2013 – May

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1 May 2013

Cops and Shakes

The sun was hot at the park, almost uncomfortably hot. I shook hands with Tom, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, Jacques, Outcast, Chili and Gaston. I sat cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of Gaston. He has a soft voice so I had to move closer.

“I haven’t seen you for a long time, Gaston. How have you been doing?”

“I keep busy, doing some landscaping and a variety of work for elderly people. We have great conversations. I like to keep my own hours.

“My brother is in the military. I was talking to him about psychology, interpreting body language, that sort of thing. We talked about kids today, how they have no respect. You see them on the street with a glazed look in their eyes. They don’t connect. Kids like that I can’t teach.

“He proposed to me that I give a talk at the military base. There may even be full time work for me there. That would make things easier.

“My other brother, his wife and kids came by from Montreal. I’ve been teaching a course at my house and have these yellow sticky reminders everywhere: on the fridge, on my walls in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. It’s my memory. I’ve even got reminders to look at reminders.

“I’m hoping to start a course at one of the outreach centers to get homeless people more involved in the community. They’re capable of more than just laying around.” He nodded toward Shakes who was sprawled on the grass.

I was very involved in our conversation, asking Gaston about psychology and psychiatry. I asked him about specific titles and authors that he could recommend. Then I heard a loud noise beside me.

Two bicycle patrol cops had pulled up and were talking to Shakes. One had kicked his bottle over.

“Hey, Why did you do that to me?”

“You know you’re not allowed to drink here.”

“That was my Jack Daniels. It was my first drink of the day.”

“Shakes, if you’re sprawled on the grass like this, drinking, people will complain, then we’ll be called.”

“I understand what you are saying, but do you understand what I’m saying.”

“Just go someplace out of view of the public, someplace that we don’t patrol, and you’ll be okay.”

It was time for me to get back to work. Everyone else drifted away from the uniforms.

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2 May 2013

Shakes Returns 

I was sitting, with my friends, in a shaded part of the park. Tommy asked, “Has anybody seen Shakes? He didn’t come home last night. I have his keys, so he won’t be able to get into his place until I find him, or he finds me. I’m going to his ‘office’, maybe he’s there.”

I was admiring some of Wolf’s tattoos. He has Yosemite Sam and an eagle carrying a snake on one arm. On the other arm is the Tasmanian Devil. “Those were crazy nights!” he said. “One was done with a gun, the others with needles. They don’t compare with what I see being done in today’s parlours, there are some real ink artists working now.

Shaggy was making her usual fuss, barking for no apparent reason. Wolf said, “She’s got something to say. What is it Shag? Why don’t you go bite Jacques. Get it out of your system.

“It’s nearly time for her annual visit to the spa. She’ll get her nails done, her coat clipped. She’ll feel strange for the first while.

“She’s a smart dog, a Wheaton Terrier. The vet said she also has some Bearded Collie in her. She’s  bigger than a normal Wheaton and her coat is longer, but if you look up a picture of a  Wheaton Terrier, that’s her.”

Shakes wandered over. I asked, ” Where have you been, Shakes? Tommy’s been looking for you.”

“I stayed at a friend’s place last night.”

“Did the cops treat you alright?” I asked.

“Yeah, they were okay. We just had a discussion, they took me to The Shepherd, then I escaped, I even got my booze back.

“I was at ‘my office’ when this government dude came by. He’s had a hard on for me for a long time. I said to him, ‘I’ve been here since ninety-five. How long have you been here?’ He said, ‘Three years.’ I said, ‘So, I’ve got more seniority here than you do.’

“The people from the restaurant saw what was happening. They came over and the owner offered to drive me to his place. They take good care of me.”

Raven said, “Shakes, you’re wearing your leather jacket. You must be hot.”

“I’m always hot, that’s what the women tell me. If those two over there see you talking to me, they’ll get jealous.”

“Shakes, you’re too funny.”

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3 May 2013

Death in the Family 

When I stepped off the bus this morning, I was met by Metro. He had a grave look on his face, unusual for him. He said, “Joy is up there. She’s in pretty rough shape. She’s going to need some sympathy, her sister just died.”

I approached Joy and offered my condolences. She said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I didn’t even like my sister; not like a normal human being would like their sister. She used to beat the shit out of me when I was a kid. She also used to think she was so much better than us. She was still a pot-headed crack addict, but she didn’t hang downtown like the rest of us.

“I remember one time, when the father of her baby left her, she came to me for money. I said, ‘Well, do what I do when I need money.’  That when I was prostituting. I gave her a talk, we went to a certain corner. I told her, ‘When a guy comes along and asks you for something, work out a price then take him into the alley.’ She said, ‘I can’t do that.’  I said, ‘If you run into problems give me a shout.’ Soon I heard her shouting for me. I went into the alley. The guy was trying to take her from behind. That’s not what he paid for. I gave him a shot in the head, then we both beat the shit out of him. I  grabbed his wallet. She said, ‘Joy, I just can’t do this.’ I handed her the cash and said, ‘It’s your choice.’

“It was her creepy kid that tried to choke my son. I was at their place, in Montreal, for the weekend. He said, ‘Hi Aunty Joy, Mom used to make me lunch around this time.’ I said to him, ‘Look honey, I may be your Aunty Joy, but I don’t do lunches and that sort of shit.’ When I looked into his eyes, bells started going off, like I’ve just reached the Bates Motel, you know, from Psycho. He’s psycho alright.

“When I first arrived in Montreal I took a cab to the address and saw my uncle Ronnie’s bike in the driveway. Nobody had told me what happened, just that I had to come to Montreal. It was important. I asked him, ‘So who’s dead? Is it one of my kids?’ I rhymed off their names and asked, ‘Which one?’  He said, ‘It’s your sister.’ ‘Shit,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t have come all this way  just for her. He said, ‘You had to come, she made you ‘executive’ of her estate.’ She’d put one last screw in me, even after she was dead. I didn’t even know what an ‘executive’ of an estate did. I thought that maybe I had to live in her house, or something. Ronnie said, ‘You got to divide up her stuff, three ways.’

“I don’t know how to do that shit.”

“Joy,” I said, I’m not a lawyer, but just because she designated you as executrix, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Get some lawyer to look after it. That’s what they get paid for. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

“Really? I talked to a lawyer in Montreal, but he didn’t know squat. I know lawyers here, but they’re criminal lawyers. I guess they could refer me to somebody.

“Christ, she has a niece that lives right across the street. Why couldn’t she do it? We were over there. I met her asshole boyfriend. He was yelling something at her. She was holding a kid on each hip, and her belly’s way out to here. I was holding one kid. There were a couple of others running around somewhere. I put the one I had on the couch. I walked over to the guy and punched him one in the face. He fell against the refrigerator. He was going to come after me, but my two sons came in. They said, ‘Don’t you dare touch our mother!’ I’m glad I had sons. Anyway, they pushed him out the back door and beat the shit out of him. That’s the last I saw of him all weekend.

“I have to go back there this afternoon at three.”

I asked, “How are you going to get there. Do they pay your fare?”

“No, there’s no costs involved. Ronnie said, ‘I’ll give you a ride, as long as you don’t mind riding on the back of a bike.’ I said, ‘As long as you got a belt.’ I really can’t say anything, but he’s way, way up with the gangs in Montreal. He’s in town because he has friends in construction working on that highrise over there. If I wanted to move back there I could have anything I wanted, but I don’t want that life again. My friends, the ones I consider family, are here.

I had to get to work, Joy said, “If I don’t see you at noon, I’ll see you Monday. I haven’t told any of my other friends about this. They didn’t know her, and they sure as hell couldn’t help.”

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6 May 2013

Help Cure Hobophobia

Sitting in Joy’s spot this morning was Clark with his sign, HELP CURE HOBOPHOBIA. He has other signs, but this is the one he uses most frequently. I asked him about his weekend. He said, “I spent a lot of time moving. I’m now in a bachelor apartment in Regent Park. I had to get out of the place I was in. It was really bad, a lot of crackheads. I didn’t even feel safe using the stairs. There would be groups of them hanging around the stairwells.

“The only complaint I have with the new place is that I’m right above the door to the underground garage. I hear it every time someone drives their car in or out.”

I said, “I guess that’s a noise you can get used to. I’ve lived beside highways before.”

“Yeah, after a while the highway can sound just like the ocean. It can lull you to sleep.”

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

“Here, about four years, but I’ve been other places, like Montreal.  It’s a really violent place. I used to work security there. I was in a large highrise. There were two entrance doors.  I was behind the desk. One time a guy rushed in the first door, saying that he had been doused with gasoline and somebody was trying to set him on fire. All we could do is electronically lock the outside door, so he was trapped between the two doors. We couldn’t let him in, in case he decided to ignite himself inside the building. We just waited until the cops arrived.”

I said, “I know I’ve lived there. I moved in with my brother, near the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. My first night, there was somebody stabbed to death on our corner.

“This area is violent as well. You know Shakes, don’t you? He pans near the corner of  Jarvis and Richmond, beside the underground car park.”

“Does he use a cane and carry a piss bag?”

“Yeah, that’s him. He was doused with gasoline and set on fire one time. He has massive scars on his left leg. There was another guy, Buddy, he was wearing a plastic raincoat when he was set on fire. The plastic became embedded in his skin. He died three days later.

“I can’t understand how humans can do that to one another. Animals aren’t cruel or malicious like that. They kill their prey and eat it — that’s nature — but to deliberately torture another animal. I don’t think they do that.”

Clark said, “Sometimes, I think animals are treated better than humans. The government will house us, and will ring the Pavlovian bell allowing us access to the Food Bank every so often, but that’s it. The S. P. C. A. treats animals better.”

“What other kind of work did you do, Clark?”

“Mostly, I’ve been a cook at construction camps in James Bay and Vancouver. I’ve also been a tree planter in British Columbia. I liked that. I like to keep to myself.”

“I’m the same.”

“I read in government studies that the brain works best when you’re alone. There are fewer distractions. That’s my understanding, anyway.”

