Court – 7 November 2013

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,




7  November 2013

I wasn’t expecting anybody to be at the park at noon. It was cold and windy, but I went for a walk anyway. I met Little Jake.

“Jake, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Are you heading to your spot?”

“Yeah, that’s where I’m going.”

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“No, come right ahead. Pull up a curb and have a seat.”

“Have many people been coming by here lately?”

“You just missed Jacques. Wolf and Shaggy have been here every day this week.  I haven’t seen Joy for a couple of weeks. Hippo was here yesterday. He got back pay for his O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program). They gave him a check for seventeen hundred bucks. He was handing out money to everyone. He’s probably at Joy’s place today. You won’t see Shakes today. He owes me money.”

“How have you been feeling lately?”

“Not so good. My eyes are still watering, my throat is still swollen.  At least there is one good thing —  my doctor gave me a new prescription.  Now, I only have to take two pills a day, a big one and a small one. He said it would take about a week to take effect.

“What really pisses me off is the bed bugs. They kept me awake;  all night I was scratching. The first thing this morning I ran a hot bath, scalding hot. I jumped in and right away it felt better. When I drained the tub I was surprised at how much hair was in the drain.”

“Do you have them in your hair, as well?”

“Yeah, I’d  been scratching my head. They’re everywhere. Anywhere I have exposed skin they bite. Look at my arms.  It’s funny, I was over at Shakes’ place when his workers arrived. They asked me, ‘Have you gotten rid of your bed bugs, yet?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘ We’re not going to have this place sprayed until your place is clean.’

“So, I have to put everything in plastic bags, duct tape them.  I’ll have to throw out most of my furniture. All I have is a bed and things I picked up in the trash. It’s been thirteen months, I still haven’t got furniture through my worker.

“I’m going to have to go through all my clothes. Most of them I’ll throw out. The others I’ll have cleaned. Hopefully that will kill any bugs.”

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

“No, They’re more afraid of bed bugs than anybody. Last time I was up there my brother had me strip in the middle of the highway. He brought a change of clothes for me. He washed everything. When I was ready to leave I asked, ‘Where is my bag?’ My brother said, ‘Oh, it must  still be in the dryer.’ Can you imagine that, he even washed my bag. I don’t have it now. I lost it last night sometime.”

“Where were you?”

“I don’t know. Around midnight, I was  in back of the Marriott, huddled in a corner. The manager woke me up. I don’t know if I left my bag somewhere else, or if someone took it while I was asleep. Anyway, it was gone then.  I can’t even remember if I was with anyone.”

Randy and Loretta came up the sidewalk. I asked, “How are you Loretta?”

“Not so good. I’ve spent the last three days in court.”

“Does that have to do with your rape case?”

“Yeah, yesterday I spent with the Crown. Today I was with his defense lawyer. It seemed I was never in the right place. I was either outside puking or in the bathroom.  I had a lot of time just waiting around. I wanted to have a drink,  just to numb my feelings, but I didn’t.”

“How long has it been now?”

“Eleven months.”

“That’s really a great achievement.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of myself.”

I asked, “How have you been, Randy?”

“Great, I’ve been working up north, in the woods. I love it up there.  We’re clear cutting with chain saws.  My whole family is up there. We hunt for a while, cut for a while.  I go back tomorrow. I’m getting paid five hundred dollars a day. I’m saving my money for an engagement ring for my girlfriend. I’ve already put down seventeen hundred bucks.”

“How much does the ring cost in total?”

“Five grand. It’s nearly two carats.”

“Congratulations, when do you think you’ll propose?”

“Maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll be going down on one knee. I’m heading off now.” Loretta and Randy waved as they left.

I said to Jake, “He’s earning a lot of money.”

“Don’t believe what you hear, only what you see.

“Hey, here comes Andre on his bicycle. What have you been up to!

“Running around everywhere. I have an appointment with my doctor. I’m going to have  my teeth removed, the few that are left. He told me he can do the surgery in about three weeks. Then it’ll take three months to heal, then they fit me for dentures. I’ll be able to eat corn on the cob again.

