Archive for October, 2013

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womanbox

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17 October 2013

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 came neared 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 Andre 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 Frank 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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man2

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15 October 2013

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 Hawk 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.”

Hawk and his dog Dillinger came up the sidewalk. Dillinger put his paw on my arm, so I’d  pet him. Hawk 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 507 to pick up a new sleeping bag. I’ll try to get some warm clothes while I’m there.

“Hawk, can you lend me five bucks, 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 Hawk, “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.

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womanbox

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15 October 2013

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. She said, “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 long-haired 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.”

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cops

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11 October 2012

I could see my breath this morning. Joy was wrapped in her blanket sitting next to Andre. I shook hands with both of them and sat next to Joy.

I asked Joy, “How did your appointment go yesterday?”

“She was messing with my head. She said, ‘You’ve had quite a life, haven’t you?’ I said, ‘It started with my grandfather, then my father, then his younger brother. I got into drugs, was kicked out of my home, joined a biker gang, was into prostitution, jail, then ended up on the street, sleeping behind a dumpster. So, yeah, I’ve had quite a life.’ ”

“Is she any closer to getting you in to see a doctor, or at least get you back on your previous medication?”

“She’s working on it. I see her again next Wednesday. I’m just tired of this runaround. It’s been going on since January.”

I said to Andre, “I see you’ve shaved again.”

“I’m trying to look respectable for a while.” To Joy he said, “I guess I look better than I did last weekend. I still can’t figure out how I ended up in that garden. I sure didn’t get far from Little Jake’s place.”

Joy said, “The last time I saw you, you were sitting in the middle of somebody’s lawn. I told you to come, but you said, ‘I’m staying right here.'”

“I guess I can get pretty stubborn, sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” I asked. “When aren’t you stubborn?”

“That’s more like it,” said Joy.

“So, you left me there?”

Joy said, “I saw the fourteen coming from one direction, so I figured the one going the other way would be along soon. I wasn’t going to miss my bus arguing with you. Yes, I left you there.”

Andre said, “All I know is, I woke up with watermelon and squash all over me. I had tomato dripping down my chin. I was a mess.”

I said, “You told me you remembered slicing a tomato with a Tim Horton’s card.”

“Yeah, I remember saying that.”

Joy said, “I remember one time, sitting here, a guy wearing a six hundred-dollar suit, and an even more expensive overcoat, threw a full cup of coffee at me. It burnt my face. I went after the guy with all I had. Some of my regular ladies came by and asked what happened. I said, “Look at me. This jerk threw a cup of coffee at me. They started hitting him with their purses.”

“Did anyone call the police?” I asked, “That’s assault! He shouldn’t get away with that!”

“Somebody may have called the police. I didn’t stick around. What I did to the guy probably would have gotten me charged. Can you imagine, someone going into a restaurant, buying a coffee with the express purpose of throwing it on somebody? He must be one sick fuck. It’s not as if I even ask for money. I just sit here. I say, ‘good morning’ to some people who I know, apart from that I’m quiet as a mouse.”

I asked Joy, “How are you and Chester getting along?”

“Last night we had another big argument. He slammed the door in my face. I said, ‘Chester, I’m moving out. I can’t put up with this bullshit any longer.” I packed my bag, put it out on the balcony. It must have weighed more than me. I didn’t have money for a cab. I had no place else to stay. I thought about going to the dumpsters behind Starbucks, but they’ve moved them close to the wall now. Nobody is staying there any more. I don’t know where Bearded Bruce is. I think he’s with Weasel.

“Chester said, ‘Please Joy, don’t leave. I love you.’ So I stayed the night. He was a little better this morning.”

Andre said, “Bruce is trained as a chef, isn’t he?”

“Bruce is a good cook, but he serves beans with everything. He filled my plate until it was heaping. I couldn’t finish half of it. Chuck took some, but he couldn’t finish his either.”

I said, “I was talking to Winston yesterday. He was mentioning the Native Friendship Center on Rideau. He was saying that every Wednesday there is a free meal, story telling, dancing and drumming. Do you know anything about that?”

Andre said, “I went there once. A guy said to me, ‘This is for native people.’ I’m part Ojibway. I said, “Who are you to say whether or not I’m part native. I see a guy over there that looks white, and another over there. Did they have to prove they were native?’ The guy says, ‘I know they’re native. You’re lucky you got a bowl of cereal. Don’t come back again.'”