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 6 May 2013

War Memorial 

When I entered the park I saw Wolf and his dog Shaggy sitting, by themselves, under a tree. At the other end of the park , near the war memorial, was another group leaning against the rail.

“Wolf,” I said, “you’re sitting all by yourself.”

“I just don’t think it’s right, for those people to be setting their beer down on the war memorial. I have family who died in the war. I don’t think it’s respectful. They even have a motorcycle parked there.  Can you imagine if a woman and child came to pay their respects to a loved one. They’d be afraid to approach. Those people would scare them off, don’t you think? My son served in the Korean War, if he saw that he’d take them all on.”

“I agree with you, Wolf. My brother fought in the Korean War. I know that he’d be upset.”

“They all followed Jacques up there. I know he wants to stay in the shade, but there’s shade in other places, so I picked a place that’s about half way. That’s the best I can do.

“Did you see the hockey game last night. I’d have my Leafs hat on now, but it’s too hot for a hat. I’m wearing my Montreal shirt because it’s the only one I have with short sleeves.

“That young guy from Gatineau — I think he’s only nineteen — pulled off a hat trick, and his team is in the playoffs. That’s something! It’s funny too. When growing up his favorite team was probably Montreal. Now he’s scored three goals against them.”

Gnome and another person sat down and were discussing the hockey game. I thought I saw Joy with Jacques, so I wandered up there. It turned out to be Debbie.

“Hi Jacques, it’s a beautiful day.”

“Yes, I have to keep out of the sun, because I already have a burn. Have you seen Joy?”

“I saw her Friday, I think she was going to Montreal. Her sister died.”

“She didn’t go to Montreal. She left here Friday to go drinking with Hippo and Andre. There was some kind of a fight. Joy got a big cut on her head. They took her to hospital to have stitches. She also has a shiner. I don’t think she’s going to be coming out of her place for a while. She looks too ugly.

“I wish I knew more details. I know that Hippo wouldn’t hurt her.”

I said, “He’s scared of Joy.”

“Yeah, he wouldn’t hit a woman. I remember that Nora slapped him twice in the face. Do you know what he did? He cried. That big guy had tears running down his face. Now, every time Nora walks by she slaps him, because she knows he won’t hit her back.

“Me, I’d do something different. I wouldn’t hit a woman, but I wouldn’t let her hit me.”

Debbie was looking over the rail. She said, “The white lilacs are out. Soon the purple ones will be in bloom. Don’t you love that scent?”

“It’s beautiful, ” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. How have you been?”

“You know, so so. I’m alright. Actually, every day is good if you look at it the right way. I’m not religious, but I try to see the good.”

I said, “Every day is a chance to make a difference.”

Jacques said, “Do you know what I miss? Kentucky Fried Chicken. I can’t eat it. The skin is too salty. Since my last heart attack I’ve had to cut back on salt.”

I asked, “When was your last heart attack?”

“February eight. I was hospitalized for three weeks. I need a double bypass operation, but they said, ‘We know you’re a very sick man, but because you’re alcoholic, we can’t operate on you.’ They gave me pills instead. They told Joy the same thing.”

Debbie said, “Are you sure it’s not because of the money?”

“I don’t think so, but maybe if I won the lottery — I can’t win the lottery because I don’t buy tickets. I don’t think I could handle winning a lot of money. I’d think everyone would want to kill me.”

Debbie said, “Or, everyone would want to be your friend.

“If I won a big lottery, I know what I’d do.  First of all, I’d get out of here, go into the woods somewhere until I could plan everything. Then I’d set up my communication centers — places where poor, sick people could go. There would be doctors, a cafeteria, pool tables, a place to stay. Nobody would be turned away.

“I have the proposal all written up. I put on a dress, wore heels,  and presented it to City Hall. This university professor, a fat guy with bald head and a beard,  shot the idea right down. He made me feel so small.”

I said, “Gaston has a similar idea. You should talk to him.”

It was time for me to go back to work, so I shook hands all around.

Jacques asked, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“I’ll be here, Jacques.”

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 7 May 2013 

Stoic Epicurean

The first person I met, after getting off the bus, was Chester.

“Hi, Chester, have you heard any news of Joy?”

“Only that she’s home from hospital. She’s got a lot of stitches across her head. Mariah lives in the same building, so she’s been checking on her. That’s all I know.”

“Do you have any idea of how she was hurt?”

“All I know is that she was with Andre (he grimaced) and Hippo. They haven’t been seen around since.”

“Thanks, Chester, take care.”

In Joy’s spot for the second time this week was Clark, sitting quietly on top of his backpack. In front of him was his usual sign HELP CURE HOBOPHOBIA. Above  it was another sign, KEEP OFF THE CRASS. As I sat down I could see a third sign, hidden behind the first, WILL YOU MERRY ME? I asked, “Clark, how are the signs working for you?”

“I get various responses from smiles, to laughter, to hostility.”

I said, “Why hostility? Why would these signs invoke any hostility?”

“It’s partly the season; protest season is coming up. It seems to start in the universities. They’re always protesting something, then it spreads to the smaller colleges. I think they watch to see what the reaction will be, then they follow the lead.

“There seems to be a hierarchy. There are leaders and there are those who follow, but I’ve seen other groups called volunteers. Some of them are like nazis, most are white, anglo saxons.”

“Do you mean like white supremacists?”

“Yeah, something like that. They don’t seem too organized. We had an incident at my building a while back. It houses a lot of people on disability pension. Not me, I pay my own way. I saw one of my neighbors holding this guy by the throat. He was saying to the other guy, ‘You don’t grab me by the throat. You don’t grab my mother by the throat. Understand?’

“Then the police showed up. All they did was get out of their car, put their arms across their chests and shout, ‘Volunteers!’ a bunch of guys from other buildings came out and there was mayhem. I didn’t stick around. I see us falling into, sort of, a police state.”

I said, “You seem well informed, what is your background?”

“I went through the separate school system, under the Roman Catholics, then high school, then university. University really opened my eyes. I studied a lot of biology, anthropology and sociology. It wasn’t what the professors taught me, but I learned how to learn. After that I didn’t see the need to pay tuition, so I left.

“I guess my biggest influence was Abraham Maslow. He developed the  hierarchy of needs. He extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. I read a lot of his books. I stay away from psychology, and psychiatry; that’s mostly Freud and Jung.”

I said, “Maslow was the greatest mind of the past century. I’m now reading a book that refers to his theories often.”

Clark said, “I see a slow disintegration of democracy, I call it global swarming. You can see it with the kids on the streets. We’re moving away from the idea of the individual, except for celebrities and sports heroes. We seem to want to know everything about them; what they eat, what they wear. These people are just fronts. They’re told what to say by their publicity managers.”

“How would you define yourself, your ideas?”

“I think of myself as a stoic epicurean and a sceptic. The world always needs sceptics.  This is based  on the Aristotelian belief that ‘the sort of person one is and the lifestyle one adopts will  have an immediate bearing on the actions one performs.’ Epicureans argue that the path to securing happiness comes by withdrawing from public life and residing with close, like-minded friends. That’s me.”

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 7 May 2013 

Quiet in the Park

Willie, was standing by the fence, Jacques was sitting on the lawn eating cheese, beside him were Wolf and Shaggy.

Wolf said, “When you finish eating that, Jacques, I’ve got more for you.

“So, Dennis, how’ve you been. I guess you can tell I’ve had a drink. I’m slurring my words. Yesterday, just after you left, the cops rode up on their bicycles. I told you I was going to get even with Jacques. I’d already packed up, Shaggy was in her cart. I said to them, ‘Look, I’m all ready to go. I know I’m not supposed to be here, so do what you will.’ They gave me a warning. Then I said, ‘Those bastards, at the memorial. They should be thrown in jail. It’s a disgrace to our soldiers and our vets.’ So, last I saw, the police were riding up there.”

“Have you heard anything about Joy,” I asked.

“Everybody’s talking about that, nobody knows anything. Toothless Chuck, you know who I’m talking about, threatened to give Andre two black eyes. Weasel threatened to punch him out. Mind you, last time, it was Andre who put Weasel in the hospital. I’m not a fighter, that’s why I have Shaggy, also I don’t like getting hurt.

Nobody, especially me, likes to see one of our women hit. We don’t look kindly on that sort of thing. I don’t think any woman should be hit. Joy’s boyfriend is serving two years for the last time he hit her. From what I understand Emile gave Joy a shot in the face, she fell and hit her head on something. Mariah has been checking on her, she’s probably the best person to contact if you want more information.

“I love Joy, I put her up at my place when Big Jake beat her, but that woman has a knack for getting hit. Pardon the expression but, she attracts punches, like shit attracts flies. My feeling is that if she acted like a woman, she’d be treated like a woman.

“I’ve known Andre a long time. I’ve never know him to start a fight, especially with a woman. Now, Willie here, he loves to fight, but Andre, he’s usually laughing, making jokes, carrying on. You’ve seen it.

“You know Shark, don’t you? Of course you do. He’s known Joy for thirty years, since Winnipeg. When he introduced me to her,  about fifteen years ago, do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘Wolf, don’t get involved with this woman. Don’t fall in love with her, because she’s trouble.’ That’s what he said.

“Even Shaggy, who’s bitten nearly everyone around here. The only time she drew blood was with Joy. Does that tell you something? Animals have a sense about these things.

“Anyway, enough said. Let’s change the subject.”

Raven arrived wearing a short denim skirt, looking much more cheerful and sober than yesterday. She walked over to pick up Debbie’s lighter. Willie said, “Raven, be careful when you bend over, or Shakes will look up your skirt. Oh, too late. Shakes, did you get a good view?”

“Yes.”

Kenny arrived on his bicycle. He said, “I got hit by a car this morning.  I was riding next to the curb and this guy turned right in front of me. I went over his hood and landed on the other side. My elbow is scraped, the side of my face, and I think my finger is broken. My bag had been full of beer. People were scrambling around, gathering my cans, they were rolling everywhere. The cops came. I just wanted to get out of there. I still can’t bend my finger.”

