2013 – October

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2 October 2013

Muffin Maker 

Joy was bobbing her head looking the other way.  I said, “Hi Joy!”

“Geez, you startled me. Jacques did the same thing earlier. Can you imagine a guy that big trying to sneak up on someone.”

“Was he wearing his orange pants, khaki shorts and lime green shirt?”

“Yeah, that seems to be his uniform of choice these days? He’s coming back, then we’re both going back to see Stella. She’s got some things for me. I asked him, ‘You just came from that direction, now we’re going back to the same place. Why didn’t you just stay there?’

“See that guy across the street, the one with the shaved head and red bandanna. He really freaks me out . He’s got a teardrop tattoo under each eye. He stops by and asks me for smokes. I said, ‘Do you think I’d be panning here if I had any extra? Take a seat across the street and pan for yourself.’ He grumbled a bit then moved on. He looks like a guy that would have offed a few people. He’s got that crack walk too.”

“What’s a crack walk?”

“Well when I was on crack, I was on my feet all the time, hardly ever slept. I kept getting blisters on my feet. With most people who use crack it’s the same thing.”

I said, “I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy on TV. Is that true to life?”

“Yeah, it sure is. Especially the woman who used to play Peg Bundy (Katey Segal), with the scar on her chest. You see lots of scars. I’ve seen her interviewed on some program, she’s really aged well;  she’s gorgeous. My stomach looks like a jigsaw puzzle after being stabbed with a saw-toothed machete, My leg being hacked with a hatchet… I’ve got scars all over.

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“Quiet, this cold has really got me down. Migraines, weak. sore throat, stuffed up, coughing. Mariah’s got it too, only with her it’s coming out the other end. I hope I don’t get that next.”

I asked, “How’s it coming with your health card?”

“I can’t get a hold of John. He says he’s coming over than he doesn’t show. I phone him, get voicemail, leave a message and he never gets back to me. I figure, if you’re going to help somebody, you help them, you don’t just leave them dangling.

“Yesterday, Hippo phoned. He had his welfare check and bought a bunch of groceries. I said, “Great, come on over. I’ll cook.” I waited until about seven. He never showed. It’s a good thing I still had time to thaw some of the stuff I had in the freezer, or else I wouldn’t have been able to eat.

“I got a letter from butthead. I can’t find the envelope to write him back. I’ll have to go to the John Howard Society to get his address. I looked all over for that.  Usually, I stuff letters back into the envelopes they came in.”

“So how is Frank doing?”

“He’s still in Joyceville. He said he’ll be getting out around November sixth. I thought it was going to be in January. It’s been two years since we’ve had Christmas together, so I guess that’s a good thing. I feel sorry for the guy, but my apartment is too small for two people. He’s up all night and sleeps all day.

“How is Jake doing with his hip?”

“It’s bad. He’s in a lot of pain. He was scheduled to be first on the list to have a hip replacement, but then he went back to jail., so Now he’ll have to start the process all over. If he’d only kept up the phone calls with his probation officer, he wouldn’t be in there now; not very bright.

“My upstairs neighbor, the guy, is being friendly with me now. When we meet on the stairs, he nods, but now Josephine, his girlfriend, is stomping down the stairs. So I go back to slamming doors.

“That’s a weird situation up there. They used to have separate apartments. Then the landlady’s daughter moved out. She had a three bedroom. They both moved into that apartment, then her girlfriend moved in. I think the guy is doing the girlfriend when Josephine is out. None of them seem to be working.

A man, one of Joy’s regulars, stopped by. He handed Joy a muffin. “Thanks,” she said. After he passed she said to me, “The guy’s mother isn’t a good muffin maker. This will be pigeon food, unless you want it. Maybe, I’ll save it for Jacques.”

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3 October 2013

Mentalpause

In his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, author Malcolm Gladwell  states ” Addicts can articulate very well the consequences of their behavior. But they fail to act accordingly. That’s because of a brain problem… Damage in the ventromedial area causes a disconnect between what you know and what you do.”

This morning, as I approached Joy, she stood up from her box, waved and headed to the restaurant. She must have been waiting anxiously to go for her pee break. When she returned I asked, “Did I miss anything at noon yesterday?”

“No, I didn’t go up there. Jacques and I saw Stella then went over to his place. I still haven’t seen anything of Hippo. He got his check, was going to get a bottle then come to my place, but he never showed. He probably got shit faced and was picked up by the cops. He’s probably in jail now.

“Mariah kicked Charlie out again. He was just a waste of space. She’s been sick with a cold and she also has Chron’s Disease. When I saw her last, she was doubled up with pain. She doesn’t have the time or energy to take care of somebody else. Last night, I heard a thump on the floor, so I went to her door and knocked. I could hear Precious meowing and meowing, but nothing from Mariah. I knocked again and called out, ‘Mariah, are you alright?’ She said, ‘I’m okay, Joy, I’ve made it from the bedroom, half way to the kitchen. I’ll be fine.’