“Every time I go home, my  mother serves corn on the cob, just to piss me off.  She has new dentures. I have to try to gnaw it from the end of the cob. I get corn all over my face. She thinks it’s funny. I said to her, ‘At least I wont be without dentures for as long as you were.’ She went years with no teeth.

“I’d better get going or I’ll be late for my appointment.  I’d be lost without this bike.”

“Do you have a lock for it?”

“No, I bring it in everywhere.”

I said, “It’s time for me to go too. I’ll see you Andre, Jake.”


  1. CC Cairns says:

    The way you approach the writing of these ‘slices of life’ remind me of many articles in the ‘New Yorker’, Dennis. Only ‘showing’ and no ‘telling’ — which produces a style of hard realism. They’re interesting and at once beguiling.


  2. I’m still loving your posts, Dennis. I am getting the impression from them that Canada has a somewhat more generous, personal, and compassionate program (or programs) in place for the homeless and the poor than the U.S. does (that wouldn’t surprise me in the least, especially these days!). I feel that I’m really getting to know your friends, and that’s wonderful.



    • bellmk says:

      Nancy to quote the post “don’t believe what you hear, only what you see”. Canada creates homelessness better than any other Country: first putting people in a position, and then chastising them for it. Welfare is a mechanism created to keep you from getting a job, in my honest opinion. The way people are asked to report their income sets up a situation where if they get a job they’ll have less money. Disability pays for nothing, and it’s impossible to get on. I knew a guy who died of bowel cancer, but ODSP wouldn’t support him because they said bleeding from his rear end did not constitute a “disability under the definitions laid out in the act”, and I have known people who collect an ODSP cheque for having dyslexia, or whatever, while working full time under the table. Assistance is racially and age-biased, and if you have children, you’d better not complain because they have police powers to take your kids away under the child and family services act which says a child protection worker can remove your children “using force if necessary”. Since a person cannot use force against another person under Canadian Federal Law, the provincial statutes have declared parents (and children) non-persons under Canadian Legislation. I could go on, but I won’t 😀


      • Hi bellmk, Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard many of these same complaints, especially concerning assistance being “racially based. Joy waited fifteen years to get on ODSP. I also know of ODSP fraud, people collecting additional income for conditions they don’t have. I agree that Welfare discourages people from earning any outside income. I enjoy your blog. ~ Dennis


      • bellmk says:

        Hi Dennis; Thanks. I’m glad there are people here who care and are pushing for change. I think it’s becoming a stronger push in recent years with all the job loss for sure 😀


      • Thank you for telling me more about it–it sounds as if you’ve had a great deal of experience with the bureaucracy there. I’m familiar with similar absurdities here (my clients with full-blown AIDS sometimes used to get letters stating that their disability payments were being stopped because it had been determined that they had already died!). I guess such systems are bound to be flawed (sometimes deeply) in many ways. Sometimes it’s just because they’re too big and impersonal, I guess, and sometimes it’s no doubt due to punitive and intolerant attitudes in people from lawmakers down to caseworkers, etc. Such attitudes seem to be becoming increasingly vicious and out-in-the-open here in the States, with the poor constantly being demonized. That’s why it’s so gratifying to come across people like Dennis and others who actually do give a damn about people as people, and treat them accordingly. Sometimes I think the best thing one can do is simply set a good example for others.


      • I am humbled by your kind words. I agree, “punitive and intolerant attitudes in people from lawmakers down to caseworkers,” is a big problem. Blessings ~ Dennis


      • bellmk says:

        I majored in political science and focused on social justice law. So far it seems to be the same everywhere, with few differences. There are many people in the U.S. who actually care, yourself no doubt included, and thank goodness for that! Canada has a lower population in most areas than the US which might account for some services being a little less stressed, but we, too make an industry out of poverty, demonize and stigmatize “the poor”.


      • It seems that “demonizing and stigmatizing ‘the poor'” has been going on for millenia, throughout the world. It certainly didn’t escape Jesus’ attention, and that was a while back :). Maybe it has something to do with what we call “human nature”, although I hate to think that that’s the case, and, as you say, bellmk, there are also many people who do care. It’s just gotten hard to remember the latter lately, with the conservatives and “religious right” and paid spreaders-of-hate like Rush Limbaugh working overtime. I don’t believe that politics are the answer (to just about anything, really!). It’s a question of opening people’s hearts somehow–perhaps in ways they least expect.