Two women at the other end of the park were practicing Pilates. Shakes imitated them. Everyone found it hilarious. Just another day at the park.

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8 May 2013 

From Zeus to Seuss 

Clark was sitting in Joy’s spot again today. Still no word about her condition. I said, “Good morning, Clark. Joy has been injured. Someone punched her in the face, she fell and hit her head. She’s had a lot of stitches. Nobody seems to have much information.”

“Did she get in a fight with a woman?”

“No, it was a man. Joy will take on anybody. She brags that she doesn’t punch like a woman.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I know her well. She can have her spot back any time she wants. I didn’t know what had happened to her.”

“Yesterday we were talking about your philosopy of being a Stoic Epicurean. I looked that up on the internet, and now understand more about it.”

“My philosophy, as you call it, covers a broad range from Mythology to Modernism. You could say from Zeus to Seuss, if you catch my meaning.”

I asked, “What books are you reading now?”

“I like to read historical fiction. the last book I read was Russka: The Novel of Russia, by Edward Rutherford. It spans 1800 years of Russian history, people, politics.”

I said, “I’ve read his book London. I really enjoyed it.”

“Russka is similar in that it’s played out through the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their country.

“I don’t read very much since last March, or if I do I try to get the large print novels.”

“What happened last March?”

“Someone dropped some XTC , or possibly Xalatan in my coffee, or my food. Joy has had the same experience. At first I was disoriented, confused, paranoid. I had shortness of breath. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My vision is still blurry.”

“Why would somebody do that. It’s insane.”

“It could be part of some sort of initiation —  a fraternity or sorority prank. I have no idea. Somebody singled me out for some reason.

“These things are a lot more common in Montreal.”

“Did you live for a long time in Montreal?”

“I was there on and off. In the security field I wasn’t allowed to live within an hour’s drive of the city. The idea was that if I was being followed, I had that much time to notice the tail, call for backup, change route, or whatever it was they wanted me to do. I never knew what I was carrying. I was in the Man and a Dog Program. I made fifty dollars an hour back in the late sixties. That was a lot of money.”

“How did you like working with a dog?”

“They’re a lot more dependable than humans.”

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8 May 2013

Broken Ribs

I was pleased to see Joy at the park.  She gave me a wave and a weak smile. I asked, “How are you feeling? We’ve all been worried about you.”

“I’ve got three broken ribs in front and one fractured in back. I have a concussion. This is the first day I’ve been able to keep from passing out. Even today Jacques had to grab me, things started spinning, then black. I’ve got stitches in my head, I cant tell how many. My ear is still ringing.  I have trouble opening my mouth, my jaw is so sore.”

I could see the bruises on Joy’s jaw and an abrasion on her cheek. I asked, “Was it Andre?”

“Yeah, the fuckin’ slime ball. We’d been drinking at the Rex, my favorite bar, it closed at two, so we decided to go to my place. Andre was pestering me, as usual. I told him to fuck off. He said, ‘You mean after all the money I spent on you tonight, I’m not getting anything?’ I said, ‘You got it right.’ I don’t remember much after that he cold cocked me on the chin, I hit the sidewalk and was out cold. I may have had a seizure as well, I don’t know, but my tongue is pretty chewed up. Hippo tried for five minutes to wake me up.  He was afraid I was dead. I guess it was the guy upstairs at my place who phoned the cops. Andre had thrown his bike against the side of the guy’s van — made a real mess there.”

“The guy was complaining, ‘I got to get up at four o’clock and you guys are making a racket out there.’ I know for a fact that he never gets out of the house until quarter after six. I’m the one that gets up at four.”

I said, “It’s not like you haven’t told Andre before. In fact, every time I’ve seen you two together, you’ve told him.”

“Yeah, it’s being going on for two and a half years. As if I’d ever sleep with that fuckin’ troll.”

“How did you get to the hospital?”

“I don’t know. They told me that I passed out, right in the waiting room.

“I don’t have trouble sleeping now. I just lay down, the room starts spinning and I’m out.”

“You told me before that he’s hit other women.”

“Yeah, he’s hit skinny Debbie, and red-haired Debbie, who he was staying with. I don’t think you’ve met her. There are probably lots more. The thing that really pisses me off is that he’s such a coward, he won’t even show his face around here. At least Jake, when he beat me, would be down the next day with some cock and bull story, but at least he came.”

I said, “Both Weasel and Toothless Chuck are ready to punch Andre’s lights out. Have you talked to your uncle?”

“Yeah, that’s all taken care of, I phoned him, told him what had happened. He only asked one question, ‘When do you want it done?’ I said wait until his sister is around. I want her to know what kind of a scum bag her brother really is. I like his sister. We get along great.”

“Was Andre that drunk?”

“He was right out of it, man. We’d agreed to meet at the Rex on Saturday. He’d been drinking triple tequilas at the bar, then he brought us some shots. I didn’t know it at the time, but he spent his whole rent check on booze.”

At that time a bicycle patrol cop rode up. He said, “What are you guys up to? I see three open beer, so that’s three tickets. I should be due for a toaster.”

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9 May 2013

Street Justice 

Joy was sitting on her box, head in hands, obviously still in pain. I approached,  she was startled. “Jeez, I didn’t see you coming.”

“How are you feeling?”

“There’s no way I can sit that I don’t hurt.  Sitting on the grass yesterday was a mistake. I won’t do that today. I have a splitting headache. A lady gave me three Extra Strength Tylenol. They’re helping a bit.  Every time I bend down I get dizzy. When I got up this morning I went to the bathroom and had a glass of water. As soon as I got that down, I knew I had to hurl. The room started spinning and I thought, ‘Great, no matter where I fall I’m going to hit my head on something.’ I managed to get on my knees. Throwing up hurts more than coughing and sneezing.”

I asked, “I wonder why drinking water would upset your stomach?”

“It’s because I was drinking beer yesterday. It always makes me sick. I had four cans. It sure made me burp. I was belching all afternoon. Debbie laughed at me, but it felt good.”

I asked, “Did they give you medication at the hospital?”

“Yeah, they gave me something, but I forgot it there. I’m going to go to the Mission to get myself checked out by the doctors. I don’t have my drug card with me. I never carry identification — I’m thinking differently about that now. Usually, when I’m off probation I use an alias.”

I said, “When I lived in Cabbagetown, my landlord’s sixteen year old daughter became pregnant. Her father was really pissed with the guy. He made a phone call, and had him beaten. The guy didn’t even see it coming.  A stranger asked him for a light, he reached in his pocket and awoke in hospital. The cost was fifty dollars for each broken bone. The father paid two hundred and fifty.”

Joy asked, “How many years ago was that?”

“About thirty.”

“Yeah, I thought so. It’s a couple of hundred now.”

“When I talked to my uncle he asked, ‘Was it the same goof  that beat you up last time? I thought he was still in prison.’ I said, ‘No, it was another guy that I’ve known for two and a half years.’  He asked, ‘Who’s the goof you’re with now?’ I said, ‘I’m not with anybody. I haven’t been since I put Jake in prison. This guy bought me a few drinks and figured I owed him. When I said, no go, he decked me. I woke up in hospital. I don’t even know how I got there.’ ”

Weasel, R.I.P. 

When I arrived at the park,  Little Jake said to me, “Dennis, before you sit down, I need a Tim’s Card. I gotta get a coffee. I’ve got issues.”

“No problem, Jake.”

I sat beside Joy on the lawn. I asked, “Are you okay sitting like this?”

She said, “I’m leaning against my backpack. As long as I don’t shift to the left I’m okay.  At night I have a pillow and a blanket rolled up behind me so I don’t lean on the fractured rib.

“Jake’s pretty upset, as you may have noticed. He went to visit Weasel this morning. There was a guy drinking beer on the porch. He said, ‘I think your friend is dead.’ Jake went around to the side window and looked in. There was Weasel, lying on his bed with his hands across his chest and his eyes wide open.

I guess it was the neighbor that phoned the police. They allowed Jake to go in and pick up a few things. That’s why he has Bear. The cops said if he didn’t take him, he’d be put down. I don’t know what Jake’s going to do. He lives too far away to walk home. He can’t take the dog on the bus. I think he figures on sleeping outside with the dog. I can’t see that working out.”

Jake came over to speak with Joy, “I know you didn’t like Weasel, but the last thing we talked about was beating the shit out of Andre, for what he did to you.”

“Jake, wait a minute, sure Weasel and I didn’t agree on some things. I didn’t like that he was a shooter, but I had nothing against the guy. We’re family,  we’re all feeling bad.”

“I just don’t know why this is all falling on my shoulders.”

“Jake, go talk to the ladies, they’ll help you out, or if you’d rather, I’ll take the dog and have him put down.” To me she said, “I don’t know who these ladies are, some of his regulars, I guess. They fuss over him, feed him. It’s good that he has someone to look out for him.”

Raven said, “Jake, I have a sleeping bag. It’s brand new, still in the bag. If you need it I can bring it down later.”

Jake took Bear on his leash and started walking away, Debbie followed him. Joy asked, “Are you going with him?”

“As far as he’ll let me.” She returned within a few minutes and said, “I think he wants to be alone.”

.

10 May 2013

Joy was looking more cheerful this morning. I asked, “How did you sleep last night?”

“Not bad, I smoked a joint, then passed out for four hours. When I awoke, my heating pad was bunched up. I rolled over, then I heard my rib pop. It’s been hurting ever since.”

“Have you heard any details about Weasel’s funeral?”

“I haven’t heard anything. I seriously doubt that anyone would be attending anyway. I’m not aware that he has any family. I don’t get — Jake blubbering about Weasel being his best friend. Weasel was a piece of shit and used to beat him on a regular basis. I never liked the way that he treated Bear.

“Weasel was so messed up on crack that I think he lost every friend he had. He kicked the door down at Wolf’s place and trashed his own apartment. He was always mooching off somebody. I say, good riddance.

“As far as Jake looking after Bear. Jake needs looking after himself. That dog is vicious. The only humane thing is to have him put down.”