“I used to be able to check on her by phone, but I still haven’t got things sorted out with Bell. I called them yesterday from Jacques’ place. I was talking to some lady in Toronto. First of all, I didn’t know the internet account, so I had to go home and get our bill. I didn’t know it was just two extra digits to the phone account. You’d think they’d have that on record. I was trying to arrange an appointment for someone to come over. She said, ‘I can have someone over there between eight and four.’ That’s no good to me. I have to make some money. They’re coming over on Monday between one and five. I’ll just have to wait.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with the damn phone. I’m not good with things electrical.  I’ve paid so frickin much money to them already. It’s practically brand new. Stella gave it to me. I didn’t keep the box, but it’s not like I’ve been kicking it around or anything. The center button and the two outside buttons are flashing, but when I pick it up I’ve got no dial tone. Sometimes I think it was better before I was human and just lived behind the dumpster. I didn’t have all these things to worry about. I don’t even miss the television. It’s all repeats now. It was nearly as good when I just had my dvd player.  I’d be watching the same old stuff all the time, but at least it was decent stuff.

“I’m also still going through this mentalpause stuff. That makes me bitchy, and I start crying all the time for no reason, like right now.  I remember when my mom went through it.  She was really hard to live with then. We knew to just stay away from her during those times. She had it really early. She had a hysterectomy when she was twenty-nine.

“I also have to pick up a card today. Yesterday it was Jake’s and my seventh anniversary of being together. He sent me a card it said Happy Eighth Anniversary. I said to him, ‘You dumbass, it’s only been seven years. This means you owe me a year.’ Maybe I’ll make a card. That would make it more personal, right? It wouldn’t seem cheap, would it? They say it’s the thought that counts.  I can’t afford a card anyway.

“I’m not going to the park at noon. I’m just going straight home to bed.”

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4 October 2013

Stabbing – 4 October 2013

As I approached Joy she got up, waved and said, “I’ve been sitting here with my legs crossed, waiting for you to get here. I have to go to the pizza place.”

When she got back she said, “That’s the fourth time I’ve had to go there. It was really crowded. I had to duck around customers, waitresses. There was this lady, maybe the owner’s wife, was waiting for me when I came out. She asked, ‘Couldn’t you use the washroom in the library?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got a sick tummy and the library’s locked.’ Does she think I’d go there if I had any choice? I’ve seen come crackheads flaked out there. It used to be that the outer doors to the library would be opened at six o’clock for the workers in the office tower, but now they have a security guard. You have to prove you work in the building before they’ll let you in.

“This is Casual Friday, isn’t it? Why do I still see women wearing these tiny mini skirts. If I had a choice I’d be wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. Humans, you just gotta hate ’em; at least I do.”

I said, “Where I work, if we want to pay two dollars to charity, we can wear jeans, but we’re not allowed to wear tee shirts. We can wear golf shirts with collars. There’s still a dress code.

“Did you hear about the stabbing on Yonge in front of the Eaton Center? Some guy named ‘Rocket Robin’ stabbed someone. The other guy was short,  talked a lot and had no front teeth, so I thought of André.”

“Yeah, he’d fit the description all right. That’s the corner where Jacques and I turned  off to go to his place. Shakes has been beaten up there a few times. It’s usually been Sharon. They went out together for about seven years. When she’d see him panning, she’d kick him in the head. She’s a real piece of work. Have you seen her, piercings all over her face?”

“No, I don’t think so, although I’ve seen lots of women with piercings.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of out of style now. I had eight piercings in my ear. I did them all myself. This one in my nose I got because my son gave me a diamond stud. I was in prison with this hopped up crackhead chick. Instead of punching her in the face, I held my nose under cold water and just pushed it through. I had to shake my head a bit after that one. She didn’t last long. Some other chick beat her up. Having a chirped up crackhead chick in a mellow work yard is a definite mistake.

“I also had a piercing in my tongue. It was kind of a nuisance. The longer I had it the bigger the hole in my tongue got. When the barbell came through the hole by itself, I figured it was time to let it heal over.

“After we left Jacques place, he wanted to go to the Kensington market to get some Jamaican patties. but I wasn’t up for that. I just went home to bed. This cold is still hanging on and I haven’t been sleeping well. I woke up  at one o’clock and was tossing and turning all night. I must look it now. Do I?

“No, you look the same as usual.”

“That’s good. Deaf Donald’s mom came by this morning. She said to me, ‘Your so-called friend kicked Donald out of his apartment the other day.’ I said, ‘Yeah, after Donald flipped out and threatened to kill Chester.’ If Yves wasn’t there he probably would have really hurt him. She said, ‘It’s okay, I arranged for another apartment for him.’ He’s pushing forty, it must be nice to have a mommy who pays for his apartment, all the hearing aids he’s lost, his bail for all the times he’s been thrown in jail.”

I asked, “Have you heard anything from anybody else? How’s Mariah?”

“She’s okay. I saw her yesterday. I told you she threw Charlie out, didn’t I?”

“Yeah.”

“Chuck Senior, in his wheel chair, was panning, across the street,  where Silver used to be.  He was waiting for one of his regulars. This guy, Ghyslain,  was hanging around and said, ‘I see you got a twenty-dollar drop from that bitch in the black coat.’ That’s the way he talks. He’s just waiting to go back to the Talbot  Jail in Sherbrooke. I said to him, ‘Why hang around? If you don’t like it here, go there now.’ ”

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

“No, I’m going to the Metro to pick up some groceries, after that it’s home. It’s supposed to rain all weekend.   How about you?”

“I’m going to try to get rid of this cold by laying on the couch and watching Sons of Anarchy.”

“I love that show. You’ve got to get me a copy of that somehow.”

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8 October 2013

Frozen Joy 

Before I was half way across the intersection Metro yelled to me, “She’s there — or at least she was — she may have gone home because it’s too cold.”

“Thanks Metro.”

“Hi Joy, how are you feeling today?”