      • bellmk says:

        although I majored in poli sci, I really believe in a free state. I don’t think politics can work, not really, because the more the state interferes the less people interact. The state becomes like a rich, overbearing parent constantly cleaning up their childrens’ messes, and we all know how THOSE kids turn out!


      • bellmk says:

        and, lol, whoever “the poor” are! I think we’ve all been “the poor” at least once or twice. The term itself is dehumanizing.


      • True! Been there, done that, more than once (in fact, I’m doing it now–the difference is that it’s by choice at this point)! Of course, terms like “crack whores” and others that people like Limbaugh like to use aren’t exactly preferable :).


    • Hi Nancy, in Canada drug addiction and alcoholism are considered diseases, so those afflicted can apply for a disability pension (Ontario Disability Support Program). Also, we’ve had Medicare since 1961. It’s not by any means a perfect system. Joy was living on the streets for fifteen years before she was considered for O.D.S.P. She felt she was being ignored by the Housing Outreach Workers because she “didn’t look native enough”. Although both she and her boyfriend were sleeping behind a dumpster, in the middle of winter, he was given aid, she wasn’t. He is full-blooded Mohawk, she is metis, a mixture of French, English and Mohawk. ~ Dennis


      • Very interesting criteria, if Joy is right about that! Percentage of Native blood wasn’t much of an issue in New York City 🙂 (although I know that it is often a very big issue in other areas in the U.S. for various reasons). Is Housing Outreach a government program? Generally anything like that here (as far as I know) is done by private organizations. The New York City agency that was set up to help people with AIDS in the 1980’s was the only government agency I know of that was really proactive about getting people housed. I give them credit for how they had it set up–once a person with AIDS became part of the program, they were not permitted to spend another night on the street, even if they were sent to a hotel temporarily.
        Anyway, carry on with your bad compassionate self, Dennis 🙂 ! It does my heart good to see how many people are now following and supporting what you’re doing.



      • Hi Nancy, Housing Outreach is handled by the Salvation Army, Shepherds of Good Hope – Hope Outreach, The Elizabeth Fry Society, Seniors Outreach, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the City of Ottawa Housing Branch. The Wabano Homeless Outreach team provides health and wellness services to Aboriginal community members. These centers receive subsidies from various levels of government. There may be others that I’m not aware of. Thanks for your kind words. ~ Dennis


      • P.S. It’s also a revelation to hear that alcoholism and drug addiction are viewed as diseases, and treated that way, in Canada. Here, for the most part, they’re just seen as “things bad people do”, or something, unfortunately.


    • Hi Nancy, from the comments I’ve received homelessness is everywhere. I have nothing with which to compare the situation in Canada. I hear about the problems, the frustration, the hopelessness. I think you would like my friends, they’re just real people without pretense. It’s very refreshing to be in their company. ~ Dennis


  3. Life on the street in Canada doesn’t sound as threatening as in the USA. Your people speak of programs or help that our indigents don’t have, or at least don’t take advantage of if it does exist.Your presentation is real and stark and moving. Thank you.


    • Thanks for your kind words. I don’t know the situation in the US. We do have programs for the disabled (including alcoholics and drug addicts). We have Housing Outreach Workers whose job it is to get the homeless off the streets and into apartments. This doesn’t always happen. We still have homeless people dying on the streets. ~ Dennis


  4. bellmk says:

    I really enjoyed this post about Canada’s huge poverty industry….amazing thanks for sharing!


  5. I couldn’t stop reading these words captivated me in so many levels, thank you for sharing!


  6. tchistorygal says:

    It sounds almost like church before and after the service, the “How ya doin’? I’ll be prayin’ for ya.” part that happens in the foyer. Great post.


  7. “I think you would like my friends, they’re just real people without pretense. It’s very refreshing to be in their company.”

    I know exactly what you mean. 🙂



  8. dweezer19 says:

    I am beginning to feel so close to these beautiful people..


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