Joy said, “I’ve had the same problem, my father was Ojibway, my mother was English. I’m metis, but I look white. I don’t fit in anywhere.”

At noon I was leaving the building, where I work, and ran into Hawk, and his dog Dillinger. He said, “Joy, Andre and Shakes are together, sitting in the middle of the street.’ I had no idea what that meant. I found them sitting on the concrete island with elevated flower garden, that divides the Mackenzie King bridge, near Elgin.”

I said to them, “Hawk told me that you were in the middle of the street, I didn’t know what he meant.”

Joy said, “We’re just trying to stay out of trouble. The cops were by earlier. They can’t say anything about us sitting here. We’re not talking to anybody, we don’t have any alcohol visible.” Then she looked at Shakes.

“Shakes, for Christ’s sake, will you put that bottle under your coat or something. You don’t have to advertise that you’re drinking.” Just then a police car passed.

“Just watch, he’s going to turn around.” she said. The car continued on and didn’t return.

Andre said, “I haven’t seen that big cop, Caron, lately. The one with the muscles and all the tattoos.”

Mo said, “I heard that he got promoted. He works in the building now.”

“He sure doesn’t like Jake,” said Andre. “I remember the last time, Jake was sitting on the ground, Caron was bending over him saying, ‘Why don’t you learn to shut up. If you say one more word, I’m going to take you behind that electrical shed and beat the shit out of you.’

“The other cop looked at me and said, ‘If he gets into it with your friend, I’m not big enough to do anything about it. If you can talk reason to Jake, now would be a good time.’ I bent down and said to Jake, ‘This guy is the size of a tree. There’s no way out of this. Just keep your mouth shut.’ Jake said, ‘Okay.’

Joy started sneezing, over and over again. She said, “I heard that a sneeze is like one tenth of an orgasm. I usually sneeze ten times. I don’t need men at all.

“I’m not looking forward to going home. Chester is still acting pissy. He went to the Mission for lunch and was complaining about the food. He said, ‘They were serving grilled cheese sandwiches. I told them it was garbage and threw it in the trash.’ I’ve seen Chester cook grilled cheese sandwiches. He didn’t throw it in the trash; he ate it, and didn’t complain.”

“Is Chester still upset about Silver’s death?”

“I guess so, but he has to move on. I have.”

“I need to be on my medication and I’m having a real problem with menopause. I’ve got more zits now that I’ve had at any time in my life. I like my face. I don’t want to look like this. I’m whining, aren’t I?”

I said, “You have good reason to be upset.”

I had to return to work. I shook hands with Joy, Andre and Shakes then headed towards Elgin. A police car pulled up. The cop asked, “Are you guys waiting for your meal?” I’ll hear the rest of the details tomorrow.

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bench

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10 October 2012

This morning was even colder than yesterday. I gave a picture of Silver, from the funeral home, to Metro. He would have seen him every morning for nearly eleven years. Joy was wrapped in her blanket, rubbing her legs.” I wore the wrong shoes today. These Pumas, given to me by Wolf, are worth about a hundred and fifty bucks. People look at me and they figure, Why are you panhandling if you can afford shoes like that? I try to hide them, but I have to straighten my legs out to rub them every once in a while. They’re really bad today.”

“How are you and Chester getting along these days?”

“He got really drunk last night. I gave him some money and asked him to buy a bottle for me. He used my money to buy himself more beer. He went through an eighteen pack yesterday. Usually, after six he’ll be asleep.

“He was saying to me, ‘Joy, I love you. I wont mind if you stay after Christmas. Then he touched my leg. He hasn’t done that for a while.”

“I said to him, ‘Chester, you don’t like to be touched. I feel the same way, so keep your hands to yourself.’

“Later, he was banging around in the kitchen stark naked. He said, ‘What’s for supper?’ I told him, ‘I’m having this box of Kraft Dinner. I dont know what your having. When are you going to buy some groceries?’ I’ve really spent a lot this month supplying him with cigarettes — and he chain smokes, one right after another. I’ve bought all the food. He hasn’t bought any.

“Well, I don’t think I’m going to be making any more money this morning. I had a good day yesterday.”

“I’ll see you later, Joy. Stella will be bringing pumpkin tarts.”

“I’ll give mine to Albert. I can’t stand pumpkin. I don’t mind the seeds, but that’s all.”