“I’m coughing, sneezing, blowing my nose; besides that I’m fuckin’ freezing. I’m still having trouble breathing. I’ve been using my green inhaler, but that makes me dizzy. I cooked a small steak last night, but I could only eat a few bites. I’d been coughing so much that I got air in my tummy and chewing made me nauseous, so I just went to bed.

“My apartment is freezing. I can’t spend another winter like last year, and I don’t want to go to hospital with pneumonia. I’m going to have to get  one of my regulars to spring for a heater. I can’t live like this. I spent most of Sunday trying to sweep water down the drain from all that rain we had. I had a huge puddle right in front of my door.”

I said, “Won’t your landlady turn the heat on?”

“Last year her husband came down with a thermometer and said it was thirty degrees. If I can get her to spend thirty minutes down there she’ll see it’s not thirty degrees. My lease ends in November. I don’t even know if she’ll renew my lease. I’ve been really good, haven’t caused any problems. There’s no reason for her not to renew my lease; but I don’t know.

“How’s Mariah?”

“I don’t know I didn’t see much of her. Charlie has been in and out, going to the store.”

“I thought she kicked him out?”

“Yeah, she did but he’s back, just like a dirty shirt.”

“Have you heard from Hippo?”

“Yeah,  he phoned once on Mariah’s phone.  He’s one of those people who phones, then he doesn’t say anything.  ‘Hi, whadya doin’ Joy?’ I said, ‘Look dude, This isn’t my phone; I can’t talk that long. If you got something to say spit it out, man.’ He says, ‘Well there are a couple of women hanging around outside my place. I heard them say they were going to try to break in as soon as I leave. They were wondering what kind of stuff I have.’ You know the size of Hippo. I said to him, ‘Look dude, it’s two chicks, You can handle that.’ I’ve seen those two broads. One’s a black chick. There is an alcove outside Hippo’s apartment. They do tricks up there and everything. He said, ‘But Joy, I don’t hit women.’ ‘Dude, I said, first of all these aren’t women! Second, if they’re causing trouble phone the super or the cops!’ ‘I can’t do that, Joy. I’m no rat.’ I said, ‘Then leave your place. If they break in then you can call the police.’ He can always ask his worker for an emergency relocation. That’s what I’d do. I don’t mind getting in someone’s face, but I haven’t got down and boogied for a long time. Sure, I can scrap, but in the time it took me to walk to Hippo’s place, they’d be gone. The last thing I need, is to go to jail again for assault.

“Do you hear Sandy barking? He’s Chuck’s  dad’s dog.  I could use him down here to scare the pigeons off.”

I said, “Yeah, the guy in the wheel chair, I usually say hello to him, but I don’t think he recognizes me.”

Joy said, “He’s okay, but he always asks me why I don’t kiss him on the lips. He asked, ‘Is it because I’m too old?’ I said, ‘Well, uh, yeah! I don’t kiss anybody on the lips. I’m not fuckin’ you. You don’t pay my rent and you’re my brother by another mother’s old man.’ I didn’t even kiss my own father on the lips, mind you, he was a pedophile.

“Earlier, one of my regulars gave me a bag with a blanket in it. It’s not new, it’s about fifty years old. She said her mother wrapped her up in it when she was a child. Inside it was a big can of chicken soup.

“Do you eat cranberry muffins. Somebody gave me this. I can’t eat them. Do you want it?”

I said, “Sure. Thanks.”

Jacques and Annie stopped by. He pulled out a bottle and offered Joy a drink. He said, “Oh I forgot, this isn’t the kind you drink.”

“I don’t drink that dry shit.”

“It’s still sherry. Just because it’s a better brand doesn’t mean it’s not good.”

“It’s not a better brand, they both cost seven ninety-five. I just prefer it sweeter.”

Joy said to me, “I just need two more bucks, then I’m out of here.” One of her regulars, a tall well dressed Australian man, dropped her a one and a two dollar coin.”

Joy smiled, “That’s it. I’m out of here.”

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9 October 2013

Rubber Dick 

At the park the sun was shining, weather was warm, another day of the summer we never had. Sitting on the curb were Little Jake, Mariah, Jacques, and Little Chester.

Mariah said to me, “We heard that you were sick. Joy is at home sick, too. She has a migraine and her stomach is upset.”

I said, “I heard that you weren’t feeling well.”

“With me it was back pain. I have no coccyx. It was removed because of an accident in my wild youth. I’ve also got two fused disks L1 to L2 and two herniated disks between L3 to L4 and L4 to L5. I was wearing a heating pack for thirteen hours yesterday. It feels better now. It’s something that’s always going to give me trouble.”

I said, “Joy told me that Hippo had some problems at his apartment.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, one guy was evicted, now everyone is down on Hippo. They think he had something to do with it.”

I said, “He also had a problem with two women outside his apartment. He heard them say that they were going to break in as soon as he went out; so he was afraid to leave.”

Mariah said, “Joy was really pissed off about that. Here’s a big guy who chases after cops with a hammer and he’s afraid to deal with a couple of women. He wanted Joy to come over and settle it. She wouldn’t come over and I wouldn’t either. I didn’t do it for my son, who was having trouble with a woman. Why would I do it for Hippo? I’m not going to risk jail time for that. I can get into enough trouble on my own. He’s acting like a baby.”

