.”

“Has he been bothering you lately?”

“Not since they put the restraining order against him.” To me she said, “This all has to do with to when I was raped.  It’ll be a year ago July seventh.  I went to the hospital immediately after, so they have evidence and were able to charge him. There’s been a preliminary hearing. The official court date has been set for September.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to charge a guy with rape. At home it used to happen all the time.

“See what I made?” Loretta showed me a lighter that had a red, beaded cover. “A guy in the recovery program showed me how to do it. It’s made with seaweed beads and clear fishing line. I want to try to make cell phone covers.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I read that horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I’d like it. I don’t know anything about horses. I always thought it was a sport for rich people;  but I didn’t have anything else, it was on the top shelf,  so I started reading. I really dove into it. I couldn’t put it down.  I had to find out who was killing the horses. Have you read the book?

“No, I haven’t read it.”

“Then you won’t mind me telling you that the vet was behind it. He was poisoning them. I wouldn’t give the book a first rank, but it was still good. I prefer the shoot-em-up detective kind.

“I’ve been sober for the past five days. Because of the rain, I didn’t feel like going out;  but after a while — even with the books — Shaggy and I get bored, so we come down here.  I don’t like everybody here. I told Jacques to fuck off the other day.

“Jacques, I’m sorry about the other day. Are we okay?”

Shamus  and Brent from the Innercity Ministries stopped by. “Would anybody like a sandwich?”

Shark said, “Yeah, I’ll take one. Do you have any razors? How about Chapstick, or lip gloss, or something like that. Irene wants me to get her some.”

Shamus said to Shakes, “How have you been?”

“I’ve been trapped in my apartment. I didn’t want to leave with the door unlocked,  so I had to stay there for two days.  I haven’t paid my cable bill, so I didn’t have television. I haven’t paid my phone bill so I didn’t have a phone. I had nothing.”

I asked,  “Did Tommy have your keys?”

“Yeah, Tommy had them. Yesterday he came back and apologized. He said, ‘I forgot I had your keys. I brought you a bottle.'”

I asked, “So, everything is good now?”

“Yeah, everything is good.”

.

3 June 2013

Inuk In Hospital

I had left work and was heading for my bus stop. In his usual spot, in front of Starbucks was Craig. I handed him a Subway card. He asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s six thirty, Craig.”

“Oh, I thought it was a lot later. Thanks for the card, by the way.”

I walked further along the sidewalk and saw Bearded Bruce. He said, “I saw you coming, so I pulled out a piece of cardboard. Would you like to sit for a few minutes?”

“Sure, Bruce, I’m in no rush. It’s a beautiful evening for sitting outside.”

“I hate summer. It means I have to work three times as long for the same money.  I started at six this morning — I just get up, shower, brush my teeth and out the door. I worked three different spots today. Here it is thirteen hours later. I made forty dollars. In the winter I would have made that in three hours. Then, of course, I spent twenty-two dollars at Tim Horton’s for food, so that leaves me with eighteen, less the six-pack I bought.

“Do you know why I do this? Because I can get everything I need. In winter, if I need mitts,  someone gives me mitts. If I need a sleeping bag, someone will come along with a sleeping bag.  If I need a back pack, I’ll find a back pack. There aren’t too many days that I haven’t eaten. Now I have an apartment I don’t need to worry about sleeping outside.

“I was hoping you’d come along because I’ve got a bit of a conundrum.  Inuk and I;  we’re not so good right now. She’s in hospital. I love that woman, more than I’ve ever loved anybody in my life, I’d crawl over broken glass just to be near her, but she vexes me. The last time she was in hospital I visited her every night for three weeks. That takes a lot of time out of my day. When she got out she stayed at my place for two nights then took off. I didn’t see her for two weeks. Then one morning she appears in my spot, like nothing’s happened. I’ve always told her that if she ever heeded anything to give me a call. Well, Chuck came over yesterday. He said, ‘Inuk called. She wants you to visit her in hospital.’ I gave my word, so I have to go. I’ve just got two rules; follow them and we’ll never have any problems: don’t lie to me and don’t steal from me.

“Sure I lie to people on the street, and to the government, but to my friends I never lie, never steal. You can count on that.

“Anyway, like I said, I have this conundrum. Do I visit her or not? If I go there I’ll have to act all nice as if everything is alright between us, but it’s not. What I want to say is how pissed off I am about her disappearing, like she did. She doesn’t deal well with confrontation. Me, I like to get things off my chest, then I’m done. We can be friends again. So, right now I’m just killing time, trying to decide what to do.”

Craig walked towards us. “Dennis, I hope this doesn’t offend you.” He shouted at Craig, “Have you eaten?”

I said, “I already gave him a card.”

Craig said, “Hi, I’m just going to go to Subway, then buy a few beer and head for the river. Will I see you later? I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“It’s okay, you go on your way. I’m leaving soon. Are you sure you’re going to eat?”

“Yeah, but will I see you tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, if you see me, you see me.”

Another man approached from the opposite direction. Bruce said, “Hey man. I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“Yeah, I’ve been away. You’re looking good.”

“I’ve put on a few pounds due to good eating,  if that’s what you mean. I’ve cut back on the booze.”

“Well, this is me on drugs.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Yeah, I’m hungry.”

“Take this Subway card and get something to eat. Don’t try to sell it to get more drugs.”

“Okay Bruce, I appreciate that. I’m going to go there right now.”

The man left.  Bruce said, “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s part Inuit, part native. He’s also schizophrenic. He hears voices. He spends every cent he has smoking crack. I’ve been there, that’s how I got into dealing, but I’m off it now. I still smoke weed. I can’t understand why I can go across the street, buy a bottle of scotch, drink it and act totally obnoxious, yet if I’m caught with less than thirty grams of weed, that’s only going to make me happy, I can be fined $1000 or 6 months in jail, or both.

“I hope you don’t mind that I gave your card away, It’s just that I hate to see somebody worse off than I am…  if I can help them.”

“I understand, Bruce.”

“Now, I know that Joy prefers Subway cards to Tim Horton’s; but they’re not as good. I’ll tell you why. For two Tim Horton’s cards and eighty-six cents I can buy a can of their coffee. I’ve been doing without my coffee lately. For one card and twenty-six cents I can buy their hash browns, a sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin, with a tall glass of milk. Besides that Subway is run by a bunch of ignorant immigrants. I can say that because I’m an immigrant.

“I went there , a few days ago, with my own card.  I’d filled it up the day before with twenty dollars.  I gave it to the guy, he put it through the machine and he said, “It shows that you only have one cent on this card.” I said, “That’s impossible, I just filled it up last night.” I wasn’t going to argue with this lout, so I went a couple of blocks to another Subway. I asked, “Can you tell me how much money is on this card?” The guy checked and said, “Twenty dollars.” Needless to say, I don’t go to the place down the street any more.

