Archive for November, 2013




I wasn’t expecting to see Chuck this morning, but it was relatively warm with no snow.

“Good morning, Chuck.”

“Hi, it was warm, so I decided to come down.”

A regular stopped to drop a dollar into Chuck’s upturned cap. “Hang on to that. Better put it on your pocket so nobody grabs it on you.”

Chuck said to me, “That happened, you know. I was sitting here with change in my cap. Someone came along,  grabbed my cap and took off. I was really pissed off.

“That only happened to me once before, when I took off on my wife. That was about twelve years ago. She was okay financially, she had a disability pension coming in. The only things I took with me were my dog, some clothes that I threw in a bag, and my wallet. I went to a friends place for a couple of nights, then I slept outside. While I was asleep someone grabbed my bag with everything in it. I had nothing. That’s when I started panning in front of the Rideau Center.”

An elderly lady said, “Hi Chuck. How are you today?” She put two dollars into his cap.  To me she said, “Weren’t you here the last time I came by?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Well God bless you both. I’ll be getting on now.”

Chuck said, “When I was panning at the Rideau Center. “I met a friend of mine, who invited me to stay at his place. He said If I’d look after his three kids I could sleep on his couch for as long as I wanted. That worked out really well. I’d get up, make their breakfast, pack their lunches and see that they got off to school. I’d be there when they returned. Then my friend was told by his doctor that he was going to die. He had some strange disease that only five people in Canada have. It’s genetic, although it bypasses some generations. He decided to move to Halifax to spend his last days. So I was on my own, That was five years ago. I got a telephone call from him last week, he’s still holding on.

“Then I moved into an apartment. It was a nice place. I liked it but the fuckin’ landlord kept raising my rent. I stayed there about three years. One day, I was talking to the landlord from the building down the block. He asked me how I liked where I was living. I said, ‘The place is alright, but the land lord keeps raising my rent. ‘ He said, ‘That’s not fair. How would you like to live in my building. The rent will be less and I’ll only raise it by two percent a year, Ill have that written in the lease.’ That was great. I gave notice to my landlord, told him where I was moving and why. He got really mad, I’d been a good tenant, paid my rent on time, I was quiet.

I had arranged for the moving truck, but it was late, so I started taking some of my small things over in a shopping cart. When I got to the new place the two landlords were fighting, rolling around on the street. I didn’t know it at the time, but these two guys were brothers. There had always been a rivalry between them.

I asked, “Is that the place you are living now?”

“No, I stayed a few years, but I wanted to be closer to downtown. I thought that, with my wheel chair it would be easier to get around, but the goddamned city workers won’t plow my sidewalk. Sometimes I can’t get out of my building. I’m just a block from the city yards and that street only gets plowed twice each winter. That’s a disgrace.

I said, “I guess you can expect that of city workers.”

“It shouldn’t be that way.  When we had that bus strike, after those months we had to put up with no service. Our fuckin’ mayor just caves in and gives them everything they wanted, They get paid a fortune, and what do they do for it?”

I asked, “Do they always put the ramp down for you? Do you have any problems getting on the busses.”

“Sometimes they put the ramp down.  Other times it gets frozen and guck  builds up. In that case there is a strap that they have to pull up and open it manually. You should hear the complaints I get. One guy, a hundred and eighty pounds he was, whined , I don’t want to hurt my finger.’ Can you imagine that? Another complained. ‘I can’t lift it, I’ve got a bad back.’ Sometimes stuff will get lodged in my wheels and it will make it difficult to maneuver. All it takes, sometimes, is to lift the back of the chair and kick the wheels.  Do you think they’d bend down and pick up something? Not on your life.  One driver did, a woman, bent right over and pulled something out of my wheel. I told her not to, she could have injured her back doing that.

“During that bus strike, where all they wanted was more money, one man did die. He was in his apartment. He couldn’t get anywhere without busses. He had no phone. He just sat there and died.”

“Oh, well, I’ll just have to hope that one of my neighbors shovels a path to the bus stop.”

I said, “There are outreach services that do work especially for seniors. Their rates aren’t very high, about eight dollars an hour. They’ll do snow shoveling, grass cutting, gardening, dusting, vacuuming.”

“That’s too expensive for me. I’ll just have to take my chances. After I leave here I’m going to Ticket master to try to get a seat for tonight’s game. They’re playing the Bruins. I try to have a life.”