Toothless Chuck’s younger brother dropped by. “Hi sweetie,” said Joy. It’s good to see you. What are you up to?”

“I’m taking the bus to Montreal to visit friends. I want to get to the station early to line up. I’m hoping to get the back seat so I can stretch out and get some sleep.”

“You better be first in line then. That’s the seat that everybody wants.”

Joy said,”I’ve had it with Montreal. When I was there last week the cops said I had two outstanding charges of assault and battery. I asked, ‘Isn’t there some statute of limitations? Those charges were laid twenty years ago, but if you think you can make them stick, put me in cuffs right now, otherwise I’m out of here.’

“I don’t even know anybody in Montreal now. I’m not about to start all over in another city.”

Four Months Sober 

On my way to the park this afternoon I saw Loretta, she was sitting on a low wall near the bus stop. “Hi, Dennis,” she called.

“Hi Loretta, I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“It has been a long time. Did I tell you that I finished a four month program? I’ve been over four months sober now. At the program I told them I was only there because of my addiction to alcohol, I didn’t want to give up weed. I never want to stop smoking weed. I need something to help me relax. I did buy some patches though. I want to stop smoking cigarettes.”

“Congratulations, that’s an amazing achievement. I know that addictions are very difficult to control. I’m proud of you. Don’t try to take on too much at once. Take things one step at a time.

“Andre only lasted two months and look where he is now.”

“I know, that business with Joy. It’s such a shame. I like her, she’s been a friend for a long time. She didn’t deserve that. Nobody does.”

“My heart goes out to Joy and to Andre. They’ve both been my friends for years. Now, Andre has thrown away everything that he worked so hard for. He spent his rent money on booze, so he may get kicked out of his apartment. Everybody wants to punch him out. He probably won’t be able to stay in the city. It won’t be safe for him anywhere.

“Is there anybody at the park?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to go there because I know that people will be drinking. I really want a drink right now. I’m just waiting for a bus. I’m planning to go to school.”

“What will you be taking?”

“First, I have to finish my Grade Twelve, then I want to go to Secretarial School.”

“That’s a good choice. Where I work they’re always looking for Secretaries.”

“I see my bus coming. It was good to see you, Dennis.”

“Bye, Loretta.”

I walked up the sidewalk to the park and sat beside Jacques. “How are you feeling, Jacques?”

“Oh me, I feel fine. My body is healthy. When people see me they think I’m big and strong, but it’s like a car. The body can be good, but the motor is shot. My heart is in bad shape. People don’t know I’m dying, but I am. I tell them, but they don’t believe it.

“I’ve been shitting water for the past three days. I don’t know what that’s about. Maybe I picked up some kind of bug. I don’t know”

Jake came wandering up the sidewalk. Debbie said, “Well, let’s not all look at him.”

Jacques said, “That’s what we do. Where are we supposed to look.”

“I guess you’re right, I shouldn’t be telling everybody else what to do, or how to act. It’s just the way I am; you know that.

“Has anybody got a joint? How about rolling papers? I got pot if somebody’s got papers.”

“You can use my pipe,” said Jacques. “I’ll fill it fresh.”

As Jake approached Debbie he said, ” Come here, I need a hug.”

Debbie took him in her arms and he started crying.

.

 14 May 2013

Weasel’s Funeral

Joy was looking better this morning, at least she didn’t appear to be in pain.

“Hi Sweetie,” she said.

“How’s your day going?” I asked.

“Shitty, I haven’t even made enough for a bottle.”

“How was your weekend?”

“It was okay — quiet.  Sunday was the anniversary of my mom’s death. I picked some flowers and tossed them in the river. That’s what I do every year. My mother loved the water. When I was in Montreal I could feel her presence all around me.  It’s not so strong here.”

I said, ” She’s nearby, watching over you. I believe in spirits — I’ve seen them. I’m sure she’s proud of you.”

“I hope so.

“I saw Nicholas this morning. He came back from visiting his parents in Mani…it’s not Maniwaki…Mani…something or other. He brought me back some moose steaks. I love moose, even though it will give me the runs for three days, it’s so rich.”

I asked, “Is he still going out with Christine? I think I remember her. She’s pretty isn’t she?”

“Gorgeous, with that beautiful smile and her long black hair, but they all sleep around. When she’s been drinking sherry she really goes crazy. She’s taken a swing at me. I just grabbed her throat and pushed her to the ground. I said to her, ‘It’s okay, sweetie, it’s me…everything is okay.’ She was fine after that. She’s a scratcher and a biter. Nicholas was just trying to hold her away and she bit the palm of his hand; a really nasty bite. I said to him, ‘You should go to a doctor. A human bite is more dangerous than an animal bite.’ He didn’t go.

“Chuck wants to have a barbecue today. I feel bad, they’ll have booze and I’ll be walking in empty handed. Do you think you could buy me a bottle?”

“We’ll see.”

“You know the kind I like, don’t you? Don’t buy me any of that Pale Dry shit. That’ll really make me sick.”

“Have you heard anything about Andre? Has anybody seen him?”

“Nobody’s seen him because he’s hiding out. He was by here this morning on his bicycle. He pulled up right in front of me.  I said, ‘If you’re going to stop, at least have the courtesy to get your bike out of the way. I’m trying to work here.’

‘I said to him, ‘What took you so long to come around. At least Jake had the decency to apologize the next day, when he beat me.’ Andre said, ‘Don’t put me in the same category as Jake.’ I said, You’re worse than Jake,  he came back to see if I was still alive.’ I could see tears welling up in his eyes. He said, that he’d be leaving town for about a month. Since he spent his rent check on booze, he’s probably just staying there until his last month is payed off. He’ll be kicked out after that and I can’t see his sister putting up with him. She’s got a beautiful apartment.

“Anyway, Chuck is on the look out for him now. He, and a lot of other people want to beat the shit out of him.”

We could both see Chester coming towards us. Joy said to me, “What does that old fart want.”

Chester said, “Hello Dennis, hello Joy.”

Joy asked, “Are you going to Weasel’s funeral?” Chester shook his head (no). “Why not,  is it for the same reason the rest of us aren’t going?” He shook his head (yes) and walked on.

I asked, “Where is Weasel’s funeral?”

“It’s at Rosar-Morrison. That’s where they put all 0f us. I guess it’s cheaper. St James’ Cemetery has a special place for us, out of the way.  It used to be that they’d pile the bodies one on top of another. Now, I think, they bury them standing up. I don’t know why they don’t just burn them and sprinkle the ashes somewhere. That would make more sense.”

Fartin’ Dust

It was sunny and almost warm at the park today. I sat between Hippo and Joy. On her other side was Mariah, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. Shakes was sprawled, as usual, on the sidewalk.

“Shakes,” said Joy, “For Christ sake, will you sit up before we get reported and the cops come? I saw one pass on his bicycle just a few minutes ago.” With great effort, and not much balance, Shakes relocated to the curb.

With talk of cops came talk of prisons. Joy said, “The worst  I’ve seen is Bordeaux Prison in Cartierville. I visited my boyfriend there. We’d been walking around Montreal and Jake decided to boost a car. He was drunk, so I said I’d crack it, but no, he’s The Man. He drove the car away, realized how drunk he was, parked it, got out and fell asleep on somebody’s lawn. He woke up a couple of hours later and took the car, but by that time there were two of  Montreal’s finest tailing him. Anyway, he went to Bordeaux. It was half H.A (Hell’s Angels), half Rock Machine. Talk about tense.”

Debbie said, “Hey, this leaves me in the middle. If  I go to either end I won’t be able to talk to anybody. Wolf, will you make some room and let me sit beside Shakes?”

“Hold on! Get out of my fuckin’ way, woman. I can only do so many things at once.”

Wolf maneuvered Shaggy’s cart further down. He wasn’t happy about it. Debbie sat down between Shakes and Wolf. She said to Shakes, “You know, in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never known you to get laid.”

Shakes said, “I can’t afford it unless women come on to me.”

“Does that ever happen?”

“No, because I play hard to get.”

Debbie said, “I guess I’m the same way. Every once in a while I get a little urge.”

Joy said to me, “Just shoot me right now.”

From Shaggy’s cart, Wolf pulled a six pack of Old Milwaukee and passed the cans around. Joy took one. “The only reason I drink this is to make me burp. Here it comes. I hate the taste of this stuff and it’s hard to hide. If a cop comes and tells me to dump it I won’t mind at all.”

I asked Joy, “How did you sleep last night?”

“I ended up sleeping on my side with the broken ribs. I managed a few hours sleep, but when I got up and tried to take a deep breath, that’s when the pain hit. This morning native Brent came by. We haven’t seen each other in ages. I said, ‘Don’t try to hug me — broken ribs.’ He grabbed me anyway. I thought I was going to pass out.

“I’m not sure if I will go to Chuck’s for that barbecue today. It means taking one bus then walking about five blocks. I don’t think I’m up to that. I think I’ll just go to my place and relax. I know Nicholas will be pissed, he brought those moose steaks especially for me. He’ll get over it.

“This morning one of my regulars stopped by. She asked, ‘How are you feeling now? Is there any chance you’ll be able to get a job?’

“I should have told her, ‘I don’t do employment.’ I had a job at Arby’s once. That lasted about two hours. Then I said, ‘That’s it I’m out of here.’ I had a warehouse job one time. I liked that. It was a big place so I was always moving; not like being behind a counter somewhere.”

“Hippo, do you want to come to my place?” asked Joy. ” I’ve got chicken for supper.”

“I haven’t had chicken for months. Sure I’ll come. I’m expecting a care package from home. Can we stop at my place on the way?”

Debbie looked at Joy and said, “You’re not looking right. I can sense these things.”

“Well, I’ve been on my period for fifteen weeks now. I didn’t think I had that much blood in me. If I tried to slash my wrists, my veins would be fartin’ dust.  Before that I’d gone five months without a period. I don’t know what’s happening.”

Debbie said, “I wasn’t expecting that much information.”