“The cards are a good idea, because it encourages people to eat, and that’s a good thing;  but they can take those same cards to Shark and he’ll give them five dollars — even trade.”

I said, “I don’t mind what people do with them. I want them have the opportunity to eat,  if they’re hungry;  but I don’t want to force anything on them.  It’s their choice.”

“So, I still have this conundrum with Inuk. I know I’m just putting it off, maybe until it’s too late to go. I’ll have another beer and think about it.

“I’ve been to twenty-three different countries, so far Canada is the one I prefer. With the charge of dealing on my record I can’t get a passport for seven years, but one day I’d like to visit Peru, because of the history, or China.

“In Canada there are far fewer fights. Where I grew up, near Glasgow, we’d go to the pub; not to drink, but to fight.  You’ve heard the Elton John song,  Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. That was us. I’m not afraid of anybody. I was brought up by an alcoholic dad who was six-foot four, weighed two hundred and sixty pounds. There’s nobody who could give a beating like he could.

“The school yards were just as bad. There was always one group against another, Catholics against Protestants, city kids against country kids, it didn’t matter. I kept, for the most part, to myself. I hate bullies. I saw this one bully beating a smaller kid, so I stepped in. The bully went to hospital for three days. I was charged with assault and could have gone down for it, but my mom stood up for me, and the step-mom, of the bully, stood up for me. That was a welcome surprise. Anyway, instead of reform school, I was sent to an old folks home. I loved it there. This was the seventies. I was a pseudo hippy. The men would have all these war stories from the Second World War, the Korean War. I was reading about the Vietnam War, so we would have these intense discussions.

“That was a good place for me. I still had my school work to do. I remember my auntie. If she saw I was daydreaming — I did that a lot — she’d knock me on the side of the skull with her fist. That really hurt. She’d say, ‘Wake up Brucie, pay attention!’ When it came to write my exams I got really good marks. If I ever started daydreaming I’d think of that sharp knock on the skull.

“My mom was in a wheelchair. I was born at home with two mid-wives. I weighed thirteen pounds seven ounces and was a ‘blue baby’.

“I’m used to being around wheel chairs. There was this one guy around here who’d drive around in one of those motorized chairs. He’d bump into people, swear at them. I said to him, ‘Get out of that wheel chair and I’ll beat the shit out of you.’ I guess nobody had ever talked to him like that before. When he came back he gave me ten bucks.

“I’d love to go to China. Do you know that they were writing in the third century BC? Their original alphabet was based on the tracks of birds. That was  before we’d  even defined the concept of  God that we believe, or don’t believe in,  now. We were still running around, living in caves. They were building the Great Wall of China.  Hundreds of thousands, if not up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Every third son had to work on it for free. He still had his chores to do in the fields, but during the day he’d be shaping and placing stones for  that wall.  Do you know how long it is ? Five thousand, five hundred miles. It’s one of the largest man-made structures in the world.”

“Why was the Great Wall built?”

“To keep out the Manchus,  the Mongols and other warlike tribes from the north. Some Chinese guy, thinking he’d be rewarded with a high rank, led them through a secret passage way. As soon as they were on the other side of the wall they slit his throat and took over the country.”

Somebody rode by on a bicycle. Bruce yelled, “Hello Asshole!”

“Was that Curt?” I asked.

“Yeah, but ever since Weasel died I call him asshole. It’s because of something he said to me. He knew that Weasel and I were close friends. When I told him that he had died he said, ‘Good riddance!’ I never liked the guy anyway. I’m not going to his funeral.

“I’d be a lot better off if I didn’t like people, or rather love them. I’ve had four close friends die this past year, five if you count Weasel’s dog Bear. Every time it tears away a piece of my heart. Inuk nearly died during  her last time in hospital.  The infection is back.  She could die without me even seeing her. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.”

We caught the bus together and Bruce did get off at the stop for the East General Hospital.

.

13 June 2013

Food Bank 

At the park, I sat between Little Jake and Joy. I asked Joy, “How are you feeling today? Sick? Sore? Tired?”

“All of the above. Big Jake is coming over tonight.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Okay, I guess. He came over Monday. He’s quit drinking. He’s in a wheel chair.”

“Did you beat  the shit out of him?”

“No, maybe that will come tonight.”

“He phoned this morning, on Jacques’ phone. He asked to come over. I said, ‘I’m cooking chicken, will that be alright?’ What a stupid cow. I shouldn’t be feeding him after what he did to me.”

“I hope it goes okay.”

“I hope so too. This morning I got on the bus, put in my ticket, walked to the back and sat down. The driver yelled, ‘Hey lady!’ I didn’t know who he was talking to. ‘You, lady with the blue back pack, would you come to the front please?’ I look to see what color my back pack is — blue. So I walk to the front. He asked, ‘What’s in the bottle that you’re drinking?’ I said, ‘It’s bubble tea with ginger ale. You know, bubble tea? Usually it’s made with tea and sparkling water, but I use ginger ale.’ He said, ‘Okay, you can sit down.’

Little Jake said, “Didn’t he ask to smell it? The cops always ask to smell my bottle.”

“No, bus drivers don’t do that. They wouldn’t want their nose anywhere near my bottle.”

Jake said, “I’ll have to remember that one.”

Mariah  said, “I went to the Food Bank today. I could only get a few things. They allowed me three cans: one of vegetables, one stew and one tuna. They also gave me a tiny plastic container of margarine and a few other items.”

“What kind of stew did you get? Is it the one that tastes like dog food — Gravy Train?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Which Food Bank did you go to Regent-Moss Park, or South Parkdale?

“I never go to Parkdale. It means I’d have to get there three hours before they open, even then there’s  a line up. By the time I get in, there’s hardly anything left.”

“Didn’t you get any meat or eggs?”

“When I had kids, they used to give me meat and eggs, but not as a single.”

Shakes asked, “Mariah, would you help me to get my groceries some day.”

“I can’t do it Friday, but maybe Saturday.”

“Saturday is fine. The doctor has me on a special diet.”

“Dennis, ” said Shakes, “you know me?”

‘Yes, I know you.”

“I know when it’s coming and I know when it’s going — right?”

“That’s right Shakes, you’re The Man.”

.

14 June 2013

Shakes Robbed

I approached Shakes, sprawled as usual, on the sidewalk. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat, leather with a shell band. I asked, “How is your day going?”

“Terrible!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I was robbed. They took everything: my three grams, my bottle, my pack, my wallet, my house keys. They even took my hat.”

“How did it happen? Were you jumped?”

“No, I passed out. When I woke up everything was gone.”

“You mentioned that your wallet was missing. Did you have your health papers in there?”

“I don’t know what I had in there. You know how it is. I don’t look in there unless I need to.”

“Will you be able to get into your apartment?”