Little Jake said, “You should have seen me this morning. I stayed at Shark’s place last night, so I just had a short bike ride this morning. When I woke up I was still high. I only had my jean jacket with me and it was really cold this morning, especially with the dampness of the fog. I needed money so I was panning at my usual spot. I was sitting hunched down with my arms around my shins trying to get warm.  I was shivering so much, my chin was banging against my knees. Jacques laughed at me and gave me this coat.”

Jacques said, “Yesterday Bell fixed Joy’s phone. I don’t know what they did. Today, they call me and ask me if her phone is working. I called Joy this morning to see if she was coming down, but why is Bell calling me? I said to them, ‘Her phone is working, but don’t call me again! Call her!’ She has one of those wireless phones. Nancy gave it to her. I think, maybe, after a while, the battery is not good. I don’t know.”

André rode up on a copper-colored bicycle. Mariah hadn’t seen him since he battered Joy, and put her in hospital. She said, “Do I greet you the old-fashioned way, or do I give you a hug.”

André said, “I’m in no shape for anything but a hug.”

To me Mariah said, “The old-fashioned way is either a punch to the gut, or up side the head.”

André said, “Look what a guy gave me this morning. He said I was… what’s the word… inventive. It’s a mini basketball backboard that some guys use in their offices with nerf balls. The hoop just fits my cap. I sit there and say, ‘Take your best shot!’ People throw loonies and toonies (one dollar and two dollar Canadian coins). I’ve made two bottles, two grams, a pack of smokes and a couple of bags of chips. When the cops come I just fold it up and sit on it. ‘No officer, I’m just sitting here. I’m not panning.’ I show them my bad ankle and say, ‘I couldn’t stand if I tried.’ They let me go with that.

Jake said, “That looks like a fast bike!”

André said, “It’s the old red and black one I had; I just changed the color. It sure is fast, alright, it’s got thirty speeds. Count the sprockets, three in front, ten at the rear. It’s fast enough to clear three construction workers.”

I asked, “What do you mean?”

“I was coming down a hill. My brake cable came loose. I could see this big pile of gravel ahead, but I couldn’t even stop for the light. I just cruised right through. I kept trying to pump my rear brake but it wasn’t doing anything. I hit the pile and sailed right over these construction guys. They were shouting at me, but what could I do? The bike went right between the electrical box and a hydro pole. I managed to jump the first concrete median with my front wheel, but the back wheel caught. That’s where the bike stopped. I kept going; ended up on my back sprawled like a beetle, arms and legs waving. I didn’t have a single scratch on my arms or my hands, but I broke my ankle. There was  cop near by. He came over and said, ‘Yep, that’s broken.’ ”

I asked, “Did he take you to the hospital?”

“No, I hate hospitals.  I just rode away. I’ve got it wrapped in a tensor bandage. I’m able to rotate my ankle, I just can’t walk. I’ll have to ride the bike wherever I want to go. You should have seen when I had Mary on the handle bars and got up to top gear. She was shaking and holding on to those bars like her life depended on it — and it did.”

Ghyslain came by and sat with the group. He pulled out a beer and opened it. Little Jake said, “Would you mind hiding that. We come here every day.”

Mariah said, “We call Gaston and Yves the pair of chickens, because they covered their balcony with chicken wire to keep out the pigeons. What else do you call people who live in a chicken coop?”

Jake said, “I think I’m going to dress up on Halloween as a mime. I can’t talk so good anyway, because of this sore throat. With HIV it’s not going to clear up soon.”

André said, “I think I’m going to put on a dress and go as a transvestite. It won’t even surprise people. Most have seen me in a pink dress with a black and white polka dot bra. When a cop stopped me the other day he said, Where’s your dress, André?

“A couple of years back, I made a costume out of chicken wire shaped like a beer bottle. I made a cap out of styrofoam, wrapped the chicken wire with brown paper, then used markers to make the label. My arms stuck out the sides. I made two of them. I went as Labatt Blue, Mary went as Labatt Light. We came in second place.

“First place went to a guy dressed as a rubber dick. Under his costume he had a squeeze bottle attached to a tube. He also had some Alka Seltzer and water — you know how that stuff fizzes when they’re mixed? Remember the commercial ‘plop,plop, fizz, fizz’?   When he was on stage for the final showing, he squeezed the bottle and it started spurting and foaming from the head and running down the side.”

I asked, “Did they award prizes?”

‘Yeah, a thousand for first, we got five hundred and a guy dressed as a werewolf got two, fifty. His costume was good. For us it was free drinks all night and some left over.”

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10 October 2013

I’m Jack, Man!

Another perfect day. I walked by the park and didn’t see any of my friends. There was a person sleeping on the lawn, but I didn’t recognize her. I turned to leave and saw Little Jake riding up the sidewalk on his bicycle. He wandered over to the person sleeping and said, “It’s Magdalene. I’ll just let her sleep it off.”

“Are you in a rush to go anywhere?” Jake asked.

“No, let’s sit for a while, enjoy the weather.”

Jake said, “I was in a panic this morning. I was desperate for a coffee and I couldn’t find the card you gave me yesterday. I looked everywhere. I finally found it. It was in the plastic case with my dope. So, I was able to have my coffee.

“My throat still feels miserable. I have trouble talking, swallowing. I’m still waiting for three government checks. Ever since I filed my income taxes, I haven’t seen a check. I got a letter in the mail asking me to confirm my address. Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Yeah, ” I said, “it’s like phoning you, and asking what your phone number is. ”

“Exactly. I got my worker to fax a copy of my lease and all the other shit they wanted. I need that money. I owe a lot of people.”