Mariah asked, “Where are we meeting for Weasel’s funeral? I heard that a lot of people aren’t coming.”

I turned to Hippo and asked, “How are you liking your apartment?”

“The place is okay, it’s just the fuckin’ neighbors. If I had a gun with a silencer I’d shoot them.”

.

16 May 2013

Blood Suckers 

Today the park was cool and breezy.  I had two books for Wolf, one by Ken Follett, Winter of the World and one by Dick Francis, Comeback. From reading the back covers they seemed like the type of shoot-em-up stories that he would enjoy. Shakes was seated on the curb, lying back into the bushes, sound asleep.

Jacques said to me, “I don’t think you’ll see Joy today. She hasn’t been panning for the past few days. Today is the day that Jake gets out of prison.”

I said, “I wonder how that’s going to work out. She already has broken ribs.  Jake may be upset that it was her testimony that sent him to Milhaven. Also, he’s going to be upset with Andre, who will be no match for him.”

Jacques said, “I talked to Mariah,  she said that Joy hasn’t been home. She did mention going to Chuck’s place for some moose steaks. Maybe she stayed over there. Maybe she went to visit Outcast. I hope not, he’s not good people.”

Wolf added, “Yeah, what’s the point of going to his place if, ten minutes later, he throws you out.”

Shakes woke up, “Hello Dennis, I was just having a little cat nap. The blood suckers were after me this morning.”

“What do you mean the blood suckers were after you?  Do you mean the police?”

“No,  at my doctor’s, they took a whole lot of blood out of me. My arm is still sore.”

“Is Tommy still staying at your place?”

“Yeah, he’s still there.”

“I bet he likes to clean and tidy things. Am I right?”

“Yeah, he likes to tidy things.”

Wolf motioned me over. “I want to tell you something in confidence.” I moved closer. “I went to my legal aid worker this morning. She’s really a nice person… You remember, when I was charged for treating Shaggy too rough. Well, that’s going to court soon. Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was, she said to me, ‘Wolf, you don’t have to wait until you have legal problems to visit me. You can come anytime, even if you just want to talk.’  I wanted to share that with you. I thought it was really nice of her.

“You know, I just found out today about Weasel’s death and his funeral; Jacques went. The place was packed. I couldn’t go anyway, I was too drunk. If I’d walked all the way here, then walked to the funeral parlor, I wouldn’t have had enough energy to walk home. I would have ended up sleeping at ‘the heater’, then I would have had the police to deal with.

“Little Jake went. He was drunk and caused a big scene. Stella was there, she brought this new purple leash for Shaggy. That was nice.  Anyway, I’ve finished with you. Thanks for bringing me the books. I really appreciate it. I mean it. Now, go!”

It was time for me to leave for work, so I shook hands with Wolf, Serge, Jacques and Shakes.  When I approached Raven I said, “You’re looking really nice today. You’re beautiful.”

“Thanks, Dennis.”

.

17 May 2013

Out Of Prison 

I was late this morning,  so I only had a few minutes to talk with Joy.  She was sitting on her box and was visibly shaking.  “I just heard this morning, from Jacques, that Jake was out of prison.  I thought he was getting out today. I didn’t sleep a wink last night.

“Rodent had a party for him yesterday. Jacques was invited, but didn’t go.  Shark and Irene were invited. They may have gone,  I don’t know. Rodent told me that, if Jake ever came near me, he’d kick him out of his house. That’s never stopped Jake before. He’d just stay somewhere else.”

I said, “You mentioned that you’d been in contact with Jake and that he’d wanted to get together with you. That sounds like he still cares for you.”

“Yeah, he wants to hook up, but twenty-six months in prison would make him a bit pissy. Even when we were on good terms, that didn’t stop him from beating me.

“I thought I saw him on the corner a while back. I nearly shit my pants. It turned out to be someone else. I’ll see him sooner or later. I’m definitely getting drunk today. I’ve panned enough for a bottle.’

“I wonder if Jake’s heard about you being beaten by Andre. That would upset him.”

“Yeah, Andre’s spent next month’s rent.  He’s just finishing out his last month’s rent.  He said he’ll be leaving town next month. I’m sure his sister won’t take him in. Can you imagine? He’d be drunk, having pool parties until all hours, kicking doors in. She wouldn’t put up with that, even from her scum bag brother.

“Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I’ll be there. Take care.”

Homecoming 

The park was sunny, warm, everything one could hope for in the way of weather.  I sat next to Joy on the curb.

“Has anything happened?” I asked. “I see you’re still in one piece.”

“No, Jake hasn’t been around. You know the party that Rodent arranged for his homecoming? Nobody came. Shark and Irene were invited, but they didn’t want to go. Shark said, ‘Why would we want to go there?’ Rodent thought he had friends, but the only ones he has are the ones he buys with booze or drugs.

“I almost wish Jake had come by. I wanted to ask him if he felt violated last night. I wouldn’t put it past Rodent to drop some Dilaudid in his beer. I’m sure that’s what he did to Chester, that time I was staying there. After two beer Chester was staggering — and he can drink a lot. Rodent was rubbing his back, rubbing his thigh. I didn’t stick around, but I’m sure he waited until Chester passed out then it was slam, bam, then he rammed. I shouldn’t talk like this, but when it comes to Rodent, he’s such a perv. I can’t stand the guy.”

I asked, “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“No, I need some pot, so I invited Buck over for supper. He asked, ‘What are you cooking?’ I said, ‘Steak.’ So he said, ‘Okay, I’ll be over.’ I really don’t want to be alone this weekend, and you can bet I’m staying sober. I want to be able to see what’s coming, so I can duck.

“Jake should be getting  his forms filled out for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program).  He was on it for a few months before he went inside. He’s using a cane now. He should have had his hip replaced two years ago. If he had, he wouldn’t have gone to prison. If he was on crutches, he wouldn’t have been able to hit me. He’s got to be pissed after twenty-six months inside.”

I said, “I notice that Lucy is here; is Daimon around?”

“No, he’s in hospital. He’s having problems with his ankle that Buddy broke in their fight  last year. That’s the way with ankles. I should know, I’ve had mine broken five times each.

“I see that Willie’s getting crazy. He’s into  the sherry again. I don’t know what it is with these guys. I water mine down, so it tastes better,  but I drink as much as them. It’s just over a longer period of time.”

Mariah came by and asked Joy, “Was that you screaming last night?”

“No, I went to bed at six o’clock and was watching videos. I didn’t sleep all night. I didn’t hear a thing.”

“The neighbor above you, heard something too. She said it sounded like, “No you can’t come in! Get away from here!’ I thought it might have been that scum bag, Andre, skulking around again.”

Gaetan said, “Something funny happened a while ago. It wasn’t really funny. I guess, it was sort of bad for me. Anyway, I found this doctor’s bag, you know with a stethoscope, blood pressure meter, the light they use to look in your ears and nose, all that kind of stuff. It was just lying on the sidewalk. I took it home and tested my blood pressure; it was bad — one ninety over ninety. My dad died at fifty-one of a heart attack. I’ve already outlived him by four years. I think my blood pressure is up because of stress. I just bought a Harley; I’ve got payments to make. I’ve never had that before.  I’ll just have to learn to relax.

“I’m happy, we’re all happy. Even if I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be happier than I am now. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Do you know what’s important in life?”

I said, “Love, friends, family?”

“That’s right, what you see all around you. This is family.

“Do you know why the cops give us tickets? It’s because at the end of the year, when they show a deficit, they say they need more money because of unpaid parking tickets. They’d never say it’s because homeless people haven’t paid their fines for drinking violations. Some of the people here owe, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars.”

I said, “I know, Jacques has his walls covered with tickets.

“A cop said, the other day, ‘Three tickets and I get a toaster.’ I guess he was happy to meet his quota.”

Serge said, “I don’t think it’s fair that they have a quota. Do you think it’s fair?”

“I don’t know, Gaetan, it’s too complicated for me.”

.

18 May 2013
William Robinson’s Obituary
 July 10, 1965 – May 8, 2013. Outdoors-man, dog lover, story teller, avid reader, sportsman, son, brother, stepson, brother in law, uncle, great uncle, nephew, friend and faithful Boston Bruins fan.His was a sensitive and creative soul whose life did not follow a conventional path. In his early years, William was an athlete who excelled at hockey and soccer. He also enjoyed a love of sailing.He worked as a videographer, a tradesman and a nanny.While William lived most of his life in Toronto, he also lived in Vancouver and spent time in Ireland.His last years were challenging and he spent much of his time on the streets of Toronto with his loyal companion, his dog Bear. They were very grateful for the kindness of strangers.

William’s family and friends love him, miss him and wish him safe and happy travels.

A private celebration of William’s life has taken place. His ashes are now in Halifax and will be scattered on the Atlantic, as he wished.

William’s family extends a special thanks to Leigh and Karen at Good Shepherd Ministries Homeless Shelter.

If desired, a donation may be sent to The Good Shepherd Ministries Homeless Shelter, 412 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1T3.

Published in The Toronto Star on May 18, 2013

Wolf handed me Weasel’s obituary to read. He said, “I like the line, ‘His was a sensitive and creative soul.’ He was a good friend and I don’t want to get Little Jake upset, but just between me and you, it doesn’t say anything about how many times he punched Jake in the head, when he was high on crack; or the time he kicked my door down, trashed my apartment and beat me. I know I shouldn’t speak bad of the dead, but I just had to say that. You understand?”

“I understand, Wolf.”

“Okay, enough said about that. I really enjoyed the book you gave me, the  one about the war;  not the one about the racehorse. Horse racing is for rich people. I didn’t think I’d understand the racing terms. I put it in my bookshelf and I’ll read it some day.

“but the other book, by Ken Follett, that was really great. It gave me something to read all weekend. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down. Did you like it?”

“I haven’t read it.”

“You haven’t? Do you want me to bring it back to you? Have you, at least, read the back of the book, so you know what it’s about?”

“Yes, I read the back, but no, Wolf, you hang on to it. I’ve got too many books on the go right now.”