“I got an extra apartment key. I’d left it at the convenience store that gives me credit. What I don’t have is a key for the main door. They say they’re going to charge me fifty dollars to get a new one. Steve, over there lives in the same building that I do.”

“So, he’ll be able to let you in.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll  have to climb up the balcony.”

“Do you think you could do that?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Forty years ago I could shimmy up any tree there was.”

Jake said, “Dennis, I’ve got something funny to tell you. It was around Christmas time. I wen’t over to Shakes’ place, because he owed me something. I forget what it was. Anyway, it was three o’clock in the morning. I parked my self — my back against his door — and started pounding with my elbows and yelling ,’Shakes, let me in!’ He opened the door, grabbed my jacket by the hood, dragged me down the hall and threw me down the marble stairs. I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything. I found it so funny, I just lay at the bottom of the stairs laughing. Shakes said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ Then walked back to his apartment. The hood was ripped off my coat. I managed to crawl home, somehow. I don’t remember that part.

“Do you know what I wake up to every morning? A photo of Bear after Weasel died. Bearded Bruce had it framed and gave it to me. It’s just Bear, and part of Bruce. It makes me smile every time I look at it.”

Wolf said, “I’m having a great day. A lady came by — I may have seen her before. She gave me a bag with a bandanna for Shaggy. See, it has paw prints on it. She also gave me two Tim Horton’s cards worth five dollars each, some dog treats and this book, “Bird in the House” by Margaret Laurence. I don’t know who she is, but I started right in reading it. Some women came by and told me about the story. I like it.

“Margaret Laurence is a very good writer,” I said. “I’ve read, The Stone Angel and The Diviners by her. I’m sure you’ll like the book.”

“I liked the horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I would,  so, maybe I’ll like this too. I was just so impressed that the lady thought about me, and took the trouble to put this bag together.  She’s a good person. It really made my day. I’m still happy — but now I have to take a piss. When I get back we can talk more about books. There’s no point trying to talk to to Shakes or Jake. They wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”

Deaf Donald came by and, pointing to an empty spot on the curb, asked, “Is any body here?… Is anybody here?”

Little Jake said, “No, sit down.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, sit the fuck down.”

“What’s your problem? I just asked if anybody was sitting here. I’ll remember what you said. What did I do wrong? I don’t know what it is that I did.”

“Donald, come here and sit down.  You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Donald sat on the blanket where Wolf had been sitting. Wolf came back and said, “What the fuck are you doing on my blanket!  Did I give you permission to sit there. You don’t just sit down on someone’s blanket. Now, get the fuck away from here!”

Donald, with tears in his eyes, said to Frank, “You told me to sit there. Why did you do that?”

“I told you to sit down. I didn’t tell you to sit there.”

Donald said, “I’m having a really bad day. Last month my grandma died. I’ve just learned that my mom’s dying of cancer and she’s kicked me out of her house.”

“Donald, for Christ’s sake, I’m sorry, man!” said Wolf. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m just a cantankerous, grumpy old man. You know that.  Ask anybody.”

I said, “I agree with that. How about you Jake, do you agree? Matches? Is Wolf a cantankerous, grumpy old man?”

There was a resounding, “Yes!” Wolf and Donald shook hands and Wolf returned to where he was sitting.”

Gaston said to me, “I read that on some nights there are as many as six thousand, five hundred people using homeless shelters in Toronto. Seaton House is the largest, they can house seven hundred men, though, in the past, it’s exceeded capacity and housed as many as nine hundred.

“I’ve been working on the book I’m writing. It’s been twelve years since I started. It’s finally coming together.”

“Have you published any other books, in English?”

“Yes, in 1992. It didn’t do much. All my books have something to do with psychology. In this book there are four characters who live in the same apartment. They each have girlfriends. The conflict comes when someone hasn’t contributed to the rent. They don’t know who it is, but one character pleads his case to get the others on his side…”

It was time for me to get back to work. I shook hands all around and promised to come back on Monday, weather permitting.

.

18 June 2013

Seizure

This morning after getting off the bus, greeting Metro, I noticed Joy’s feet sticking out from behind a pillar. I fished in my wallet for bus tickets,  Joy always  needs them, or else she’ll try to hop the bus from the back door. I didn’t notice Chester approaching. He asked ,”Are those for me?” I asked, “Do you need some?” He answered,  “Yes please. Thank you very much. Do you want a coffee? I have coupons for Tim Horton’s.”  I declined, “No thanks, Chester, you hang on to them.”

When I approached Joy she was huddled over, her sweater pulled over her knees. “I’m definitely under dressed for this weather.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“Not so good, I’ve got a pain like something I swallowed didn’t go down right; but I get that pain if I swallow spit. It’s because of this cage I’ve got in my chest. It deems to be going away now. I’ve still been having dizzy spells, like I get before I’m going to have a seizure. It happened yesterday at home. I was watching television, then this wave of dizziness came over me. I looked around my apartment for my medication. I usually keep a stash somewhere, but couldn’t find it. I lay down on the bed. I  must have passed out because I woke up on the floor.

“The torn rotator cuff I have, had turned purple. I can’t lift my arm. Have a look at this.” She lifted her bandana to reveal a split in her eyebrow. “I took the legs off my bed, so next time I won’t have as far to fall.

“This afternoon I have an appointment with my women to see about furniture. I hope I don’t have to pay for delivery, because I’m strapped. These people are supposed to help people without money. They aren’t offering much help.”

I commented, “You moved into your apartment seven months ago? And you still don’t have furniture?”

“I moved in November ninth.”

“How has it been going with Big Jake? You mentioned that he would be coming over.”

“Yeah,  he was over on the weekend. I fixed him supper. He was over again last night. He’s really fat. He’s in a wheel chair and doesn’t know how to use it very well —  I used to be able to do wheelies in mine. He says he’s two hundred and thirty, but he’s way more than that. He’s really getting it at the Sally. Guys will just come up to him and give him a shot in the back of the head, or a one, two, three combination. I said to him, ‘Well, in the past, you shouldn’t have been such an asshole, to so many people.’

“He noticed the condoms in my drawer. He asked, ‘Who are these for?’ I said, ‘For you, if I ever decide to fuck you.’ There’s no way I’d let him do it without a condom. Who knows what diseases he’s carrying. He asked, ‘Have there been any other guys you’ve been with?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting for you.’ There’s no spark though. Nothing at all. He asked if he could come over today, but I said, ‘I’ve got an appointment with my women. I don’t know how long that’s going to take.’ He said, ‘Well, I can’t come Wednesday, because I’ve got my piss test.’ It seems crazy. He’s got a condition on his parole that he doesn’t drink, but they warn him before he’s tested. He has plenty of time to get it out of his system.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had been sober for a while.”

“All the time he’s been inside, but there’s the jailhouse hooch. Everybody drinks that. It’s easier to get drugs there than it is on the outside. He was drinking and smoking pot on the weekend.