Later, at 10:00, I went to the park. Stella and her husband Tim were there. Stella loves to walk Weasel’s dog, Bear. She’s known him since he was a pup — at that time he was owned by Andre, who has since passed away. Stella had brought pumpkin tarts, with whipped cream, for everybody. She also brought me a package of photos and a photo copy of a newspaper article entitled, ‘Street Sister.’

Mo said, “Janice, my worker, is meeting me here to take me to my Elizabeth Fry appointment.” She poured some wine in her water bottle, added water and placed it in her bag. Little Jake, said, “can you roll me a joint?”

Janice arrived and said hello to the people she knew. Andre asked, “We’re meeting tomorrow, right? You’re coming here?”

“That’s right Andre.”

Joy asked, “How many busses do we have to take, and how far do we have to walk?”

“We can just walk down to Metcalfe and take an 85. That will take us right there.”

Joy asked, “Can you just wait until I finish this joint? Then I’ll be ready to go.”

“Sure, we have time.”

Joy hoisted her heavy backpack onto her shoulders and they walked down the sidewalk towards the bus stop.

I said hello to everybody I knew. Shakes introduced me to Clifford.

He said, “So, you’re Dennis the Menace! I’m Downtown Charlie Brown. I’ve been on the street for the past few days. Before that I was in a recovery program. I’m native Algonquin. I was born, on the Madawaska River, near Algonquin Park. I have a deep history. My grandfather was a guide for the Group of Seven, from 1920 to 1933, when they painted in the park. Phil Fontaine is my uncle. He served three terms as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I’m also related to John Henri Commanda, President of the Odawa Native Friendship Center. My father is a millionaire, but he won’t even answer the phone to me. He wont give me fifty bucks; won’t even give the price for a bottle. My sister is the same, she has a great big house; I sleep on the street. She says, ‘You got yourself this way, you get yourself out.'”

I said, “I’m really interested in learning about native culture. Is the Odawa Center a good place to go?

The best place is the Aboriginal Drop-In Center, at 510 Rideau. Every Wednesday the native ladies host a meal, storytelling, chanting and drumming. You’ll get to see Shakes dance, sing and play guitar.”

“Shakes,” I said. “I didn’t know you sang and played guitar.”

Clifford said, “Shakes and I used to sing in the park, He taught me some boxcar Willie and other blues songs.”

Boxcar’s my home, railroad my friend
It’s been that way since I don’t know when
I’m here today, tomorrow I’m gone
Where I hang my hat is where I call home

Stars at night my roof over head
The ground below where I make my bed
Horizons you see, well that is my walls
When the sun comes up my hobo blood calls.

“I love Boxcar Willie, and all the old blues singers.” I said.

Clifford said, “When I think of native culture I get so angry. In school the nuns forced us to speak English. They called what we spoke, ‘the devil’s language’. If we were ever caught speaking Algonquin or any other native language we would be beaten with the edge of a ruler or a leather strap. Can you imagine if something like that happened today, especially to the children of white people. The nuns would be arrested.

“All this land we’re on was given to the Algonquin by treaty, even the land where the Parliament buildings stand. The government decided that it was a good military location, so they just took it. The Rideau canal was built mostly with native labor. They were paid starvation wages, most of them had families to feed, so they’d feed their families first. Many were worked to death. There isn’t even a plaque to commemorate the natives who died.

“Most native people would rather sleep outside, than in one of the shelters. Last night the guy in the bunk on my right kept saying, ‘six, six, six, six, six…’ all night long. He never stopped. The guy on my left was a crack head. Every twenty minutes he’d get up and walk around. I didn’t trust him, so I was trying to sleep with one eye open. Whenever he got up, or went back to bed I woke up.”

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bench

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11 October 2013

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 Lord Elgin. 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.”

.

9 October 2012

Joy was huddled in her blanket with her hood pulled close to her face. She was rocking back and forth. When I came closer, I could see that she was shivering.

“I’m freezing, ” she said. “I didn’t see you on Friday.”

“I was at Silver’s funeral. I met his sister, his three brothers, nephew, son and granddaughter. She’s a little sweetheart, just four years old.”

“I know that Outcast, Shark and Irene went.”

“Yeah, I saw them there. They didn’t stay for the service. Stella was also there.”

“We were too bummed out. Chester was crying. He got me crying. He took it really hard. He said, ‘What am I going to do with the dvds that Silver lent me.’ They’d often get together to watch movies, game shows, eat pizza and drink beer.”