I asked, “Have you been seeing your doctor and taking your HIV medication?”

“No, I asked my worker yesterday to set up an appointment with my doctor. I need to get my prescriptions renewed. Also, one of the pills I have to take is huge. I usually puke trying to swallow it. That’s no good.”

I asked, “Can you crush or cut that pill smaller?”

“No it’s a gel capsule. I asked my doctor last time if they came in smaller sizes. He said they did. I don’t know why I got these big mothers. I’ll have to get that settled when I see him. I also have to get new papers signed for my special diet. That’ll be three birds I can kill with one stone.”

Jacques walked by and mumbled something about having to put some money on his phone.

Jake said, “That guy can be a real tit some times. I gave him fifty dollars when my last check came in and said, ‘Hold on to this for me. It’s for my bus pass.’ At the first of the month he was talking to my new dealer, who said I owed him thirty bucks.  Jacques gave him thirty and when he saw me, gave me twenty.  I said, ‘For Christ’s sake. You didn’t smoke that dope. Why did you pay for it?’ So, I’m left without a bus pass. I hope this warm weather holds out until the end of the month.

“Shakes should be down shortly.  I was at his place last night. On my way home I picked up a dozen pork cutlets and some bread crumbs –I left my other bread crumbs at Shark’s. I dropped six off at my place, then took six to Shakes’ apartment. I didn’t know if he was at home, but his door was open, so I walked in. He was passed out on his couch. I made schnitzel with a big green salad. It was delicious. I love green salads.

“Later on, we heard a knock on the door. It was a woman cop, serving a subpoena for him to appear in court in January, because he had been robbed.  The cop asked him how he was doing, He said, ‘Just having a drink and smoking some dope with a friend.’ That’s what he said to the cop. Anyway, they really must have a hard on for this guy. If Shakes isn’t to appear until January they must have a lot of charges to go through.

“It looks like I’m going to have to pan to get some money. Not that it’s anything different from what I’m doing now, just sitting here.”

What other jobs have you had? I know you were a maitre d, at one time, you’ve been a cook. What else?”

“I started off stealing bicycles. I used to be a bicycle mechanic. I know everything about bicycles.  I can take them apart, put them back together. I know every part and what it’s for. If something isn’t working I can make it work.  I remember, one time, I had five bikes in the back yard.  I was living with my grandparents at the time. One afternoon a cop came by and said, ‘We’re looking for some stolen bicycles. Have you seen any around?’ I said, ‘No.’ After they left, I hoisted two over each shoulder and hightailed it to the back forty. My grandfather asked me why I was riding a particular bike that evening. I said, ‘This is one that the cops aren’t looking for.’ He just laughed.

“I’m Jack, man. I can do anything. When I was a kid I had an older brother. It seemed that he got everything and there was nothing left for me. My mom said, ‘If you want something, get a job and earn it.’ I was thirteen at the time. She shouldn’t have said that to me. I got a job at a restaurant washing dishes and was earning a hundred bucks a week. This was back in 1980, so for a thirteen-year-old, that was a fortune.

“It was actually a family business. My mom worked in the kitchen and my uncle ran the place. Some of my cousins were waitresses. I worked my way up to cook and finally, maitre d. It was an Austrian type restaurant. I got to dress to the nines, got big tips; a hundred to one, fifty a night.

“One time we had a big group, forty-five people. My mother and I  served forty-five meals in forty-nine minutes.

“Why did you leave that job?”

“My uncle was killed in a car accident. He was also my best friend. I was twenty-five at the time, he was thirty-five.

“I’ve done lots of other jobs; worked in a bowling alley setting pins, that was back in the day before they had automatic pin setters.”

I said, “I did that back in 1960. We were paid a penny a pin. if it was one guy, playing one game of five-pins, ten frames, I’d get paid fifty cents. If it was a league of ten-pins, I’d be setting two alleys, five bowlers per alley, three games, it would work out to fifteen bucks. A lot of money in those days. I’d have about twenty bruises on each leg, between my knees and my ankles, from pins bouncing back.”

Jake said, “I’ve also worked concrete, electricals, any kind of construction. Like I said, I’m Jack, man!”

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11 October 2013

Camera Shy

On my way to the park I saw Shakes sitting on a low wall near the sidewalk.

“Hi, Shakes, is nobody up the hill?”

“Oh, there are some people up there, Inuk, Chuck, Mariah. I was on my way to the liquor store, but this is as far as I could walk. My legs gave out. Would you go on a run for me?”

“Sure, I’ll go , Shakes.”

“Here’s the change, a bottle of Imperial, please. I’ll see you up top.”

It was only a block out of my way, so I didn’t mind the detour.later I met up with the rest of the group. Chuck was leaning against his sleeping bag. Inuk had earphones on listening to Chuck’s music. Mariah was standing,  Shakes was sitting on the curb.

“Thanks, Dennis, I appreciate that.”

Chuck said, “Bruce and I have been working the past two days and we got work for Monday as well. Stella hired us to do some landscaping. They had a big load of gravel dumped. We’ve been taking the big rocks out and raking the rest. Bruce keeps telling me to slow down, but once I start a job I want to get it finished. That’s why they like to hire us. They know the job will get done. Last time they hired high school kids. They were too slow. They didn’t know how to work. We worked right through the rain on Monday, it didn’t matter to us. They liked that. So, I’m going to have lots of money for food, booze and weed.”