“He’s acting really dependent, like I should be catering to him or something. When I told him it was time for him to go home he asked, ‘Will you push my chair to the bus stop?’ all whiny like. I said, ‘There’s a slight hill from here to the bus stop, you can make it there yourself. Maybe when I can afford to get a cell phone, you can phone me from the bottom of the hill and I’ll come and push you.’

Chester came back with only one coffee. He said, “They aren’t taking the coupons any more. They’d only give me one coffee.”

“Don’t worry about it, they’ll be having another roll up the rim to win soon. ” Joy showed me a clear plastic box with dozens of torn coffee rims. “A woman just dropped these in my hat. I guess she didn’t want to wait until the next promotion.”

“I’m going to leave soon.  I’m still not feeling well. I’m going to  the park to wait for my workers.”

I said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, and Chester, I’ll see you at the park this afternoon.”

“Bye Dennis.”

.

18 June 2013

Hippo Trot

As I was approaching the park, Tommy came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to Wellesley. I was planning to visit a friend nearby, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakes said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the Eaton Center and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at five, thirty and didn’t get home until ten, thirty.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got three, sixty.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”

“Sure!”

Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at four, thirty. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, ‘Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at ten, thirty. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Little Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kid of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a Brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the Eaton Center?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.”  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheel chair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheel chair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”

.

19 June 2013

Feller Buncher

It was crowded in the park and tempers were short.  Alphonse yelled, “Dennis, aren’t you going to say hello to us?”

I replied, “I’m working my way in that direction, just be patient.”  I made my rounds, shaking hands, asking how people were feeling, what had happened since Id seen them last.”

I came to Alphonse and Magdalene. I said, “I hear that you have a new apartment now. How do you like it?” Alphonse said, “We like it there. It’s far from downtown, but it’s nice. Dennis, I’d like you to meet my friend Manisee.”

We shook hands. He said, “Do you want to know an easy way to remember my name. Just think of Man I See, Manisee.”

“I’ll remember that, Manisee.” I sat down near Little Jake, Wolf and Jacques. “I see you have a new hat, Jacques. It looks good on you.”

“Thank you. It keeps the sun off.”

“How are you doing, Jake?”

“Not so good. Those people over there. They’re drinking straight vodka. They’re getting too loud, especially Magdalene.  Her screeching in my ear is driving me nuts. I’m about ready to swat her.”

Alphonse yelled over, “Jake, what’s that boo-boo on your lip? It looks pretty bad.”

“It’s just a cold sore. I’ve been smoking too many butts.” To me he whispered, “See what I mean.”

Wolf said, “I woke up here at six, thirty, yesterday evening. Shakes woke me up. It took about two hours to walk home pushing Shaggy’s cart. When I got to my apartment building I sawOutcast and some others sitting on the curb so I gave them my drunk talk. I didn’t have my teeth, in so I don’t know if I made any sense.

“After I got unpacked I was ravenously hungry. I didn’t trust myself to use the stove, so I went to Subway.  I gave the guy my card and he said, ‘I know just what you want.  I gonna make you something special.’ He did. I don’t know how he knew what I wanted, I didn’t know what I wanted, but he did good. It was really delicious. I still got half in the fridge.

“Yesterday I wanted to tell you about the new book I got. I was too drunk last night to do any reading. I didn’t even crack it open. I don’t even remember the title. I guess I must have read the back cover, but I don’t know. I don’t remember very much,  just  little bits and pieces,  of last night.

“Jake, have you got a dollar twenty-five?”

“Sure,”

“If I give you ten bucks will you do a run for me and get a case of beer? I don’t want to move. I’ll give you one.”

“Will you give me two?”

“Sure, Jake. You look like you could use them.”

Wolf said to me,  “I can see that Jake is getting grumpy. That’s why I don’t mind giving him two beer.”

Magdalene sat next to Wolf and put her hand on his shoulder. He said, “Hey, watch the fingerprints!”

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“Saying hello is one thing; touching is another. Just keep your hands off me.”

Someone in white pants and a white jacket came along and called to Magdalene. She went over to talk to him. He said, “You ran out on me yesterday. I gave you money to buy a bottle of vodka and you never came back.”

“Yeah, I got delayed. I was talking to someone. See, I just got out of jail and this person was looking after my stuff. I was worried about my stuff, but don’t worry I’ll pay you back for the vodka as soon as I get some money.”

“Alphonse entered the conversation, “You don’t have to worry about your money, my friend. We’re good for it. Just give us a few days. You’ll see us around.”

I asked Hippo, “Have you gone to court yet?”

“Yeah, they remanded it to sometime in July. I was told that they’re going to drop the charges. I have to go back to be fingerprinted.”

“Don’t they have your fingerprints?”

“No, I guess I was too intoxicated. I’m not allowed to drink, smoke pot or carry any weapons, especially hammers. If I get caught it’s straight to jail. I don’t mind, it’s just until my court date.”

I asked, “Have you been home to see your family lately?”

“My mom came by yesterday, bought me some groceries, gave me some money. She’s going down to Kitchener this weekend to visit her brother, my aunt, my nephews, my nieces.”

“Do you ever get down there to visit your relatives?”

“No, I don’t get along with her brothers.

“Jerry here just got back from B.C. where I’d eventually like to go. He operates a feller buncher (a motorized vehicle with an attachment that can rapidly cut and gather several trees before felling them.”

Jerry said, “Hippo, you could operate one of those. It’s no more complicated than the skidders you’ve operated. I was working at a dry camp. The only liquor was what you brought in, otherwise nothing. After two months I came into a bar in the city and was mixing, vodka, whiskey, rum; anything I could get my hands on.  The waitress said to me, ‘Man, it looks like you haven’t had alcohol for months.’ I said, ‘That’s exactly it.’ ”

.

20 June 2013

The Mammoth Hunters

The park was empty today except for Little Jake and Debbie.  “Are you going for beer?” Jake asked Debbie.

“Yeah, I’m going. I’ll leave my jacket here.”

Jake commented, “You’re going the wrong way.”

“I can’t go to the liquor store, they won’t let me in. I have  to go to the Beer Store. Is there anything else you want?”

“No, just beer.

“I don’t know where everybody is today. Wolf and Shaggy were here this morning, but Wolf got too drunk. He had to go home. I think they got scared by the cops.  After you left yesterday two cruisers pulled right up on the sidewalk.”

Debbie said, “Yeah, they had me in hand cuffs. This cop wanted my last beer, so I shoved it in his chest. That’s when they grabbed me and put me in the back of  the cruiser.”

“Did they let you go?” I asked.

“Yeah, after a while they gave me a ticket and let me go.”

Jake said, “They were going through our bags and everything. They aren’t allowed to do that —  are they? I said, ‘Get the fuck out of my bag. You got no business going through my things like that.’ I get mouthy when I’m pissed off.  That’s just me.  I walked away after that. A cop chased me. He gave me a ticket. This is going to be a bad summer, man. They’re really down on us.”