“Bye, Chuck, I hope to see you soon.”


heart of clouds

Posted: November 14, 2013 in Uncategorized



from → Children’s bookHEART OF CLOUDSLiterary fiction


And now for something entirely different. My posts usually lean toward bleakness, but now I offer hope. I’ve just read a children’s book entitled “heart of clouds”.  It’s written by Adrienne Wilson aka Valentine Bonnaire, who also has a  Master of Arts degree in Counseling/Depth Psychology.  I  found it fascinating to read, magical,  inspiring and full of hope. This is a book our children should read. You can read it here:

From Adrienne Wilson:

Heart of Clouds is the story of a girl named Teenie Alexander.  I’m writing a series of books about the way she grew up in a little town by the edge of the sea.  In the first book she meets her first crush Devlin Underwood, and a magic sea turtle named Tut.  You can read the book in this blog, and I hope you like it.  I do, very much — because it’s like the kind of books that I grew up with.  When times were beautiful and gentle.  I plan to take it with me this year to the wonderful Writer’s Conference I go to.

I wrote this first novel in NaNoWiMo in 2009 and won!

Please pass my book to everyone you know? All my training as a therapist went into this simple, simple children’s book. It’s about this, but way, way more. I wrote it after reading Margaret Atwood‘s The Year of the Flood. I wrote it to cure. It isn’t fan fic? It’s mine, but The Wave was that flood. Only 229 pages or so, easy, easy reading and has great heroes in it. 

This year, she will be 14 and a half in the next novel in this series “The Seaheart.”

I’m in Facebook…

My graduate degree is from here:



VALENTINE BONNAIRE — About myself as a writer…


I have written for and the Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association under the noms de plume Adrianna de la Rosa and Valentine or Valentina Bonnaire.  A first collection of my short stories is now available for you in Kindle.  I called it Gardenias, after one of my favorite pieces — the book is about love — erotic love, in a series of different tales that teach about archetypal femininity.  This is a book for adults!

I hold degrees in Art and Depth Psychology.

This blog is written under my nom de plume, but my real name is Adrienne which means “Dark Woman of the Sea” and I am like that!  The beach is my favorite place on earth, all my life!

This Spring, one of my short stories has been picked up by a very prominent publishing house in London.  Back later with all the details…


See my short story “Flowering” in this book.  Did I mention I’m looking for literary representation?

I am.

I’m working on the screenplay for my novel Heart of Clouds as we speak.  This is the Writer’s Conference I attend.


from Adrienne aka Valentine Bonnaire

My short story “Flowering.”

51C+ArpWlBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_My short story “A Little Irish Honey” will be forthcoming in this book from Seal Press in Spring 2014.

I love the fact that I have been published by Constable & Robinson and Seal Press.

It’s like getting a literary crown, of sorts.


Want to share?




25 October 2012

This morning I met with Joy and André. Janine, one of Mo’s regulars dropped two dollars and squatted down to chat. Mo asked her, “How did it go with your dentist appointment?”

“They took x-rays and found all sorts of cavities. In the old days, you’d have a cavity, it would be painful, then you went to the dentist. Now, it seems, they’re always filling something. I don’t know what they’re doing in there.”

Joy waved at Magdalene and Alphonse across the street. They came over. Very excitedly, Alphonse  said, “Magdalene is pregnant again. She went to see about an apartment yesterday. She’s been put on first priority. We find out today if she’ll be accepted.”

I asked, “When is the baby due?”

Magdalene said, we’re not sure. I took a home pregnancy test and it showed two pink crosses. I’m not taking any drugs or alcohol now.”

Alphonse said, “Same with me.” He looked longingly at a gram of pot Joy had in her cigarette case. “That looks so good,” he said. They walked off together to have breakfast.

Joy handed André a cigarette paper and the pot. He said, “You want me to roll it?”

Joy said, “Well, how is it going to look if I’m panning and rolling a joint?”

André went into a nearby alcove for a few minutes, then came back with a joint that Joy put in her cigarette case.

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

“At Wolf’s. I’d been at Outcast’s until Debbie came home, then all hell broke loose, so I left. I was walking past Wolf’s place and saw Shaggy on the balcony. I called to him and Wolf came out. He asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going downtown to sleep behind Starbucks.’ He said, ‘Come on up.’ He threw me the keys. ‘You can stay here.’ His place is in more of a mess than I’ve ever seen it. He said, ‘I know Joy, I’m going to get around to that, sometime.’ Also, he has cockroaches. At least they don’t bite.”