“Okay, I understand, but just so you know, that’s the kind of book I can really get into. Did you know that it starts on the first day of the Second World War? They had some massive planes that could land on the sea, but then they built so many runways that these planes just weren’t practical. After all the whole idea was to use them for bombing and if they had to land near the shore that wasn’t so good.  Have you aver seen a big plane that could land on the ocean?”

“I’ve seen pictures of big sea planes.”

“At first, when I started reading, I thought they were after a spy on the plane, but it turned out that they were really looking for a  scientist. If they caught him they’d put him in chains in some prison and would have interrogated him until they got all the information they needed to develop the atomic bomb. You know what would’ve  happened then?   We wouldn’t be here.”

I asked, “Has anyone seen or heard anything about Serge,  in the past six months?”

Little Frank said, “No, the last I heard, he was in hospital, on life support. He didn’t have any family, that anyone knew of. We didn’t even know his last name.  Another person we haven’t seen for a while is Blair. I’m guessing that they’ve both passed on.

Mariah was sitting on the other side of me. I asked her, “How have you been feeling?”

“I’m okay today, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’ve got a pain in my hip caused by two slipped disks in my spine. I have two others  that have been fused since I was nineteen. I was having treatment for about six months.  At first,  I could hardly move.  My back was hunched over and I couldn’t straighten up. They gave me anti inflammatory pills, and put those little electric pads on me; but that’s all they could do for the first couple of months. They couldn’t manipulate my back,  have me do exercises, or anything. Eventually, it eased up and they got the disks back in alignment. That was a year ago.

“Now, when I feel a pain coming on. I just rest at home for a few days. That seems to take care of it.”

.

21 May 2013

Joy Alone

All weekend I’ve been anxious about Joy, wondering what Big Jake will do. When I saw her sitting in her usual spot I was relieved.

“Joy, I’ve been worrying about you all weekend!.

“Why?”

“Friday you were so nervous about what Jake might do.”

“Yeah, I guess I was. He didn’t do anything. I was so bored on Sunday, I borrowed Chester’s phone and called Rodent. I said, ‘Hi, whatcha doin? Care to come over to my place for a barbecue?’ He got all flustered, he said, ‘Jake stayed with me for a few days, but he’s gone now. I don’t know where he is.  He has all this paper work about how he’s supposed to stay away from you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, so when has that ever stopped him before? Usually, he’d just move back in with me.’

“That Rodent, he’s such a liar and a scum bag. Jake was probably sitting right beside him. We’ll meet up, maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Who knows?”

I said, “That’s the thing with life, we never know what the next moment will bring.”

“Life’s a bitch and then you die.”

“Joy’s words of wisdom and inspiration for the week?”

“Yeah,  something like that. I’ve got a splitting headache and the dizzy spells have come back. Hippo went to the East General Hospital and got my immunization card with my medical number on it.  I don’t have it with me now, but I’ll bring it tomorrow. I’ll stop by the Mission, or go to the Clinic on Dundas, to have a doctor check me out.

“I’ve been reading this book by Justin Cronin, The Passage Trilogy.  I’m nearly finished and it’s over nine hundred pages. The only other time I can remember finishing a book was when I was doing time.”

“Will I see you at the park at noon?”

“Yeah, as long as it’s not pissin’ down rain.”

.

22 May 2013

Pimp 

Joy was in good spirits this morning. She said, “I almost thought you were going to walk right by. Who is that woman sitting on the box? For some reason I’m in a good mood today, I don’t know why. I was at Bearded Bruce’s yesterday. I did some cleaning for him. What is it about guys that they leave things in such a mess?”

“I’m surprised,” I said, “with him being a cook and all.”

“Yeah, if it was a restaurant, I wouldn’t want to eat there. I was just about to throw out a cup of bacon grease. Bruce said, ‘Hey, don’t throw that out. That’s my grease. I use it for everything I cook.’

“He does, I couldn’t find any margarine, so  I buttered his toast with it. It’s no wonder he had a heart attack.

“His place is even smaller than mine. If his was this much bigger (holding her arms apart about four feet) it would be my apartment. Then he has this huge bed. It takes up almost the entire room.

“I had a great time playing with Bear. I took him down to the river. He ran right in. I tried putting this collar on him (indicating a strap wrapped around her ankle). He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I put it around my neck and said to him, ‘See, Mommy wears a collar. It’s okay.’ I’m glad that he’s with Bruce now. He’s officially retired. Bruce doesn’t take him panning like Weasel did.

“Can you get me a copy of Weasel’s obituary? Wolf was showing it around yesterday, but he snatched it back before I could read it. I don’t know why Little Jake was so upset, considering how Weasel abused him. Wolf read a few things that really seemed funny, like Weasel being an athlete. He could barely get up off his ass. There was something else about him being caring.  He didn’t care about anybody but himself, but something happened a week or so ago. I asked him for two dollars. He said, ‘I’ve only got a twenty.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not running for change.’ He said, ‘Keep the whole thing. Consider it a gift.’ I said, ‘Sure, it’s eighteen dollars more than I needed.’ A few days later he died.”

A man walked by and sneezed, Joy said, “Bless you!” To me she said, “I wish I could sneeze like that. You can’t imagine how much that would hurt my ribs.”

I asked, “Are you going to see the doctor today?”

“No, tomorrow. Yesterday I phoned and made an appointment. I’m so glad I have my immunization card. I asked if he wanted my Birth Certificate. He said, (imitating a deep voice) ‘Yes, please bring that along too.’ So, I’ll get everything checked out and taken care of.”

Metro walked by, seeing Joy and I sitting together he said, “What’s the split — sixty forty? Seventy thirty? Is he your pimp?”

Joy said, “Pimp, none of the girls have pimps anymore, unless they’re high-class call girls. Now, forty to sixty bucks will get you anything you want. Fuck, a crack ho will do you for soup and a sandwich.

“When I was in Montreal, my girlfriend and I had a pimp — a big black guy. We did all the work, he got most of the money. We figured, ‘What do we need this guy for? Protection? We were getting the shit beaten out of us by the johns all the time. We decided to go independent. That was a mistake. One night a big black car came down the street where we were working. It stopped, we were told to get in. They took us to the bus station, gave us a ticket and said, ‘You’re going to Detroit.’ I said, ‘Better kill me right now, ’cause there’s no way I’m going to Detroit alive.’

A large garbage truck stopped near by, Joy yelled,  “Hi, Sunshine!” A good-looking, young man waved before emptying the garbage cans. I asked Joy, “I’ve been introduced to him before, but I forget his name.” Joy said, “I forget his name too. I just like looking at his tight butt.” He came over, shook hands with us both, then went on his way.

A man wearing a Leafs hockey jersey walked by. Joy said, “Hi, Father Peter!” He stopped and chatted for a while. Joy said, “I see you’re not wearing your collar today.” He said, “I just came from breakfast; I didn’t want to get it dirty.” Joy asked, “Have you seen Father Jacob lately?” After he left she said, “They’re getting younger and cuter every day. Those priests would surprise you. I saw Father Jacob grab some woman’s ass the other day; at least it wasn’t a guy’s ass he grabbed.”

Chester came shuffling along. I took that as my cue to leave.  I asked Joy, “Will I see you at noon today?” She said, “You sure will, even if it’s just to bitch at the guys.”

Back to Prison 

There had been a torrential rain shower earlier in the day, so at noon the sidewalks were damp and the weather was muggy. I sat on the curb next to Debbie.

A man was standing in front of Wolf with four lighters. He was shaking each one of them to see which was the fullest. After he had decided, he put one in his pocket and left the rest. He said, “I can get a hundred bucks for this in prison. The only other way to light a cigarette is to spark two electrical wires together.” He looked at his watch and said, “I’m going to be late.” He hurried off and returned a few minutes later. He grabbed his jacket off Shaggy’s cart and said, “Now, I’m really going to be late.” Again, he hurried off.

Wolf said, “That’s Kenny, my neighbor. He’s also my connection, I should say my white connection, but he got caught trying to sell two bricks to a narc. They gave him two years. There’s good money selling drugs, but it’s illegal, you take your chances.  Now, he’s going to turn himself in with fifty pills and a lighter up his ass. He knew it was coming. He’d only been putting off the inevitable.

“What I worry about is the baby pit bull terrier he has. I guess his roommate will be looking after him. He’s a big guy who rides with a motor cycle gang.”

“My cousin was up from Virginia. He couldn’t get over how we drink beer on the street and smoke joints. Mind you down there you could be sitting there cleaning your gun. That would be fine, but pull out a joint or a beer and you’re looking at a prison sentence.

“That’s Virginia, I’ve heard it’s even worse in places like Alabama. When his son turned sixteen the first thing he did was to enroll him in the N.R.A. He figured that if his son was going to be around guns, he better know how to use one.”

Debbie turned to me and asked, “Did I tell you that I made a proposition, at the university, about a housing project for the homeless. This professor put me down, made me look like a fool. What would he know about the homeless? You can listen to my ideas or not — I don’t give a fuck.

“One day I’m going to write a book.”

I said, “That’s a good idea, to write about the homeless.”

“It’ll go way deeper than that. I’ll show where the corruption started. It’s been all down hill from there.”

I asked, “Do you think that the government is to blame?”

“Partly, with all the treaties they broke, but it’s more than that. I’m looking for a sponsor. Do you know anybody who would sponsor me?”

“What would be required of this sponsor?”

“I’d need office supplies, paper, a filing cabinet.”

“How about a computer? Do you think that would help?”

“I don’t know anything about computers. I do everything the old-fashioned way.”

“Have you thought of using a computer at the library? They’re free.”

“I can’t go to the library. I’m banned. There’s a book I never returned. I can’t get a library card until I pay for that book.”

.

24 May 2013

Payback Is Sweet 

A light rain was falling,  it was see-your-breath cold. Metro said to me, “You won’t believe it, but Joy is at her spot.”

As I approached I could see her huddled over, rocking slightly. “Joy,” I said, “you look cold.”