An attractive woman, looking slightly lost, came over to us and asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Yeah, it’s twelve, twenty.”

“Oh, thanks.” She started to walk away, Frank asked, “Can you spare some change?”

“No, sorry.”

“Well be that way, then.” To me Frank asked, “What time did you say it was?”

“Twelve, twenty”

“Are you serious? I thought it was about five o’clock. What day is it?”

“The twentieth, summer starts tomorrow.”

“No, I meant the day of the week. Is it Wednesday or Thursday?

“Thursday.”

“I wonder why nobody’s around. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about.

“I’m glad that Deaf Donald isn’t around today. I can only take him in small doses. I guess that because he’s deaf  he doesn’t realize how fucking loud he is. His trick is to ask people for money so he can replace the batteries in his hearing aid. One time the cops came up to me and said they’d had complaints about somebody yelling. It was a couple of the regular guys. I said, ‘You guys know me. I don’t yell.’ After they left, I heard Donald, down the stairs in the park. Then I figured it out. He was cutting my grass.”

“So how are you doing today?”

“I made sixteen dollars,  so far, but  I spent some of it.”

“Did you ever get your furniture?”

“No, I was talking to my worker yesterday. You saw her. She’s always good to me; but still no furniture. I got a bed, a table and a TV that doesn’t work. I got a radio and one lamp. The only thing for me to do is read. Bearded Bruce lent me a book, it’s part of a series of six. It’s called The Clan of the Cave Bear. He said I had to start with that one, but I’ve already read The Mammoth Hunters. It’s the third book, so I already know what’s going to happen. Now, I’m reading what went before.

“It takes place about thirty-five thousand years ago. There’s this five-year-old girl, Ayla, who gets lost because of an earthquake. She comes across another tribe called the Clan of the Cave Bear. The medicine woman feels sorry for her and takes care of her. When the clan gets a new leader he throws her out — she’s considered one of the ‘Others’, the tall ones who have blond hair and blue eyes.

“She changes the course of history. The Clan of the Cave Bear hunted horses for food, but Ayla traps a foal, raises it and learns to ride him. She befriends  a wolf and a saber-toothed tiger. Ayla  also discovers how to make fire. That’s as far as I’ve got,  so far…

“I got to tell you —  I always tell the truth; that’s something my mother taught me…”

I said, “I’m the same way. I don’t have a good enough memory to lie. I’d never remember what I said before.  When Joy got busted for jumping the bus, they wanted her name. She asked, ‘What name did I give last time?’ ”

“Anyway,  I went to Metro last night and stole two pork chops. I took them over to Bruce’s place, cooked them with lemon  juice,  garlic, oregano and pepper. They were delicious.  Sometimes, Bruce and I try to outdo each other with our cooking… I’m a good cook. I grew up in a restaurant… I got to be maitre d at a five-star hotel.   We served Austrian and Canadian food… I wore a tux and everything.

“For some reason I ended up at Steve’s place with half a bucket of ribs. I think some girl gave them to us.

“You heard that Shakes got robbed, eh? Yeah, he passed out… They took his pack, his three grams, his bottle, his change and his hat. Anybody who knows him would recognize that hat… I think I know who did it. His name is right on the tip of my tongue… What is it?… I hate when this happens… Anyway, the guy just got out of jail.”

I asked, “Would I know him?”

“No, he did about two years for something… I can’t remember… It’ll come to me…”

.

21 June 2013

Run With the Wolves

Joy was all smiles this morning.  She was seated on her box, but any minute I expected her to break into dance.

“How did it go with getting your furniture?”

“Great, The place is huge.  I got a new sofa, a shelf that will go on one of the tables I already have. I took the legs off my bed because of the seizure I had; but I wanted to get a wicker headboard that I saw there. I didn’t get it. I also wanted a silver frame in the shape of three hearts. I didn’t get that either. My worker was so impatient. I wanted to look around, to make sure I got things I wanted to live with, but she kept checking her watch. I think we were only there half an hour.

“When I got home and we got everything set up I did a little dance. I’ve waited seven months for this stuff, now I’m going to enjoy it.

“I haven’t seen many of the guys lately, not even dickhead.”

I asked, “Who would dickhead be?”

“Big Jake, he’s been over a couple of times. He wanted me to push him from the Salvation Army to the park. I said, “No way!”

“Has he apologized for beating you?”

“Yeah he has, he was even crying. He said, ‘Joy, I’ll never hurt you again. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want to go to prison again.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I bet you learned a lot in prison. I don’t want to hear about it. Instead of being sorry now, you should have thought before you broke my ribs, especially since you’d broken them just two weeks before.

“‘You’re whining like Antonio.’  He asked, ‘Who’s Antonio? Is that someone you’ve had living over here? I said. ‘No, you dumbass, it’s Mariah’s boyfriend!  She kicked him out six months ago.  For the last twenty-two months I’ve enjoyed living by myself and sleeping by myself.  Jake said, ‘I could help you with that.’  I said, ‘For now just consider us friends. We’ll see how it goes.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had to have a piss test as a requirement of his parole. How did that go?”

“It was funny. There was a new parole officer there, who didn’t know Jake’s, medical history. After the test he came back and said, ‘You’re in trouble, Jake. The test came back positive.’ Jake said, ‘Positive for morphine, right?’ The guy says, ‘Yeah.” Jake pulls out of his pocket a piece of paper and waves it at the guy. ‘Prescription!’ he says.

“His regular parole officer is a really hard case. He can pounce on Jake anytime  and have him tested.  If  Jake has any advanced warning, all he has to do is drink a cup of vinegar. That’ll get any trace of drugs or booze out of his system.  My brother was in prison. He  had the same booze and drug prohibition on his parole. He used to carry a bottle of vinegar with him all the time.

“What time is it now?”

“”Eight, thirty.”

“That means I’ve been here two and a half hours. I even made sure I got the early bus. So far, I’ve made four dollars and twenty-six cents.”

I said, “On Wednesday, two cruisers pulled up on the sidewalk. The male cop demanded that Debbie give them her last beer. She was pissed off and shoved it into his chest. She was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the cruiser.”

“Was she arrested?”

“No, they let her go with just a ticket.”

“That’s assault, and she’s been in and out of jail a dozen times. If that had been me, I would have gone straight to prison.

“I’ve got no use for that stupid, loud-mouthed bitch. When we were up at the bridge one time, she was going on and on about something.  I was ready to throw her off the side. I had her back to the railing.  She was whimpering, ‘Please, Joy, please don’t push me over.’  Sometimes I think I should have.”

“Magdalene just got out of jail.”

“Yeah, that was because she had three no shows at court. She’s been charged with assault. There again, if that was me I’d be in prison.”