I asked, “Were you able to talk to Stella about menopause?”

“Yes, she said she could talk to me until my ears bled, but it wouldn’t do any good, because every woman is different. My being bi-polar and schizophrenic just makes it all the worse.

I go to see, Annie, my probation officer, today at ten o’clock. Hopefully, I’ll find out how many more visits she wants me to have. November 12 is the day my probation is supposed to end, but I may have to see her after that. I don’t know if it will be once every two weeks, once a month…

“I’ve had three sessions with Christien, from the Elizabeth Fry Society. It’s probably more time than I would have had if I’d been with a group. She’s going to be away for a couple of weeks. They said it’s no problem, we’re all trained, others here are familiar with your case. We can arrange an appointment with someone.’ I said, ‘I signed a confidentiality agreement with Christien, nobody else. I don’t want to start from the beginning again, with a new person.’

“I don’t want anybody to know that I’ve started cutting myself again, either. Annie asked, ‘Why do cut yourself?’ I said it’s hard to explain, but when my mind is going a hundred miles an hour, in a ten-mile an hour zone, I don’t know where I’m going to stop. I need something to distract myself. Cutting does that for me.’ Mind you, the second time I cut myself I was thinking, hey, this hurts. I don’t want to be doing this. Chester nearly freaked when he saw me coming out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my arm. It was a deep cut too. It was gaping open. I didn’t want to go to the hospital this time. I used band-aids to pull the skin together.”

I asked, “Where will you sleep tonight?”

“I have to go home to get the rest of my clothes. Chester doesn’t want me to leave. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

I arrived at work and phoned Greg from the 507 Center. He has been in telephone contact with the hospital about Serge. I said to him,’I understand that you’re trying to contact Serge’s family. I’ve talked every one I know and even his closest friend, William, said, ‘he’s either from Vancouver or Toronto, I can’t remember, and he may have a sister in Montreal.’ I didn’t learn anything more definite than that.’ Craig said, ‘I’ve heard the same stories, probably from the same people.’

“The latest news from the hospital is that they’ve taken the breathing tube out. He’s still in ICU, but seems to be doing fine. Later tests will determine if he’ll have any lasting effects from his fall.”

I hope to visit Claude in the hospital this evening.

At noon I met André, Loretta, Jacques, Little Jake, Kirk, Chester, Spike in his motorized wheelchair, Wolf and Shaggy. They were all in their usual places.

I asked André, “How was the rest of your morning?”

“It was okay. I had to fill out another form for my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They lost the last one. This is four times I’ve filled in the same form. Joy and I have the same worker, Jenna. She’s been busy lately so we’re going to be switched to Susan. I’ve known her from before. She guaranteed that Joy and I would have our own apartments before December first. I hope so, because once it gets close to Christmas it’ll be hard to get things delivered. I’ll be getting an eight hundred-dollar start-up allowance to buy furniture. I’ll be able to get a new double bed from Sears. I don’t want to spend Christmas sleeping on a bare floor. I’ll also get a hundred dollars for groceries.”

I asked, “Do you know when your court date is?”

“November second. It’ll probably be in Courtroom Five, but to find out for sure, all I have to do is check the dockets. I think I’ll have it remanded until I’m able to contact my lawyer. He works between Cornwall and Kingston. He’s sometimes hard to get a hold of.”

Peter called me over. “I appreciate you helping me out the other day. I drank too much, I couldn’t make it home, so I slept outside. I wasn’t here yesterday because I was too hung over. At my age I can only drink for two days, then have to take a day off. I don’t know how these guys like Weasel do it. He came to my panning spot at seven in the morning and he was drunk already. I had to tell him to get lost. My regulars know that I’m an alcoholic, but they don’t want some stumbling, incoherent drunk hanging around. He was pissed off when I told him to go, but we’re okay now. I’m going to his place this afternoon. Shaggy can play with Blackie and I’ll cook supper. It’ll be chicken or some kind of fowl, that’s what I like.

“I got a surprise the other night. At nine o’clock at night someone is banging on my door. They’d managed to get through the lobby door. Usually I don’t let anybody in. If any of these guys came over, I’d tell them to fuck off. If I was expecting somebody, they’d yell and I’d throw the keys down. I looked through the peephole, it was Joy.

“I guess you heard how Chester was trying to paw her. I can’t understand these guys. You don’t touch a woman without her permission. They can’t seem to get that through their heads.