“I am. I forgot my heavy coat. By the time I realized how cold it was I was half way to the bus stop. I’m wearing Jake’s sweater, two layers of long underwear under my jeans, but I’m still freezing.

I said, “I didn’t go to the park yesterday because of the rain.”

“We just huddled together inside the glassed in bus shelter: Outcast, Jacques, Little Jake. Finally I said, ‘Why don’t we just go to my place? I’ll cook something.’

As I was getting on the bus I slipped and landed on the front step of the bus. I didn’t notice at first but there was a deep gash in my shin. Outcast said, ‘You should go to the hospital.’ I’ll show you.”

I said, “Don’t take the bandage off.”

“It’s okay, unless this kind of stuff really freaks you out.”

“No, I don’t have a problem with that.” Joy removed the bandage and revealed a one inch gash on the front of her shin. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood came out of there, some is still on my shoe.”

I asked, “Has Jake tried to get in contact with you?”

“No, but I’m tempted to park myself in front of the Salvation Army and watch for him. Jacques has seen him. Chester has seen him. He’s still wearing my Tiger-Cats sweatshirt, number sixty-four. I’ll never peel that off him. He’s wearing shorts too. I said to Chester, ‘I bet they’re tan color, cargo shorts.’ Chester said, ‘Yes, that’s what he was wearing.’

“That’s what he was wearing when he went in. They’re supposed to launder them for you before you’re released. I was in for three years. I couldn’t get into the jeans I came in with. They were too tight.”

I asked, “Did you gain weight in prison?”

“Yeah, that and I had my son, Nicholas.”

I said, “I remember you telling me that you had been raped by a jail guard.”

“Yeah, Rob Notingham. He isn’t with the prison system any more. I saw to that. When Nicholas was old enough, I told him that his father died in the war.  One day he came home from school and said to me, ‘My dad didn’t die in the war, if he had that would make you about eighty years old. What really happened? Where did I come from? So I had to tell him the full story.”

“One day, at my mom’s place where we were staying, I heard a banging at the front door. Nicholas was crying upstairs. I was yelling at my mom to answer the door. She was yelling at me to answer it. I could hear a Harley revving up in the driveway. My uncle and some of his friends were there with Rob spread-eagled on the driveway. ‘What do you want us to do with him?’ he asked. Fuck, I figured that costing him his job was enough, but my uncle didn’t see it that way. With the back wheel of the bike spinning they forced his hand in, again and again. He ended up with two fingers and a thumb on one hand, the other was just a stump. I still remember the screams.”

Five O’clock

Message from Stella,
Hi Dennis; Sadly, Bear passed away today. At a Veterinary check-up a large tumor was discovered in his abdomen. Probably Cancer and the Veterinarian did not think Bear would survive surgery & Chemo. I was with Bear as well as Bruce and the wonderful people from the Veterinary Community Outreach program. He went peacefully as I was holding his paw. Will miss them both.

.

27 May 2013

Dizzy Spells

This morning Joy was talking to a woman who was having a cigarette before going to work in one of the office buildings. I heard her say, “Yeah, we’re moving the whole filing department. The guy that just walked by has my keys for the back room. I’ll have to get them from him. Well, I’m off.”

I asked, Joy, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’ve been having dizzy spells. I’d be watching television, and I’d go to get up, then find myself flat on the floor.”

“Have you seen the doctor?”

“No, Greg was supposed to come by Friday to take me to get my health card. I had all the information he asked me to bring. I’ve got it in my backpack in a plastic bag, so it doesn’t get wet. I guess he thought, because it was raining Friday, I wouldn’t be out, but I was. I waited all morning for him.”

“Can you phone him to arrange another time?”

“Yeah, I can do that at noon. They always come by. My leg is really hurting where I scraped it on the bus. I’ve been cleaning the wound with peroxide and putting Polysporin on it, but it looks really red at the edges. I think it’s infected.

“Chester has been by,  just hanging around. I don’t know why he does that. He knows I’m working. I still need four dollars and twenty cents.”

“I guess he was on a butt run, was he?”

“Yeah, I guess so. He probably didn’t find enough on Friday to last him the weekend.”

“Nobody has seen anything of Andre. He’s really gone AWOL. Last month, O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program) fucked up. They gave everyone their full check, without first taking off rent payments. Most people, even Kenny and Stewart, paid their rent when they got their check. Andre spent his on booze. He has until the end of the month to get his stuff out of his apartment — and he has a lot of stuff. He lasted there a lot longer than I figured he would.”

I asked, “How long has he been staying there?”

“He moved in just before I did, so that would be six months.

“I’m waiting for Shark to come by with cigarettes. He’s taken over from Buck, but I’ve hardly seen him. He usually comes by on Tuesdays.”

“When I’ve seen him, he seemed very quiet.”

“Yeah, I think he’s doing junk again. Smashing crack into his arm. It seems so stupid. Five or six Valium will give you the same feeling and doesn’t leave you drug sick.”

“Wolf, has been downtown all weekend. He’s been too drunk to walk home. He’s been sleeping at ‘the heater’, of all places. I’m glad I have my apartment. I’d hate to be sleeping outside right now.”

.

28 May 2013

Worse Than Yesterday 

Joy was looking dejected as I approached this morning. She said,”Today is even worse than yesterday.”

I said, “You’ve told me that Mondays are always bad.”

“Some people do okay on Mondays, but I never have. Yesterday I made just enough for a bottle and a pack of smokes. I need cigarettes. Nobody’s seen Shark for over a week. He’s probably in his bedroom smashing crack into his arm. I’ve had to pay full price.

“A lot of people have been complaining to Buck. He may decide to go back to selling cigarettes. He smokes up to two packs a day. It costs him a fortune. He says he wants to quit. It would save him a lot if he were getting them straight from the reserve. Maybe, I can get some from Mariah. I’ll see if I can get hooked up with her guy.

“I don’t think I got more than an hours sleep last night. When I was in hospital they told me I have a torn rotator cuff. They said that if I was an athlete they’d operate right away, but I’m not, so they didn’t. It sure hurts. I’m still not able to sleep on that side and I’ve got one rib that seems to be pinching my lung. I’m also getting dizzy spells while lying down. That’s scary. If it doesn’t clear up by Friday, as much as I hate it, I’m going to hospital.

“I took the bandage off my shin. The cut looked really red at the edges. It was weeping some ugly yellow stuff. I washed it with peroxide and put more Polysporin on, then bandaged it again. It really hurts.

“I’m also trying to soften the scab, where the stitches are, in my head. I rub on Polysporin every day, but it doesn’t seem to help.

I asked, “Were you able to talk to your worker, Greg.”

“Yeah, he was up there yesterday. He said he was here Friday. I said, ‘Look, dude, I waited in the rain until ten, thirty.’ He said, ‘I was here looking for you, I even checked Tim Horton’s and the pizza place. I didn’t see you anywhere. Believe me, I looked.’ Anyway, we’re going Thursday morning to get my health card.

“Hippo came over yesterday. He just hung around. I told him, ‘Dude, I’m going to make myself lunch, but I don’t have enough for both of us.’ He got all pissy then and left. I don’t know why he comes to my place to eat. He has plenty of food at his apartment. His parents buy him groceries.

“Everybody’s been asking if I’ve seen Andre or Jake. I haven’t, and I don’t want to. People have written off Andre completely. He has no friends at all. I don’t understand that, Jake was beating me for three years, but he always found a place to stay, either with Little Jake or Weasel. I’d say to them, ‘You guys have known me a lot longer than you have Jake. I introduced him to you. Don’t you think you should give me some support here?’

“Another person I haven’t seen around is Blair. He’s probably dead. I’m sure they pulled the plug on Serge. If a person has no money they turn off the life support really fast. It’s a shame.

“I get my check on Friday, then I can pay back everybody I owe. Chester should have his Old Age check by now. That’s probably why I haven’t seen him. I hope he pays his rent and doesn’t spend all his money on hookers, who are just going to rob him. He’s done that before.

“Here he comes now. He walked past an ashtray — I can’t believe it. No, he’s gone back. I don’t know how he can smoke other people’s butts. Sometimes, they’re still burning. It’s just wrong. I hope he doesn’t stay long.”

I said, “Hi Chester, how are you doing?”

“I’m okay. I’m going to stop in for breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Will I see you there, Joy?”

“No, I’ll see you at the park, later.”

Jacques also came by, “I’m going to the store, Joy. Can I get you anything?”

“No, I haven’t made enough yet. I just have four twenty. I’ll see you up at the park.”

At noon I met in the park with Joy, Gaetan, Jacques, Roland, Wolf and Shaggy. I gave Wolf a book by Ken Follett, one of his favorite authors.

“Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Gaetan said to me, “Dennis, I have a joke for you. There were these two guys. One guy says to the other, ‘This apple tastes just like a woman.’ The other guy says, ‘Let me try it.’ So the first guy throws him the apple. The guy takes a bite and says, ‘This tastes like shit.’ The first guy says, ‘Bite the other side.’ Funny, eh?”

Someone wearing a Beatles tee-shirt came along. “Where’s Jacques? I see his radio, but no Jacques. What happened to him?”

Joy said, “That’s his radio, alright. It’s tuned to EZ Rock. Do you hear Katrina and the Waves? That’s the only station he listens to.

“He went on a liquor run. He’ll be back soon.”

Sure enough, Jacques arrived. He sat down and proceeded to empty a small bottle of vodka into half a bottle of soft drink. “Now,” he said, “If the cops come along and smell my drink, they’ll think it’s Kool-Aid. Smell it Joy. Tell me what you think.”

He handed the drinking bottle to Joy who took two large swallows.

“I said smell it, not taste it!”

Joy said, “Yeah, it smells fine. Vodka never has an odor, unless you get into the really high-octane stuff.”

Jacques said, “Speaking of the cops, I haven’t seen them around today. Yesterday they were here three times.”

Joy said, “Today they’re more concerned about that body they pulled out of the river. On the news they say that foul play isn’t suspected, but I don’t know. They haven’t released the guy’s name, and they said there was no water in the lungs. That means he was dead before he hit the water.