I sat on the sidewalk beside Shakes and in front of Joy, Little Jake and  Debbie. Wolf had gone for a piss. I gave a used copy of the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, to Joy. It seemed appropriate since, on the front of her  sweatshirt, there was an image of a wolf.” She thanked me and said, “Sorry I have to run, but I have an appointment with my landlady, to fix my toilet.”

I pulled out another book, Mob Rule, that I intended to give to Wolf. Shakes looked at it and asked, “Are you going to give this to Wolf?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “I like to read too, you know, especially since I don’t have television.”

I said, “You take it then, Shakes.”

Shortly after Wolf returned. He saw the book Shakes was holding. “That looks interesting. Mind if I read that after you’re finished?”

“Sure,” said Shakes.

I said,  “It’s about Paul Volpe, the boss of the Toronto Mafia from the early 1960’s up to his death in 1983. It mentions his bootlegging days as a young man, to his initiation into the Mob, his stints in jail, and then the details of his death. Maybe you’ll recognize some of the names.”

Little Jake said, “We don’t remember names, we remember faces.”

I said, “There are pictures, too.”

Wolf reached into Shaggy’s cart and pulled out three books. One was by Danielle Steele, ‘We all know what this one’s about. This one’s by Catherine Cookson, I don’t know her. This last one is a murder mystery. Doesn’t look like there’s much shooting, but it’s more  my style.  Anyway, I got lots to read for the weekend. I’m going  to Tim Horton’s, have a coffee, a couple of donuts and read my books.”

Debbie asked, “Dennis, how do you like my new summer haircut?”

“It looks very nice. It suits you.”

“Little Jake cut it. We were both stoned, but it came out alright, didn’t it.?”

I said, “It looks professional. Nobody would ever know that it wasn’t done at a salon.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, it’s a lot better than the haircut that Jacques gave me.”

Wolf, whose white hair is almost to his shoulders said, “There’s no way that any of you guys are going to cut my hair.”

Matches asked me, “Dennis, are you going to the Rib Fest?”

“No, ” I said, “are you?”

“I’ve been two times already and I’m going again tonight. I should do pretty well I always go to the Blues Fest, the Jazz Fest and the Folk Fest. My favorite is the Blues Fest. I can’t get past the gate, but people always give me booze and get me stoned.”

Shakes was wearing a pair of shorts. Debbie asked, “What’s that scar on your leg?

“Which one?”

“The one that runs from your knee to your hip?”

“That’s where I got shot. The bullet went in here.” pointing to a circular scar, “It broke my femur and came out here.” He lifted his leg to show the scar from the exit wound.They had to cut me open to put the rod in.

“I didn’t mean to be nosey,” said Debbie, “I was just wondering.”

“I got it at a house party. I knew there was going to be trouble, so I went to my street sister and asked for my nine millimeter. She didn’t wan’t to give it to me. She said, ‘If I give you this gun, you’re going to get into trouble. I just know it.’ I said, ‘That’s why I need my gun.’ I was at the party, there was lots of booze, drugs, but I decided to leave. My bro asked for my gun. I took it out of my pocket, took the clip out, but forgot there was still a shell in the chamber. It had a hair-trigger, much too sensitive. When my bro took my gun, he accidentally shot me in the leg.

I asked, “Why did your friend want your gun?”

“‘Cause he wanted to shoot the guy.

“The last time I was in prison was in 1995. I was in Collins Bay for nearly five years.”

I asked, “What were you in for?”

“Bank robbery. I was just seventeen, selling drugs, robbing banks, boxing. That’s when I was sparring with George Chuvallo and Shawn O’Sullivan. I still got it.”

I said, “I guess it’s just like riding a bicycle. You never forget it.”

“I don’t get into fights any more, but if I’m backed against a wall, watch out, the fists are going to fly.”

.

24 June 2013

Humans

I wasn’t expecting to see Joy this morning;  she’s told me previously, ‘I don’t do Mondays,’ but there she was

I said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”

“I should have stayed home, for all the good it’s done me.”

“How was your weekend.”

“It was quiet. I didn’t go out.”

“Did you see anybody?”

“No, on Saturday I bought a foot-long sub from Subway. I ate half and put the rest in the fridge. I wasn’t feeling well after that. When I ate the other half on Sunday, I really got sick; puking, the shits, everything. I’m still not feeling too well this morning, but I’ve just had the dry heaves. I must be getting over whatever it was I had.”

I said, “You must be enjoying your new furniture, especially your sofa.

“Yeah, the sofa sure beats sitting on the one chair I had. I spent all weekend there.”

“What else did you say you got?”

“A couple of end tables, a shelf that goes on one of the tables I had already, some nice sheets, bedding, towels, oven mitts, that kind of stuff. Oh, and a thing for the kitchen that holds salt and pepper.

“See that guy in the shorts, stopping people by Tim Horton’s. He was standing right in front of me a while a go telling people that I’m a fake, that I’m not really homeless. I’ve never told anybody I was homeless.  I don’t say anything.  All my regulars know I’m not homeless;  I’m doing this so I don’t starve. I think he’s pissed off because nobody’s giving him any money.

“I got something on my chin that’s really bugging me. See these spots. Mariah has the same thing. My feet are really dry and cracking as well.”

I said, “It could be some form of eczema. You should check with your doctor. Do you have your health papers?”

“No, not yet. They gave me some creme in the hospital. I had the same thing then, but it’s so greasy, I hate to use it.

“See that parking control guy. He’s given out more tickets than anybody else who comes along here.”

I said, “I bet this car here gets a ticket. It’s stupid blocking a lane at this time of the morning.”

“Yeah, I told him, I said, ‘If you park there you’re going to get a ticket.’  He said, ‘No, I won’t. I’ll just be a few minutes.’ I said, ‘You’re going to get a ticket,  see that sign there.’ “

I said, “Some people think they’re too important to obey signs.”

“Yeah, that was this guy alright.” The traffic control officer arrived and wrote a ticket for the car we’d been talking about. “That’s going to be eighty bucks.”

People walked by, some waved at Joy. She smiled. “Humans,” she said, “go figure.”

.

 25 June 2013

Chester

As I approached Joy, she smiled and said, “Another day in the neighborhood. It’s going to be a hot one… Oh no, here comes Chester.”

“Hi Chester, have you finished your run?”

He held up a long cigarette butt, and said, “No, I’m just starting.” He wandered off in search of the next ashtray.

“Did I miss anything in the park yesterday?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t stay long; it was just too hot. Bearded Bruce was there. He complained the whole time about the heat. I said, ‘Hey dude, if you’d lose a few pounds it wouldn’t bother you so much. Just push yourself away from the dinner table’… He doesn’t listen…

“Even I’ve gained a few pounds. Now, I’m between one twenty-five and one thirty.”

I said, “I remember last winter, after you got out of hospital you were a hundred and five.”