“I asked her, ‘Tell me the truth now. Outcast invited you over to his place, then when Debbie came home he threw you out. What’s that all about. That’s no way to treat a friend.’  I’ve got no use for him anyway. He’s living with one woman and invites another woman over when he’s alone. That doesn’t seem right.

“Anyway, I invited Joy to stay the night. I gave her the sofa and I slept in my room with the door locked, but first I told her, ‘I wanted to watch Law and Order, C.S.I. and Criminal Minds. Those are my favorite programs and I’m not going to miss them.’ I’ve only got one channel, CJOH, and with rabbit ears, sometimes the signal doesn’t come in too clear, but that night the reception was good. Some people need HBO and all the movie channels, but with CJOH I get a hockey game Saturday night, a NFL game on Sunday and all my favorite shoot-em-up shows. It’s all I want, besides, I can’t afford the hundred dollars a month. If I wanted them badly enough I could afford them — like if I quit drinking.

“I spend a lot of my time reading. If you saw my place you’d see books laying all over the floor. I always have a few going at a time. Every so often I like to come down here, have a drink with my friends. I take Shaggy for walks. She’s getting old so she needs to go out five or six times a day.

“Joy asked me, ‘Does anybody else have a key to this apartment? Now, what do I look like? Would I let other people come and go as they please in my place? You know me better than that. I like my privacy, but Joy was paranoid. I said to her, No, there is nobody that has a key to my apartment. She relaxed after that. She was up at five thirty in the morning, off to her panning spot.”

I mentioned that I would be away in San Diego, visiting my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Wolf said, “I’ve never been to San Diego. I’ve been to Florida, Philly, Detroit. I haven’t been to Chicago or New York. If I was to go there I’d turn right, right again, right again, another right and I’d be back where I started. I wouldn’t want to find myself in some dangerous neighborhood and not know my way out.

“I have a brother in Virginia. There are a lot of red necks down there. The confederate flag is flying everywhere. If you get caught with a doobie you get tossed in prison and they throw away the key; but, and this is a big but, you can carry two loaded guns, it’s in the constitution, and you can buy your beer and ammunition at a gas station.

“I don’t know how I feel about that. On the one hand you know everybody is armed, so you don’t cause them any unnecessary aggravation. You know what I mean? On the other hand, having a psycho on the loose, carrying a loaded gun is a scary thought.

“I’m on a pension. After I pay my rent I’ve got three hundred dollars for everything else. It’s not much. I’m an alcoholic — my drug of choice is beer. I may have an occasional blast, but I’m not on percocet, percodan, perco-this, perco-that. I pan to get extra money, I live a quiet life with Shaggy, enjoy my books, my TV and my beer… that’s it.”

I asked Jacques if he had found an apartment yet. “No,” he said, “I was talking to Shark’s landlord. He had a bachelor for five sixty. I could have managed that, but he rented it to somebody else. If I can’t find a place by the end of the month I’ll store my stuff in a locker and rent a room for a while — not too long.

I asked, “How much does a room cost?”

“About five hundred a month. A bachelor is six hundred and up, a one bedroom, seven hundred and up, a two bedroom, eight hundred and up. I thought of getting a two bedroom and sharing with someone, but who would I share with?

Tonight I visited Claude again. They’ve moved him from bed 29 to bed 1. He didn’t seem to recognize me, spoke only French and didn’t respond to names of his friends that I mentioned, except William. He scowled and said, “William!” and his blood pressure shot up from 130 to 180. He seemed agitated and pulled out his intravenous tube. The nurse said his confusion is probably temporary, due to his concussion. His blood pressure eventually returned to normal. He sipped from a can of Labatt Blue, then hid it under his hospital gown.





8 November 2013

I had to wait in line to speak with Chuck. He was deep in conversation With a woman who seemed to know him well. I heard her say, “Good bye, Chuck, it was nice seeing you again. I’ll say hello to Debbie for you. Take care.”

“Good morning,  Chuck, any plans for the weekend?

“No, not really. Well, tomorrow I go to Orléans for a haircut.”

“That’s a long way to go.”

“I used to live in Orléans. I have a friend who has a barber shop. He has seven chairs and on Saturday he rents the chairs to hairdressing students. For nine dollars I  get a shampoo,  scalp massage and haircut, perhaps,  from a beautiful young woman. I can always hope. There’s also a restaurant on St. Joseph Boulevard, owned by a friend or mine. I go there when I know it wont be busy. I pour my own coffee,  go in the back and all the waitresses fuss over me.