Pierre came down the hill on his roller blades. He said to Mariah, “I’ve got a present for you.” He handed her a plastic bag of weed. “Smell it, what do you think?”

Mariah said, “It smells like Tangerine.” To me she said, “I like buying from Pierre, because I know everything is natural. He uses natural cow manure, no chemical fertilizer. Also, it’s mellow. It doesn’t make me choke when I inhale, like some of that other shit. He’s got a bunch of strains going. Every time he gets something new he brings me a sample, just to try. ”

Pierre said, “I’m so happy today. My parents are moving and they’ve offered me all their old furniture. I asked, ‘Even that new bed you bought?’ They said, ‘Everything, take your pick.’ It’s going to be nice having new, or at least different, furniture.

Mariah said, “Six, at the bottom of the hill. He’s on motorcycle.”

Chuck said, “I saw a cop on nearly every corner. I think there must be some dignitaries in town. They’re probably coming in a, what’s the word, cascade? I don’t think cascade is the right word. Dennis, what is it?”

I said, “Maybe, cavalcade, or procession?”

Mariah said, “Yeah, it could be procession.”

Chuck said, “I didn’t want to use the wrong word and look stupid.”

Mariah said, “What else is new? Joy is still sick, puking and diarrhea. She doesn’t seem to be able to shake that. She’ll be better for a few days then it’s back again. I’ll stop in to see her when I get home.

“I saw Jacques, but he was in a bad mood, just passed by. I guess he didn’t get his check today.” To everyone she said, “I see lots of empty cans in the bushes. Is no one collecting?”

I said, “I’m sure Chester will get them on his next butt run.”

Mariah said, “It won’t be today. I just talked to him on the phone. He’s not coming down.”

I said, “I talked to Little Jake, yesterday.

“How has your back been, Mariah?”

“It’s better today. I’m still wearing the heat pack. I get the refill pads in a box of three for three bucks. They heat up as soon as they’re in contact with air. I’ll show you what they look like. See, little gel packs. Not bad for a buck each.

“I’ve kicked Charlie out for a while. Sometimes I just need a few days to myself. He’s been trying to be nice, he’s even being nice to my friends, but they know what he can be like. He’s a big guy with a lot of military training. It scares people when he gets in one of his moods.”

Shakes pulled a half roll of toilet paper out of his jacket pocket and blew his nose.

Chuck said, “Shakes, you didn’t get it all. Try again.”

Mariah said, “Chuck be nice.” To me she said, “Someone has to side with Shakes’, sometimes.”

Chuck said, “I am being nice. If I turned my head away, it wouldn’t be nice. As it is I’ve got my back to Inuk, but she’s in her own world listening to music. It’s only polite to tell Shakes when he’s got snot hanging from his nose. I don’t want to look at that.”

It was just about time for me to go back to work, so I stood up and said my goodbyes. Mariah said, “I’m going to the Rex. I’ll walk with you part way.” We crossed the street. Mariah said, “Let’s stay away from this guy taking photos. I’m a bit camera-shy. When pictures of me get out, bad things happen.”

I said, “Yeah, there are a lot of crazies out there.”

She said, “That’s one way of putting it.”

.

15 October 2013

Respect 

Joy was looking glum, sitting on her box.  In Canada it was Thanksgiving weekend. I asked, “How was your weekend, Joy. Did you go to the big dinner at The Mission?”

“No, I don’t go to those things. I can’t stand in line, it’s too crowded, too many cooties. You never know who you’re going to be sitting beside. Mariah took Charlie, just so she wouldn’t have to feed him at home. The lines start at nine in the morning and go all day.  She had her meal, Charlie went back eight times. You can do that. Once you’re finished, or have eaten all you want, you scrape your plate into the trash barrel and can stand in line again.  That means that eight people who might have been able to eat, will do without. It doesn’t seem fair.

“I haven’t eaten all week. My weight has dropped to a hundred and fifteen pounds. My check didn’t come in Friday. Jacques has his deposited directly into his bank account. It wasn’t in today. There are other checks he was expecting that also haven’t come in. He’s really pissed off.

“I guess you heard that he had a run in with Little Jake. Jacques was talking to a dealer who Jake owed thirty bucks to.  Jacques owed Jake fifty dollars, so he gave this guy the thirty that Jake owed him. Jake was pissed off because he needed that money for his bus pass.

“Yesterday Jacques came over to my place and banged on the door. I let him in and he asked, ‘Where’s my phone?’ then he started rooting through my electrical stuff. I said, ‘Hey dude, back off. I’ll get you your phone. I thought this was one you didn’t need, since you have your land line.’ Anyway, I gave him his phone and told him to fuck off.

“I was talking to Mariah about my upstairs neighbor. The one that stomps around all the time. She said ‘He’s a full-blown crack head. Don’t say that to him. You never know what he might do.’ I said, ‘I never know what I might do.’ I suppose whatever I did would put me back in prison.

“Another thing, my P.O. (Probation Officer) was by this morning. She said that  Big Jake will be getting out November 26. When he first went in they said he wouldn’t be released until January, then it was two weeks before Christmas. I really don’t want to know about this shit. I’m just trying to forget about him.

“On the other hand I still love him. I know that’s kinda sick, considering what he’s done to me. My P.O., Mariah and a bunch of people say that I could do better, but look at me, I’m forty-eight years old, look at my lifestyle. I don’t think I can do better.

“Mariah should talk, she needs to get rid of Charlie again, and she showed me how.