“Yeah, I’m comfortable staying at my present weight. Debbie and Little Jake seem to be living together now. He wasn’t out yesterday. Maybe he’ll stay home and she’ll do the boosting.”

“She was showing off the haircut that Jake gave her.”

“Yeah, that was a laugh. I didn’t say anything, but the best thing she could do now is shave her whole head. There’s no way I’d let any of those guys near me with a pair of scissors.”

“I guess they were both stoned at the time.”

“It shows.” Joy took a scrap of bread and threw it to a sparrow that had landed just a few feet from her. He contentedly nibbled. “He’s my little friend. I spit at the pigeons who come near. I feed this little guy and a squirrel that comes by every so often. Sometimes he’ll climb right up on my shoulder and scratch to let me know he’s hungry. People  love it, but it kind of freaks me out. I’m never quite sure whether or not he’s going to bite me.

“Yesterday, I just wanted to go home and lie in my bathtub. That’s the only place I could stay cool. I guess I’ll have to invest in one of those little fans. The apartment wasn’t too hot early on, but with the sun shining on the windows, it got hotter throughout the day.

“This morning I put black garbage bags over all the windows to try to keep the heat out. I hope it makes a difference. At least today there’s more of a breeze.

“Shakes missed his delivery of Ensure yesterday. His workers arrange it because he doesn’t eat properly. If he had his way he’d just drink. He asked me to phone and ask when they would be coming by. They said, ‘We’ll be there in a few minutes,’ so, there’s no way he could have made it home. He’ll have to reschedule.

“Chester went to the Welfare office on Yonge Street yesterday; because his hydro had been turned off. He told them that he’d lost all the food in his refrigerator —  which was a lie — but they cut him a check for a hundred and thirty-seven dollars. That should keep him going until his pension checks come in. He shouldn’t have any trouble paying his rent, hydro and food. Even when I was there, I was always buying groceries and helping with bills. He just spends too much on women. They hang around him on check day;  when his money runs out they leave.”

.

26 June 2013

Lullaby Town

I sat next to Magdalene,  she seemed upset. “Hi Dennis, will you talk to me? Nobody else wants to talk to me. I’ll tell you the truth, I fight people, men, women, it doesn’t matter. I want to talk with my mother. I dream about her every night. I think she still loves me, but I’ve done bad things.”

“Your mother isn’t alive is she?”

“No, she died when I was five years old. She was a strong woman. I saw her fight three men one time.”

“What was the cause of her death?”

“Drinking — her liver quit working. When I was in hospital, and they cut me open, they said my liver was falling away in pieces.” She pulled some grass and sprinkled it. “Just like that.”

“I’m sure your mother still loves you and is very proud of you. She’s looking down on you right now. There’s no such thing as good or bad. It’s a matter of choices and consequences. You may have made choices in your past that you now regret, but the  past is over, it’s gone;  nothing can be done about it.  It doesn’t define who you are now. It’s only what you do next that is important. You have lots of choices and I know you’ll make the best of them. You’ll do what’s best for you. Only you know what that is.” (When not panning for change, Magdalene has worked as a prostitute.)

“Do you think so? I was talking on the phone to my aunt. I told her about everything that’s happened to me. She asked me to come home. She said, ‘Give me one good reason why you can’t come home right now.’ I said, ‘Because I’m drunk.’ She said, ‘At least you’re honest.’ I only drink, I don’t do drugs and I’m not crazy.”

I asked, “Will you be able to go home soon?”

“On Friday I get my check. I’ll go home then. Do you have a phone so I can call my aunt? Mariah let me use hers, but just for a minute.”

“I’m sorry, Magdalene, I don’t have a phone.”

“That’s okay. Sometimes, I just want to go away someplace and be alone.”

“Being alone is okay. I enjoy being alone.”

“No, it’s not okay. Sometimes I want to kill myself. See these scars on my neck. Three times I tried to cut my throat.”

“I can understand you feeling that way. I’ve felt that way before, but think of all the people who love you, your friends, your family. They would miss you terribly.”

“My friends are all drunk.”

I had two books for Wolf.  One was Lullaby Town by Robert Crais.  The other was The Chamber by John Grisham.  “Thanks, Dennis, I’ve read a lot of John Grisham, but I haven’t read this one. Robert Crais, I haven’t heard of him, but it looks good.”

Bearded Bruce was sitting on the other side of me. “Robert Crais is good. You’ll like that. When you’ve finished it I can give you some more by him. Nancy brought me a book today, Whirlwind. It’s the third in a series by James Clavell. I’ve read nearly all of his books. When I get on to an author I want to read everything they’ve written. I’ve read Shogun, King Rat and Noble House, Tai-Pan. He’s great.”

“I’ve read those too;” I said, “great books.”

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “Did I tell you about my adventure this morning. Of course I didn’t, you just got here. The tire on Shaggy’s cart went flat. You can see why it went flat, there is no tread on the tire. Anyway, I was talking to Abigail, and she suggested that I go to Charlie’s Bike Joint, on Queen, and ask for Darsh. Those are two funny names, aren’t they; Abigail and Darsh? She said to mention her name to Darsh and he would charge it to her account. That’s a nice gesture isn’t it? It took me about half an hour to walk there and I asked, ‘Is there a Darsh who works here?’ The owner said, ‘There is, but it’s his day off today. Can someone else help you?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ I had to get the tire fixed. Shaggy can’t walk all the way home by herself since she was hit by the car. I asked, ‘How much?’ He said, ‘Seven dollars for the tire, eight dollars for the labor.’ What do you think of that? Anyway, I didn’t mind paying fifteen or eighteen dollars — whatever it was. I had a twenty. Shaggy is all I got. I don’t mind spending money on her.  So, until next time, the tire’s as good as new. That was my adventure for today.”

Bruce asked, “What do you think of this weather?”

“It’s great;” I said, “nice and warm, no rain in sight.”

“It’s no good for panning. I do better when it’s thirty below. The best I can do now is twenty or thirty bucks and that’s doing three shifts, about eleven hours a day. In winter I can make that much in three hours.

“I got a recipe book from the liquor store. They have great recipes for marinades, sauces.”

Little Jake said, “It’s amazing what you can do with mayonnaise,  even in a microwave or a toaster oven.”

Bruce asked, “Can you spare two bus tickets? Jake  is coming home with me tonight. We’re going to do some cooking.”

“Sure Bruce, no problem. Do you do any barbecuing?”

“Yes, I barbecue, but I’m not allowed to have one at my apartment. My landlord just died.”

“Does that mean that nobody can prevent you from having a barbecue?”

“I don’t know who will be taking over. He was a great guy. He’s the reason I was able to get such a nice place. He knows I’m a bum that panhandles for a living, but he took a chance on me. I really appreciated that. One time he gave me a huge television set. It was twelve years old, but it worked fine. All I had to do was carry one end and we brought it to my place.