“Something sad happened this morning. There’s a woman I see regularly. She always stops to chat. I told her this would be my last day for a while, because of the cold and the snow. It’s really difficult maneuvering this wheelchair when there are ruts of ice and drifts of snow. She touched my arm and said, ‘Chuck, you know I love you and I’ll miss you.’ I sort of knew that she had feelings for me. She’d always stand close and touch me.  I said, ‘I love you too.’ because I do. There’s nothing much I can do about it. She’s married. It’s nice though, that she said that.

“There was another woman who loved me. People thought that I took advantage of her.  One time she was getting all flustered with the bank machine and asked me to help, which I did, but I never took as much as a penny from her. It made me mad to think that people thought I would take advantage of someone.

“A woman was here this morning. I recognized her face, but I couldn’t place her. She kept mentioning someone named Debbie, as if I should know her. I don’t know any Debbie… Oh, wait, there was this woman who worked across the street at the library. We used to see each other, but nobody else knew about it.  We saw each other for about three years. There was a woman in Debbie’s office, who she didn’t like. This woman would slip me five bucks every so often. She never said anything, but I think it was so I could take Debbie out for pizza, or something nice.

“See that woman across the street with the long legs and tight pants. This is a time when I wish I was forty years younger. I may be stuck in a wheel chair, but my important parts still work. Sometimes, I wish I was sixteen, knowing what I know now. I’d never take that first cigarette, or that first drink. My life would be a lot different now. Everybody has regrets. If they say they don’t, they’re a damned liar.”

“I’d better go to work now, Chuck. Perhaps I’ll see you around. Take care.”

“You too. I’ll be downtown for a pizza, now and then. I’ll be stopping by to talk to Joy. Maybe I’ll see you there.”





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.”





7 November 2013

“Good morning Chuck, Sandy” I said.

“No sign of Joy today, but I’ve heard that she’s alright. She’s looking after somebody.”

“You don’t know who do you? I wonder if Mariah is having problems with her back again?”

“I know these people to see them, but I don’t know their names.”

“Do you remember Antonio, who used to stand across the street, in front of the library? A small man, wore sun glasses all the time, very quiet, had his teeth kicked out while sleeping on a bench in the park.”

“Yeah, I remember him. When he’d come by he’d never say anything. When I passed him I’d give him a couple of cigarettes, say ‘Good morning’. He’d nod. That was terrible what they did to him, all because he was sleeping on a bench in the park. I hear he’s living in the west end now. He has his disability pension sorted out. I hear he’s doing okay.

“I can’t understand why they would do something like that to a defenseless man, even kicked him while he was asleep. What kind of coward does that?”

“Yeah, and they set fire to Shakes.”

“I know  Shakes. I never heard that he’d been set on fire. When did that happen?”

“It was at least three years ago, that’s how long I’ve known him. He has black scars on both shins. Infection and gangrene set in after the burn.”

“I’ve heard some stories about Shakes. He and Eddie and some two other guys were drinking behind the old Somerset Theater. One of the guys was bragging about having raped a little girl and her mother. The other guys didn’t take kindly to that. He made another mistake, broke a cardinal rule of people on the streets. These guys had shared their bottle with him all evening. Then he got up to leave, pulled out his own bottle and refused to share with them. You can imagine how upset they were. They were drunk and high. They probably didn’t know what they were doing They beat him up, then set him on fire. Eddie was charged with it.  He decided to take the rap for all of them.  Shakes was in the clear, but he felt guilty. He confessed, to a chaplain at the Mission,  like you would to a priest in the confessional. He wasn’t even sure he’d done anything, but he thought that he might have.  A priest is bound by his order to keep secret anything that is said during confession. It’s not the same with a chaplain. He reported it to the police and Shakes served about fifteen years as an accomplice to murder. He would have been free and clear. He ratted himself out.

“They didn’t have enough evidence on the third guy. He had some blood on his pants. One of the guys carried a stick, with a nail in it, and hit him in the leg.”

I said, “There’s another person I wanted to ask you about,  Annie Pootoogook.  She’s an artist, sells her drawings on Rideau Street.  She was featured in the Citizen a while back.”