“How was your weekend?” I asked.

“Quiet, I went to visit Loretta for the weekend. She’s renting a room in a house near Mer Bleu. It’s out in the country, a gorgeous house. Her landlord doesn’t like her boyfriend, Vance. He’s been really ignorant on the phone when the landlord has answered. He said, ‘Why the fuck are you answering Loretta’s phone?’

“The landlord was away this weekend. Vance came to visit. I hardly saw Loretta at all. When I woke up Sunday morning they were gone. I had no bus fare, because I’d given tickets to Loretta. I had no cash, because I spent the last of it on a bottle for her. So, I was stuck. The landlord had change in a dish near the door. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to get home.”

“So, you and Loretta are friends again?”

“Yeah, we’re fine. It’s just when she gets drunk that she acts crazy. When she’s relatively sober she’s okay. She has to go into rehab, sometime soon. She’d previously said, that she was going to come back to the house after she finished. Vance gave her an emerald ring on Friday. I could see that it was an antique ring. I talked to her landlord on the phone yesterday and he seemed really pissed off. Now, Loretta is saying she’s going to find a new place to stay after rehab. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vance had stolen the ring from her landlord.”

“Irene was really upset Friday, after Silver’s funeral. She had been going out with Silver for about six years. She dumped him for Shark. She and him have been together now, for about five years.”

“silver mentioned that. When I told him that Shark and Irene were going to share an apartment, he said, ‘He’d better have a place to hide when she gets crazy.’ He also mentioned that Irene was the reason he started smoking again.”

“It hit Silver really hard when Irene left him. He didn’t go out with any women since her. He’d say, ‘I still love Irene, I have no interest in other women.’ “

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man4

10 October 2013

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 them. 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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salvationarmy

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5 October 2012

At 10:15 this morning I entered the Kelly Funeral Home, Somerset Chapel, to attend the viewing and memorial service for Silver. Most of the viewing rooms were empty. I heard voices and walked into one of the rooms. I didn’t know if I was in the right room until I saw, at the front, two boards of photographs with Silver lettered on top. There must have been a dozen photos on each board. Many of the photos I wouldn’t have recognized. They were from Silver’s childhood, teenage years and as the adult that I had considered my friend for the past nine months. As I was looking, I was approached by a woman with blond hair, and a welcoming smile.

She asked, “Did you know Silver well?”

“Yes,” I answered, “I sat and talked with him nearly every day. In the mornings, in front of Starbucks, and at noon at ‘the benches’ at Confederation Park.”

“I’m Silver’s’s sister, Cathy, by the way.”

“Silver spoke fondly of you,”

“Did you also know that he has three brothers, a son and a grandchild? Did Silver mention that? I’ll introduce you to them when I see them.”

“Silver may have mentioned the rest of his family. The last time I saw him was about two weeks ago. He showed me the swelling of his ankle and varicose veins he was worried about. He said he had an appointment with his doctor that same day. Jacques mentioned that Silver’s stomach was swollen. We all noticed that he had lost weight, especially in his face, and were worried about him. Sometimes, he would sit alone and just gaze into the distance. It just seemed to be his way. It was a great shock to hear that he had passed away.

“What was given as the cause of death?”

“Liver failure. Swollen ankles and abdomen are symptoms of liver failure. Luckily the whole family was able to be at his bedside for the last week. His son and granddaughter, of course, his mother and father, his brothers, his nephew. We all had lots of stories. It was good to see Silver laugh.”

“Here’s Cody now, Silver’s son, and Cody’s daughter Jennifer, Jenny for short.”

“Hi, Cody, and Jenny. I knew your father well. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a striking resemblance to your dad.”

“I know. I’m proud of it.”

Cathy said, Dennis have you met Steve?”

“Hi Steve.”

Linda said to Dave, “You saw John fairly regularly too, is that right?”

“Every day or so we’d go for a beer together. I lived next door to him at the Lafayette.”

Cathy said, “We’d lost contact with Silver. We didn’t know he was so close. He didn’t have a phone. If we’d know where he was we would have whisked him away.”

“Steve, how long was Silver at the Lafayette, about four years?”

“Nearly five years.”

“Dennis,” asked Cathy, ” what was your impression of Silver?”

“He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man. He always had a smile to greet me. It was always a pleasure talking with him.”