“I don’t know what he died of. He was only forty-seven years old. Maybe it was the drinking, I don’t know. Maybe he took his own life.”

“Did he have a wife, kids, any other family?”

“No, he lived all by himself.”

I had to go back to work. I stopped for a moment to talk to Mariah. “How is Joy doing? Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s okay. She was here earlier, but left because of this one,” pointing down at Magdalene. Also she wanted to see Big Jake.”

I said, “I hope everything works out. You take care of her, Mariah.”

“Oh, I will. I’ll keep checking on her.”

On my way down the sidewalk I saw Warren who I haven’t seen for about a year. “Hi Warren, how are you? Do you remember me? We’ve spoken a few times where the benches used to be. It was about a year ago.”

“Sorry man, I don’t remember. What’s your name?”

“Dennis.”

“Take care, Warren. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, man.”

.

27 June 2013

Six Up!

The park was nearly deserted; strange since the weather was perfect. Little Jake, Wolf and his dog Shaggy were the only ones there. There was an empty plastic box, so I pulled it over and was about to sit down. Jake handed me his jacket to sit on.

“Thanks, Jake.”

“You’re welcome. Do you want to know why nobody’s here. Because our crew is a   bunch of assholes. That’s why. Do you know what I did yesterday when I got my check. First, I paid all my bills, then I lent the rest of my money to friends. Do you see anybody here to pay me back?  No! I did it just to see what would happen. Now I know.

“I gave Jacques two hundred dollars. I saw him this morning and he gave me back fifty. He said he’d give me the rest back Monday. ‘Monday!’ I said, ‘how am I going to get through the weekend with only fifty bucks?’ ”

Wolf said, “Jake, he was doing you a favor, You know he’s good for the money.  You got two bottles, you got cards to get meals, you got your pot. What else do you need?

“I was panning at my spot — Weasel’s old spot. You wouldn’t believe how people were rushing around. One woman ran across a red light, nearly got hit by a car, just to get to a cubicle in some government building, where she’s probably worked for twenty years. She risks her life just so she won’t be three minutes late? Maybe her boss is a real asshole. How would I know? It just seems so ridiculous, cars are edging through red lights and where’s it going to get them? To the next block so they can do it all over again.

“I worked for twenty years, but that was construction. We’d work one place for a couple of months, then we’d move somewhere else. There’d be no work in the winter, so it’d be pogey until late Spring. It wasn’t so bad. We sure didn’t rush, like I saw this morning; crazy!”

I asked Jake, “How did the cooking go at Bruce’s place?  When I talked to you yesterday you were discussing recipes.”

“Yeah, well, Inuk was over there. At around midnight Bruce and her were going at it, so I said, ‘I can see that you two want to be alone, so I’m outta here. He lives out in Scarborough, I’ve been walking nearly twenty-four hours.”

I asked, “Did you walk straight here, or did you get lost?”

“Oh man, I got lost three times. I zig zagged all over the place, up one street, down another. I started out going the wrong way. I’d walked nearly out to Markham Road. Hell, I’d walked half way home to Deep River. I asked a bus driver how to get to Parliament Street. He said, ‘Fuck man, you’re going the wrong way. You’ve got a lot of walking to do.” It was the last bus, so I couldn’t even get a ride. ”

“So, after you got your directions straight you walked directly here?”

“I think so. No, I went to my place and had a cup of tea, then I walked down here.

“See my ear? Danny did that to me. I was at Shakes’ place. Tommy seems to be taking over. He has everything tidy. He’s running Shakes’ life! Anyway, I was talking to Shakes, Tommy was going on about something, so I told him to fuck off. Next thing I know, he’s punched me right in the ear. It’s still bleeding. I can take a punch to the jaw, but to the ear? That’s just wrong. Anyway, I told Bruce about it. He’s going to take care of Tommy.”

Wolf said, “I’ve known Tommy a long time. I’ve never heard about him acting like that.”

Jake said, “I even apologized, but you know the way I get. I can be a bit of an asshole sometimes.”

I said, “We know Jake, you’re an asshole right now.”

“Dennis, fuck off! I think that’s the first time I’ve told you to fuck off.”

“I’m sure it won’t be the last time, Jake. You mentioned Deep River. Do you plan to go home anytime soon?”

“My mother said I couldn’t come home until I got a haircut. Well, I got a haircut, so there’s no excuse there. It’s only fifty-five bucks, but I think I’ll hitch hike, just because of the freedom. I’ll meet people. Maybe I’ll get dropped off at Barrie and have to get another ride there. Who knows?

“I went to the food bank this morning and picked up a few things. Because I’ve got AIDS I get to go to the P.W.A. (People With AIDS Foundation). I can go once every two weeks. They give me really good food there, bags of it. Problem is, I can’t carry very much. When Shark goes there, he brings a friend with a truck. They gave me a choice six eggs or a half pound of hamburger. I took the hamburger. They said if I wanted I could have a can of beef stew instead of the hamburger. What would you have taken? …The hamburger, of course. I love hamburgers.”

Wolf said, “It’ll be cold cuts for me. Tony came by this morning and gave me some bologna, sliced chicken and turkey, potatoes, broccoli and a red pepper. He’s really good to me — comes by once a week.

“Six up, behind you.”

Jake hid his open bottle of sherry between his legs. Two uniformed police officers rode up on bicycles. One asked, “What are you guys up to?”

I said, “We’re just chatting, enjoying the nice weather.”

One walked over to Wolf, “Is that can empty?”

Wolf said, “It could be. I could dump it.”

“Can I see some identification?”

“Yes, officer, you sure can.” Wolf handed him his health card.” The officer wrote a liquor violation ticket and handed it to Wolf. He then picked up the open can and turned it over.

“What you got in that bottle, I assume it’s apple juice?” Wolf didn’t say anything.

The officer said to his partner. “You can write-up Jake for the bottle between his legs. How much is in there, Jake?”

He held up the bottle of sherry. “Fuck,” he said, “you’re not going to make me dump this whole bottle are you? Shit!”

Wolf said, “Jake, the officers are just doing their job, so be nice.”

The officer said “One swallow, Jake, then dump the rest.” Jake tipped the bottle and began to chugalug.

“So, it’s going to be that kind of swallow is it?”

Jake started coughing, then threw the bottle over the railing. “That was my last bottle and I’ve got no money!”

The officer said, “If you hadn’t thrown the bottle away, you could have cashed it in for twenty cents.”

Wolf said, “He’s right Jake.”

The officer said, “We see you’ve got another bottle in your bag. We’ll let you keep that. Just try to be a little more discreet, Jake. Have a good day.”

They left. Wolf said, “It could have been worse. I’ve still got beer in my bottle, you’ve got a bottle and some pot in your bag.”

Jake said, “I’m going down to get that bottle I threw. I bet there’s still some left in it.”

.

 

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

w

Connecting to %s