“The name doesn’t ring any bells. It reminds me of a time I had gone to the beer store, bought a case and was looking for a place to drink it. I headed down this trail towards the river I saw  three natives, a guy and two women. I guess they had the same idea that I did. Anyway I sat there, drinking my beer,  it started raining. I heard them say, ‘Where can we go now that it’s raining?’ I said, ‘If you want you can come over to my place.’ The guy asked, ‘Do you trust us?’ I said, ‘Sure, underneath, we’re all the same color.’ So they came to my place, we partied, had a good time,  they ended up staying about three months. One of the women, Jenna, became my girlfriend. We were in front of the Rideau Centre, on the Mackenzie King bridge. She was at the front of the crowd waiting for the bus. I don’t know what happened, if she stepped out, or lost her balance. A bus came a long and hit her, killed her instantly.” Tears filled his eyes.

“That’s heartbreaking, Chuck.”

“Yeah, it happened a long time back. I try not to think about it.”

“I’ve met your son, Chuck Junior, do you have any other family in town?”

“Yeah, we had four kids. If you’d been in front of Tim Horton’s yesterday at noon you would have seen my two daughters, my granddaughter and grandson. We don’t get together often enough.”

“Well,” I said, “It’s nearly time for me to go to work, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You’ll see me tomorrow, but I don’t know about next week. I hear it’s going to be snowing on Saturday, after that it’s getting really cold. If it’s too cold I don’t come down. I’ve saved my money. There are a few treats that I like. I like to have pizza once a week, a sub once a week, and a small dessert every day. I like chocolate brownies, and some kind of cheese cake, I can’t remember what they call it. I get them at the Metro. I also like to go to the food court at the Rideau Center and get one of their fruit salads. I’m not supposed to have them, because of the sugar, but I don’t tell my doctor.

“I make about twelve dollars a day, down here. It covers my treats and Sandy’s care. I go to the odd movie and hockey game; otherwise I have a television set with a forty-four inch screen to watch sports.”

“See you tomorrow, Chuck.”





6 November 2013

“Good morning Carl, Sandy. Were you able to phone Joy yesterday?”

“No, I didn’t speak to her by phone, but I talked to some of her friends. She’s okay. They said something about her having to help somebody. I didn’t get all the details. She Should be down here, though. Remember that day when it was minus eight. I didn’t want to come down, but people expect me. If I don’t show up they think that I don’t need the money, so next time they’ll just pass me by.”

“What did you do when you were younger, Chuck, before you were in a wheel chair?”

“The ordinary things. I was married, raised a couple of kids. Worked at a bunch of different jobs, got in a car accident, then another accident.

“I didn’t have much education, but it didn’t matter in those days. Jobs were a dime a dozen. I did have enough education to get a job with National Defense. I was clerking then, made my way up to Clerk Two. I’d been there about two and a half years, when the government started its cut backs. I didn’t get a raise or a promotion or anything, but they gave me the checks to deliver to the top brass. They got bonuses, raises, promotions. I got so mad I quit right on the spot. Looking back, I should have held onto that job.

“See down the street there. That brick building, it used to be a bowling alley. I can’t remember the name. I hate when that happens… The Maple Leaf Lanes, that’s what it was called. I used to bowl there. A job came up for a Pinner, I applied for it and I got it. So, for a while, that’s what I did — pinning.”

I asked, “What do you mean, pinning?”

“People never understand. Before there were automatic pin setters. The pins had to be set by hand. That was my job as a Pinner.”

“A pin setter,” I said, “I understand now. I had that job when I was young. I used to set for five pins and ten pins — a penny a pin.”

“I just set five pins. There was this guy that came in, Goldman, you’ll see his name on a lot of these buildings. He was changing offices and asked me and about six of my friends if we’d help him move. He said he’d pay us six dollars a day, for the whole week. That sounded pretty good, so we moved him. At the end of the week he gave us each two bucks. He said, ‘Get lost, that’s all you’re getting!’ Were we mad! There wasn’t much we could do, but when we got downstairs we saw his shiny, new Cadillac parked beside the building.  What we did to that car — there wasn’t much left of it by the time we finished. It didn’t get us our money, but we sure felt good.

“I’ve had other jobs. I worked at a printing plant where they made the plastic covers for telephone books. You know the ones, with all the advertising on them. We did them for Perth, Dunrobin, Almonte, all the surrounding cities. My job was to pick up the covers after they’d come through the printer. I’d hang them on a rack to dry. That’s all I did, all day long. Not very challenging, but wasn’t a bad job.