Cathy said, “He was a glass-half-full kind of person, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said, “He was always cheerful and optimistic.”

I saw Danny, Outcast, Spike, Shark and Irene. Outcast walked over to the photographs and said, “Here’s me with Silver, this other one is of me also, but my head is cut off.”

I said, “Outcast I’d recognize your crotch anywhere.”

Shark said, “We’re not staying for the service. We just came to pay our respects to Silver’s family, then we’ll raise a few glasses to Silver.”

Irene and I walked over and signed the visitor’s book. I saw Danny sitting down, so I went over and sat with him.

“I’m just on my way to Thunder Bay,” he said. “After I leave here I’m, going to the bus depot to pick up my tickets.”

I asked, “Is that where you’re from. Do you have family there?”

“My mother’s in hospital, so I want to spend time with her. She has had part of her colon removed. Now they’ve found more polyps in the remaining colon. Doctors want to remove another two inches. She doesn’t want to go through that again. She said, ‘I’m ready to go. Why won’t they just let me die at home.’

“She’s had a hard life. My dad passed away a while back. He was on life support. The family was asked for permission to stop the machines that were keeping him alive. I was talking to my mom, on my cell phone, when they pulled the plug. I heard laughing in the background. The family thought that after he was removed from life support that he would die immediately. He drifted off to sleep for about ten minutes, then he awoke. He said, ‘I must be in heaven, I see all the angels of my family around me.’ Everyone laughed. I think he was trying to hold on until I arrived, but he didn’t last long enough for me to see him alive. At least I got to talk to him, and tell him that I loved him.

I met silver’s brothers and his nephew. I also met Spike. I introduced myself. I said, I think we’ve met before at ‘the benches’, or at the ‘heater’. “Maybe, he said, I go to those places.”

Shark said to Spike, “What do you think of this place?”

Spike said, “It’s handy to the Somerset Street Beer Store.”

It was time to go upstairs for the memorial service. I’m guessing there were about fifty to seventy-five people in attendance. The Minister, who hadn’t met silver, started the service with a reading from  the Book of John:

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The minister added a personal note. “I am getting on in years. I know that when my time comes that my Lord will have prepared a room for me, even though in my life I have made mistakes. I am human. We all make mistakes. The dead are not gone, they live on in our hearts and memories, and in the genes of Jesse and Abbie.

He then went over and blessed Silver’s cremation urn with holy water.

A family member read a poem she wrote for John.

Cathy talked about stories from their childhood, stories that they had recounted at Silver’s bedside:

In the winter, Silver loved ‘bumpering’. To go bumpering, you grab the bumper of a moving vehicle and allow it pull you as it careens along the icy roads. This is dangerous and not at all recommended.

Silver enjoyed board games such as Monopoly and Clue, and playing cards. He and his older brother, Don, played a game called Hi-Lo. The loser of each hand would have to do push ups. What Silver didn’t know was that Bob was stacking the deck against him. Don was ahead in the short run, but Silver developed massive shoulders, that gave him the advantage in wrestling.

Our father died when Silver was nine years old. The three oldest siblings had to take turns minding the two youngest. Silver wanted to go riding on his bike, but it was his turn to care for his younger brother. Silver found a way to do both things at the same time. He tied his brother to the front stair railing and hopped on his bike. He rode around and around the block, waving at his brother each time he passed.

Cathy read the poem Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye,

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

The service ended, and as the congregation arose and left the chapel the following song was being played:

Spirit in the Sky

by Norman Greenbaum

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you die
When you die and they lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best

At the door leaving the building I had a chance to speak with Stella, who has known Silver and the rest of his friends for the past sixteen years. I hope to collaborate with her and share information. She had the following to say about Silver:

I met Silver at the beginning thru Tom, who used to pan at the Metcalfe & Albert corner. They both decided they would hitch-hike up to Timmins for some reason, but only got to Carp and came back. Guess there weren’t many beer stores along the way. Very funny. Tim passed away a few years ago. 

This was a very emotional service. Over the past nine months silver had become one of my family — my street family. It filled a void in me where my own family once was. They have all passed away, or are living in different parts of the continent. I too am a father and a grandfather.

.

.

bench

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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.”

Andre 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.”

Andre 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.”

ANdre 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 doiiar 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!”

Andre 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 that hill on King Edward towards Rideau. 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 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.”

Sylvain 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 Sylvain 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.”

Andre 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, Andre?

“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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