“If you want to kill somebody and get rid of the body, it’s best to beat him to the point where he’s unconscious, but still breathing. Then, throw him in the river. He’ll automatically breathe in the water. When he’s discovered they’ll just think he drowned. Any bruises could be from rocks in the river.

“I really shouldn’t know this stuff. These other guys should know it, maybe, but for me it’s just wrong. I shouldn’t know all these ways to off people.

“Do you find this kind of talk morbid?”

“No,” I said.

“Do I entertain you?”

“Yes.”

Two women were approaching on the sidewalk, Joy said, “Some people should not wear pink. That other woman should know that if her ass cheeks are hanging out, her shorts are too small. If I had a daughter I’d never let her dress that way.”

.

30 May 2013

Joy Fights 

I approached the group of people standing on the sidewalk near the park. I shook hands with Hippo, Little Jake, Nicholas and Joy. I tried shaking hands with Shakes who was lounging on the grass.  He pulled me down. “Dennis, do you know where I slept last night? Right over there (He pointed to another section of the park.) I passed out in the rain.”

I asked, “When did you wake up?”

“Seven o’clock this morning. Tommy woke me up. He was sleeping over there (pointing behind him). Dennis, could you spare me enough to get a bottle?”

“I’m sorry, Shakes. I don’t have my wallet with me. You know I’d help you out if I could.”

“Yeah, I know that, Dennis. I’m a street person. I had to ask.

” Some people look down on us, don’t give us any respect.”

“You know I don’t feel that way, Shakes, don’t you?

“Yes, I know that, Dennis.” He opened his palm and showed me three grams of weed. Then he laughed.”

I said, “That should be enough to get you there.”

Hippo was wandering around in the bushes. Shakes said, “Hippo is incognito.”

I asked, “Do you mean he’s disguised as another animal?”

Joy said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.  The cops were at my place last night. P.C’s Mackenzie and Tarantino. They kept asking me where Andre is.   I said, “Have a look around, if you find any green slime —  that will be him.

“MacKenzie said, ‘Your old man is out, he’s staying at the Salvation Army.’ I said, ‘He’s not my old man, he’s my ex. I know he’s out he’s been out two weeks today.’

“Anyway, They’re going to meet me at my place in an hour. That is if they don’t come by and pick me up here.”

Little Jake said, “Andre is dead to us. He’ll end up like Kenny back there. I have to take a leak. I’ll be right back.”

Joy said, “If  Brian’s got his mouth open, piss in it.”

I asked, “What happened to Brian?”

Joy said, “He was actin’ like and asshole, a dickhead. He wouldn’t stop talking.  I told him that he should go; that every guy here wanted to kick the shit out of him.” Jacques,  Shark,  Hippo and Little Frank walked away.

“I said to him, ‘Are you going to leave now?’ He just sat there, so I nailed him in the face. His nose exploded — there was blood everywhere. Then I kicked him in the back of the head. He said, ‘Joy, you broke my nose!’ I said, “Let me straighten it out for you.’ I kicked him on the other side of his head. That knocked him out. I think he’s still laying back there.

“I’m not usually like that. These guys know me as a fighter, but this is the first time they’ve actually seen me fight. I don’t know what’s happening to me. It’s been this way for the last month.”

I asked, “Did Greg take you to get your Health Card yesterday?”

“Yeah he did. I made an appointment with the doctor for this afternoon, but I had to cancel because the police are coming over.

“Everybody else got their check today, even Mariah, who lives upstairs from me.  I’ve got a suspicion that the nut case down stairs goes through my mail. I check the mail in the late afternoon. There won’t be any. In the morning there’s mail in my box. Go figure.

“Jacques called me a rat and a goof for pressing charges against Andre. I said, ‘Jake was beating me for three years. Nobody said anything when I put him in prison. Why is it different with Andre?’

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with everybody, then I stopped by the other group with Debbie, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Wolf said, “As you can see I’m that way again.”

“I can see, Wolf. I’ve heard that you’ve been this way all week.”

Debbie intends to write a book about her life. I had an extra notebook and pen that I gave to her.  She said, “Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

.

31 May 2013

Hippo Arrested

This morning, as I was waiting for the walk light, I heard someone bellow, “Dennis!”

I turned around, recognized who it was, and shouted back, “Hippo!”

His eyes were half-shut, his arm scraped. I asked, “Where did you sleep last night?”

“At the police station.”

“How did that come about?”

“I don’t know, I was drunk. I was with Joy last night.”

“I asked, “Is Joy alright?”

Yeah, she went home, then I went to my place.”

“Did you get into a fight?

“I remember going at a cop with a hammer.”

“What brought the cops in the first place? Were you making a lot of noise?”

“I remember that we were playing music. There was somebody else there. I remember who it was.”

“Was it someone I would know?”

“No.”

“Someone in your building?”

“Yeah. I think I’ve got the papers here. Yeah, here it is, CAUSING A DISTURBANCE WHILE DRUNK and POSSESSION OF A WEAPON DANGEROUS TO PUBLIC SAFETY (highlighted in yellow). It says here that I have to appear in court on June eighteenth at eight, thirty.”

“That’s in less than three weeks!”

I asked, “Do they still serve those cold fried egg sandwiches on a paper plate, with lukewarm coffee, milk and sugar, in a paper cup?”

“No, not even that. I would’ve loved to have had a coffee. I had a slice of banana bread and a box of orange juice. I’m starved.”

“Do you have enough for breakfast?”

“Yeah I’m good.”

“If  there’s anything you need, let me know.”

“Thanks bro. I gotta stop drinking. In fact I’ve been ordered to stop drinking. If I get caught drunk, I go straight to jail.”

Shit Stains 

Last week the temperature was below freezing (minus two degrees Celsius,  twenty-eight  Fahrenheit) today it’s hot (thirty-two, Celsius; ninety  Fahrenheit), with the Humidex reading it feels like forty-three  Celsius (one hundred and ten, Farenheit). Nobody in the park had much energy. Hippo had a bad sunburn on both of his legs.

I said, “I heard of Hippo’s adventures last night. What else happened?”

Joy said, “It was hilarious, I got a phone call from Mariah, she said, ‘You’ll never guess, but Hippo phoned. He just got out of jail.’ I said, ‘I’d wondered what happened to him. He was in my apartment, I went out to get some honey garlic wings, when I came back he was gone. I ate four and put the rest in the fridge.’

“How can someone, going from point A to point B, end up in jail?”

Hippo said, “It was because of that bitch.”

“What bitch? You mean that crazy Portuguese woman down the hall?”

“No, the bitch cop.  Sorry, I meant woman cop.”

I said, “Hippo, you could have been shot.”

“She had her gun out, alright. She said get down. I got down. They put the hand cuffs on and dragged me to the back of the cruiser. That’s how I got these scrapes on my arm.”

Joy said, “I’d rather be shot that tazed. When they get you down they always give you a few extra zaps to increase the pain.

“Let’s back up a bit, Hippo, I don’t mind you calling her a bitch. I got no problem with that, but you chased a woman with a hammer?”

“I guess I did. I don’t remember.” Joy smacked his left, sunburned thigh, Mariah smacked the other.”

Joy asked, “How do I know that you won’t hit me with a hammer some time?”

“I’d never do that, Joy.”

“You just keep talking and I’ll do to you what I did to Brian yesterday. He just wouldn’t stop talking.

“Yesterday, you and me went to the bank. You could only get a hundred and twenty out. ”

“Yeah, that’s all the bank machine would let me take. We’ll go back today and I’ll talk to a teller.”

Joy said, “You mean go inside the bank, just like humans?”

“Yeah, just like humans.”

“Then we’ll go to my place and finish those wings.

“Before this night’s out I’m going to get your PIN (Personal Identification Number) for the bank machine.”

Hippo said, “What year was the first Harley built?”

“1903?”

“That’s my PIN.

“People always say I’m full of shit, but down a quart.”

Joy was looking beyond the railing into the park, “Jacques, take a look. Doesn’t that dog look just like Harley;  you know, Rosie’s dog — big titties Rosie?”

“Ah, yes, I remember her. Harley looked something like that but didn’t have the white on his nose. Also he was skinnier.”

“I know it’s not the same dog, but the same breed.”

“Yes, maybe you’re right.”

Deaf Donald was sitting beside me. He’s been deaf since birth, so he sometimes has trouble communicating. He said, “I can read lips, you know. Even if two people are across the street I can tell what they’re saying. It nearly got me in trouble one day. I walked across the street and repeated word for word what these people had been saying. The guy got really pissed off.

“I’ll show you. I’ll go over to the fence and you mouth something. I’ll tell you what you said.”

I mouthed, “Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You said, Hi Donald, you’re deaf? Is that right.”

“No, I said, ‘Hi Donald, are you having a good day?”

“You move your lips too fast. Let Joy try it. Say something to me, Joy.”

You said, “I’ve got shit stains on my underwear?”

Joy said, “That’s right. That’s what I said.”

Donald said, “I got news for you. I’m not wearing underwear.”

Joy said, “I’m not sure if I really want to go there, but why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

“Because I’m wearing white pants and I’m clean.

“I have to go for my methadone treatment, but after that I’ll buy some chicken and maybe Hippo and I could come over to your place for supper?”

“That ain’t happenin’, dude. You’re never coming to my place.  I’m down here, dude. Look at me.”

Donald left, Joy said, “That guy gives me the creeps, especially when he does that thing with his eyes. I think he was dropped on his head, too many times, when he was a baby.”

I said, “He told me that, while his mother was pregnant with him, his father beat her up and threw her down a flight of stairs.”

“Yeah, I heard that. Just before my second son was born, my ex beat me something fierce. The baby was born with a broken leg and two broken ribs. Jay did two years for that.

“I can also read lips and sign. When I was a kid I had lots of ear infections and got a perforated ear drum. I can’t hear with my right ear. It’s handy sometimes even with Donald. I watch his eyes, and can say things when he’s not looking.”

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