“My apartment is barely big enough for me, let alone that fat ass. When he sits on my love seat I’m squished way over in the corner.”

I said, “He broke your love seat, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, I’ve got my roasting pan and some blankets under it now so it doesn’t sag so much. I’ve got to start sleeping in my bed. I always fall asleep there and it’s bad for my back.”

Chuck Sr. , in his wheel chair, stopped by with a long-haired woman.

Joy said to me, “This woman, I can’t remember her name,  is going in for surgery on her thumb this afternoon. She’s some kinda relative of Chuck’s. We’re all related, kinda inbred.”

To the woman Joy said, “I wish I was you, getting all those drugs. You’ll be flying this afternoon.”

“No, I don’t think I’ll even be  getting Tylenol 3.”

“That’s a bummer!”, said Joy.

They moved on. I asked, “Why did Chuck move from his usual place on the corner?”

“He has a couple of spots. Originally, when I came to town in ’93, he used to be down the street in front of the library, beside the book deposit machines. I said to him, ‘Look, dude, I’m just starting out. I need money to get something to eat. I’d really like it if you’d move somewhere else.’  He said, ‘Well, I have my regulars. If I move, I’ll lose them.’ I gave him a few bucks. He was happy with that. He said, ‘Most panhandlers would just tell me to fuck off and push me out of the way.’ It was the same with Silver, rest his soul,  I gave him a few bucks and bought his spot. So, when I finish here for the day, Chuck moves to his spot in front of Tim Horton’s.”

“Why does he wait until you leave?”

“Respect.”

 .

15 October 2013

Little Jake

The Park was deserted. I saw somebody sitting in Little Jake’s place near the bridge. It wasn’t until I got close that he waved and I recognized him.

“Hi Jake, have you seen anyone else around?”

“Mariah was by earlier. She’s gone down to the Mission to try selling some weed. I think Buck may be coming by. I’m surprised that Shakes isn’t here. He usually comes down about eleven, thirty.”

I said, “I saw Joy earlier, but she went home at about nine o’clock. She was upset that her check hadn’t arrived.”

“Mine hasn’t come either. My mail was delivered at ten, thirty. I waited to see if my check was there, but it wasn’t. I don’t know what the problem is.  My worker faxed all the information to confirm my address, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Did you go to any of the Thanksgiving dinners at the Mission, or one of the other shelters?”

“No, I stayed in all weekend. I was feeling too sick. I finally got my place cleaned. My worker came over and helped me wash the blood off the hardwood floor.”

“How did you get blood on the floor? Were you in a fight?”

“No, I had a seizure. There was an open pair of scissors on my coffee table and I fell backwards on them. They made a puncture wound, in my back, about two inches deep. I made it to my bed then passed out. When I came to I went into the bathroom. I didn’t notice at first, but blood was pouring out of my back. I slipped in the pool of blood, hit the toilet tank and landed on the rim of the toilet. The fall caused me to break a rib. So, it was a double whammy.

“I ran some water in the bath tub, cleaned myself off, then held a towel against the wound until I could put some medical tape on it. The blood soaked through my sleeping bag, the mattress pad and the mattress itself.

“That was the second accident I had, this past weekend. I was eating a pork chop and swallowed a big piece of gristle. I guess I took too big a bite. I started choking. I had a scary thirty seconds, before I was able to cough it up.

“I have to talk to my landlord about the bedbugs. My sleeping bag is full of them. I mopped the whole apartment with Pine Sol; hopefully that killed the ones on the floor.”

I asked, “Will your landlord have the place sprayed? Is he good about things like that?”

“Yeah, he has to, it’s the law. If I report it to the Health Department they’d force him to.

“I don’t even have television now. I owed them two hundred bucks. I couldn’t pay it, so they cut it off. When I get my check I’m going to put something down on the bill, so they’ll turn it back on.”

I asked, “Do you have any plans to visit your family in Deep River?”

“No, if I brought bed bugs to my mother’s place, she’d kill me.”

Buck and his dog Dillinger came up the sidewalk. Dillinger put his paw on my arm, so I’d  pet him. Buck said, “I got a new rain jacket, rain pants and rubber boots. I’m all ready for a wet Fall. My other rain jacket had holes across the chest. They were there when I bought it. The first rain we had, my chest was soaked. This one I bought at Sail, they’ve got really good quality stuff. It was regularly sixty-five bucks. I got it for fifteen.”

Jake said, “I’ve got to go to the Sally to pick up a new sleeping bag. I’ll try to get some warm clothes while I’m there.

“Buck, can you lend me five dollars, just until I get my check. I’m not making anything today. I don’t know if my regulars are still on holidays, or what? Nobody’s making any drops.

“I’m going to leave here and get something to eat.”

“We’ll see you Frank.” Hawk and I went one way Frank went the other.

“Hawk said, “I was trying to contact some of my friends, but a lot of them don’t have phones any more.”

I said, “I heard that Jacques took his back from Joy.”

“Yeah, I heard that too. I’m going over to Shark’s place to play some Scrabble. He and Irene used to come to my place to play TV Bingo, but Irene doesn’t want to come out.

“I got a new phone, a Blackberry. I don’t know how to text or use half the features. The guy at The Source was telling me that I can get something to hook my Blackberry to an iPad, then I could use the iPad to make phone calls. I don’t know about that. I’m paying forty-five dollars a month now; if I added internet it would be sixty-five. I don’t think it’s worth it.