“Then I was in a car accident. I applied for disability, because I couldn’t work, being stuck in a wheel chair like this. I was assigned a worker, we did all the paper work. My friends were getting disability checks, but I wasn’t getting one. This dragged on for over two years. I stormed into my worker’s office, pounded my fist on the desk, swore at her and demanded my money.  Well sir, she had a fit — tearing her hair out, went right nuts. She shouldn’t have been in that job. Turned out my claim hadn’t even been filed. She was just sitting there waiting for retirement.

“I was assigned a new worker. He looked at my papers, arranged an appointment with a psychiatrist — that was regulation —  and said everything would be good to go. He couldn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t get my check.

“I went to the psychiatrist’s office. He must have been one of those hundred-dollar an hour guys. He was in the Meridian Building, top floor, penthouse. I can’t imagine what kind of rent he’d have to pay for a place like that. Anyway, I was early for my appointment. I could see him through the glass. He could see me. I waited, finally he came out, said his receptionist was late, but I could start by filling out some papers. They needed my Social Insurance Number, my Ontario Health card number, stuff like that.  I wasn’t told anything in advance, so I said to him, ‘I don’t have my cards with me, but I’ll do the best I can.’. I completed the forms and gave them to him. He asked, “Did you remember all these numbers, are you sure they’re right.’ I said, ‘They’re right. Check them if you want to .’ He was on the phone for a few minutes. When he came back he  said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. Why are you coming to see a psychiatrist?’ I told him about the disability claim. He said, ‘Sure, I’ll sign your forms for that.’ Within two weeks, I had my first check. Damned government, two and a half years I waited. There was no back pay.’

“Now, I try to save a bit of money so I can have a pizza every once in a while. I like to go to movies. I’m going to see Ironman when it comes out. I go  to a few hockey games.  I’m really a fanatic about hockey. It cost me a job one time. I was working in a warehouse.  The Canada Russia hockey Series was on then. They asked us to stay late, that would have meant I’d miss the final game. I said to my boss, ‘To hell with that. I’m going home to watch hockey.’ I have all those old games recorded on tape. I watch them every so often.

“There was a charity auction one time arranged by CHRO,  and some of the other television stations. I’d heard from a friend that there was going to be an autographed, Larry Robinson, hockey jersey up for auction. That was when he played for the Canadiens. The starting bid was two hundred dollars. I bid two ten. Nobody else bid, so I got it. I was talking to his family later they said they had hoped that the jersey would’ve fetched over a thousand, but I’d won it honestly.

“At another auction I got an autographed, Vladivslav Tretiak,  jersey. You remember him? Played for the Russian National Team. He was considered the best goalie who ever lived. I’d like to sell those jerseys if I could, but I’m no good at internet stuff.  If I could sell them, I’d be set. You can be sure I wouldn’t be out here. I’d have the money for the operations that Sandy needs. Before I die, I’d arrange for a good home for her.”

I asked, “Don’t you have some friends who could arrange that for you?”

“I’ve got  friends and family who have offered, but I don’t trust them.”





5 November 2013

“Good morning, Chuck. Hi, Sandy. How are you feeling today?”

“Well, I haven’t had any heart attacks, so that’s a good thing.”

“I guess every morning you wake up is a good day, right?”

“Yeah, I was just thinking, August 24 was five years since I got out of hospital from my last heart attack. My first happened the month earlier, on July 4. I remember, my friend Dave was going to pick me up for a routine doctors appointment. I  lived on Cooper then. I waited for him at the curb and that’s the last thing I remember. No sun, moon, stars, nothing until August 24. Dave said when he arrived they were taking me away in an ambulance. I don’t know how many heart attacks I had in the hospital. They told me I died nine times. It was the smoking that did it. I was going through three packs a day, and I was a big drinker. I still have dreams about smoking and I’m disappointed when I wake up to find that I can’t have one. The drinking was no problem. I just quit.

“Thinking back to that place I lived. It was the Cadillac of apartments, so that’s where all my friends liked to hang out. There was  a table up against the window. I had a cushion there for my dog. She was a Schnauser Terrier mix, mostly dark-hired with silver tips.  I called her D4, D for dog. Anyway, she liked to sit in the window, usually facing us to keep an eye on what was going on. Dave turned the other way for a second, then he bent down to kiss D4, only she had turned around to look out the window. He kissed her square on the ass. We still tease him about that, ‘Hey Dave, want another kiss from D4?’