I said, “These new phones are so expensive. I’ve heard that some cost over a thousand dollars.”

“Yeah” said Buck, “then when somebody stops you to ask you the time. You pull out your phone and they grab it and run. That’s happened to a lot of people.”

It was time for me to go to work, so I gave a pat to Dillinger and said good-bye to Hawk.

.

17 October 2013

Prisoners To Pay Rent

Metro shouted to me as I was crossing the street. “I haven’t seen her here today!”

I replied, “I see someone in her spot. I’m going to check to see who it is.” Yesterday it was Angeline, a very pretty woman. I said to her, ‘We’ve met before haven’t we?’ ‘Yes.’ she replied. I said, ‘I’m Dennis and you’re Angeline, am I right?’ ‘That’s right,’ and she smiled. An ominous looking man with a beard was standing about twenty feet away. I suspect that he was her boyfriend or bodyguard.

As I walked nearer I recognized Joy. She waved. I said, “Hi, Joy, how are you feeling today, still sick?”

“I’ve got diarrhea, it even woke me at two thirty this morning. I’ve been puking; I can’t keep anything down. I’m even puking up tea. The last thing I had to eat was a hot dog. You know what they’re made of?  Beaks and assholes. Surprisingly, the only thing I’m able to keep down is alcohol. I didn’t drink yesterday or the day before, but I’m drinking today. Excuse me, I’m just dying to have a smoke.”

I asked, “What other symptoms are you having. Is this still part of the flu you had?”

“I just feel wasted, man. I ache all over. My legs are sore, I’m used to that, but It feels like I’m dying.”

“Is your apartment warm yet?”

“Oh, yeah. My upstairs neighbor threw out an oil heater. I grabbed that. It really throws off heat. I don’t leave it on while I sleep, but that along with the heater André gave me and my oven, I’m toasty warm. I’m not staying down here long. I have to stop at the Metro, that’s the only place I can go with just one bus fare. I’m going to pick up some steaks. I’ll have to cut them in half, because I can’t eat much, but I love them. I also need toilet paper. The other day I was going to get a Tim Horton’s Steak Panini, but they didn’t start serving them until eleven. I said, ‘You mean I have to wait two hours? Fuck that!’

I said, “I was talking to Little Jake the past two days. He told me that he had a seizure and fell backwards onto an open pair of scissors. He got a two-inch puncture wound in his back. His sleeping bag, mattress cover and mattress were all soaked with blood. He walked to the bathroom, blood was pouring out of his back.  He slipped in the blood, hit the toilet tank and fell on the rim of the toilet, breaking a rib.”

“And you believe that? Have you ever heard of anybody injuring themselves by falling on a pair of scissors? And the broken rib? He was beaten up and stabbed. He’s been letting the wrong people into his apartment. I don’t let anybody in that I don’t know. Usually I don’t even answer the door. I’m sure that he and Shakes are back to smoking crack. That’s how Wolf got his jaw broken.”

I asked, “What else have you been up to?”

“Mariah was down to my place yesterday. We started drinking at about eleven, while Charlie was messing around with something. She left him with a gram, so for him that would amount to two joints. He makes these big, fat mothers, then he runs out. I’d get four joints out of a gram. Later he came down and asked Mariah if she had any more. She said, ‘Nope, that’s the last of it.’ ”

“So she hasn’t kicked him out yet?”

“Not so far, unless she did last night. She brought her vodka and she was drinking my sherry. She was shit faced when she went up at around four.”

“Did you get your check?”

“Yeah, I even found my Trillium check. I decided to look in my mailbox on the weekend. I wasn’t expecting anything, but there it was, all soggy and crumpled up. I think someone’s fucking with my mail. I’m pretty sure it’s the troll who lives at the end. My mailbox has a lock, but I don’t have a key for it. I have to kind of jimmy it open, so I guess anybody else could do that.

“I haven’t seen Hippo for ages. He often goes to the farm to visit with his mommy, but she throws him out after a couple of days. She can’t stand him. That’s where my jail mail goes.”

“What do you mean jail mail?”

“Well, Big Jake isn’t supposed to contact me. So any letters he wants to send to me go to Hippo’s address. The last letter I got from him had the return address of some other guy. I guess Jake did him a favor to send some mail for him.

“Have you heard that they’re going to start charging rent at some of the prisons, like Joyceville and Collins Bay? It costs one hundred and fifty thousand to keep somebody there. They earn some money, working in the prison, but that’s usually used for their canteen stuff.”

“What kind of work does he do?”

“Well, because he’s in his electric wheelchair, he really can’t do much. At least they let him use it there; at Collins Bay they wouldn’t. He had to get around using canes. The only work he does is making things to sell to prisoners, like the origami motorcycles. He could do just about anything, he’s one of those all-purpose tools. He could even be doing their income tax if he wanted to.”

“Has he had experience preparing income tax?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s good at figuring things out. That reminds me, can you look up the address for Canada Care. They want me to check on getting his wheel chair downstairs. As it is, he’d never be able to get down.”

I asked, “So, how has Jake been making out in prison. Has he been having a hard time.”

“He’s just being Jake, doing whatever Jake does. He doesn’t have any complaints. He loves it there. Sometimes he talks kind of faggy, on the phone, even when he was out. So, I don’t know what’s going on.

“See that woman in the striped dress over there. She’s carrying a baby and doesn’t even have its head covered. It’s too cold to have a baby dressed like that. Humans!”

.

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