“She was a great dog. I built a set of stairs for her so she could climb up on my bed. She usually slept, curled up with me. One night she woke up, ran down the stairs and hid under the bed. I reached under the bed for her, she was shivering. I turned on the light and noticed that she had peed on the bed. I knew that was the end. The next day I took her to the vet and he put her down. I guess I could have kept her for a while longer, a few weeks, maybe a month,  but once they’ve lost control of their bowels, it’s a sign that they’ve got more problems. I didn’t want her to suffer.

“Andre was a good friend of mine, he used to pan where Silver was. He had a dog…”

“That was the dog that Weasel got, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Then after Weasel died, Bearded Bruce had her for a while. Shortly after that, they put her down. She should have been put down a long time before that. She was suffering from cancer, had a big lump on her side, must have been in a lot of pain. That’s irresponsible. There’s a woman who wants Sandy after I die, but I’m not going to let her. She had a dog, a lab it was. It could hardly walk, couldn’t climb stairs. That’s no way for a dog to live.  I told her, ‘For the dog’s sake, you should have her put down, she’s in pain.’ No,’ she said, ‘I couldn’t bear to be with out her. I’m going to keep her as long as I can.’ That’s just plain selfish.

“My son had a dog ever since he was twelve. Of course, it was his dog, but I took care of it.”

“Your son, Chuck Junior, had a dog a short while ago.  V he called her.”

“Yeah, he only had her a short while. He said he let one of his friends take her for a walk and she ran away. I don’t believe that.

“I’m going to phone Joy today. Do you know if she has a phone now?”

“Last I heard she had a phone, had her service hooked up, along with internet that Big Jake saddled her with. He’s getting out in three weeks.”

“Is she going to take him back, after what he did to her?”

“She mentioned taking care of him while he has his hip replacement, but I can’t see that working. There’s still a restraining order preventing him from being anywhere near her. I think that was part of the reason he went back to prison.

“If Joy doesn’t have a phone, you can always call Mariah upstairs.”

“I’ll try to call. She’s a good girl. I like her.”





4 November 2013

Chuck Senior, with his dog Sandy, were at their usual corner.

“How was your weekend, Chuck?

“It was good and it was terrible. I was lucky enough to go to two Senators’ games, but we lost them both. It was pure incompetence, plain and simple. They wouldn’t shoot the puck. That Spezza shouldn’t be Captain, he doesn’t have the balls for it. He scored one goal, from two feet away, into an open net. If he’d missed that one they would have thrown him off the team. The fans would probably have run him out of town.”

“How has Sandy been doing?” I bent down to where she was wrapped in her blanket. She licked my nose.

“She’s doing alright, still recovering from her last operation. She can run, but usually she just lifts her rear leg and gets around on her other three.”

“What kind of operation did she have?”

“It was a genetic thing. Her patella was displaced. It’s sometimes called a ‘trick knee’ or patellar luxation. Pomeranians, dachshunds and other miniature breeds get this a lot . I’ve spent over two thousand dollars on her this year. That’s why I’m out here. That and to pay my heat and hydro. She’s all I got. I don’t smoke, drink, take drugs. It’s just me and her. I’d be awfully lonely without her.

“She also had problems with her teeth.  That’s genetic too. The anaesthetic cost a hundred dollars and that was administered by an assistant. That’s robbery if you ask me. The first time they took out four and cleaned the rest.  The next time they took out thirteen.”

I asked, “Have you thought about health insurance for her?”

“I’ve thought about it. The way insurance companies make money is if you never make a claim. For something genetic like this they wouldn’t cover her.”

“How old is she?”

“Seven. If I’m lucky I’ll have her for another seven to nine years. I don’t expect to be around much longer than that.”

A police van stopped at the corner.

“He’s probably going to ask me to move along.”

An officer got out of the van and walked down the street. He didn’t look at Chuck.

I asked, “Do they usually give you a hard time?”

“There are good ones and bad ones. I never cause any trouble. I don’t ask for money. Usually, they leave me alone.

“There’s this one cop, Rogan, he’s a bad one.  A friend of mine, Henri, used to pan in the next block. He’s dead now. Rogan  came up  and clubbed him. No warning, no nothing;  just clubbed him as he sat on the sidewalk.

“There was another panhandler, who’d made a bit of money, walked into a restaurant and ordered a meal. Rogan came in, dumped his meal into the trash and said, ‘You don’t belong here. Go down to the Mission and eat with the rest of the scum.’

“There were two other guys, he saw in a bar, having a couple of beers. He dumped their drinks, hauled them outside and beat the shit out of them.”

I said, “I have t go to work now, Chuck. Take care.”