Archive for April, 2014




29 April 2014

“Dennis, I haven’t seen you for ages! How you doin!’ yelled Hippo. He gave me a big bear hug.

I replied. “Hi Hippo, how are you making out in your apartment; any problems?”

“Can you get me a shotgun?”

“It’s that bad is it?

“Hi Wolf, Shaggy, Jacques, Debbie, Stan.” Jacques handed me a cushion to sit on.

Mariah said, “You just missed Joy. She was here this morning, but she left a while ago.”

Wolf said, “Yeah, she was looking good. She wasn’t swinging a bottle around. In fact, I didn’t see her drinking at all. She seemed happy, so everything must be going well with Big Jake. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, did I tell you why Shaggy has a sock on her foot?” I nodded in the negative. “I didn’t tell you, when I saw you Friday? Anyway, she’d been limping. At first I thought that her whole leg was affected by the care accident a few years ago; but I took a close look and noticed that she’s worn two of the pads down by dragging her paw. Now if it was me, I know how bad a scrape can hurt. I can deal with getting knocked out, but the pain of a hangnail just kills. me. She doesn’t like wearing her winter boots. By the time we get to the bridge she’ll have one kicked off. Towards the end of the winter she’ll have lost all of them. Now the sock, she doesn’t seem to mind. She hasn’t once tried to take it off. So, I think I did a good thing. It was white when I put it on this morning. Now it’s dirty and starting to wear through. It looks like she’ll need a new sock every day.

“I got something to show you. I told you that one of my regulars dropped some books off for me.  I got another one this morning. One of my Thursday ladies made a special trip, because she heard that it may be raining for the next few days. I thought that was really sweet. Anyway, have a look…” he handed me the book. “What do you think? I haven’t even read the back cover. Does it look like my kind of book?”

I browsed through the pages of the book, read the back cover and said, “Yeah, Wolf, it has good reviews. It looks like the kind of shoot-em-ups you read; crime, detectives, the lot. The print is large, you’ll like that.”

Stan interrupted, “Does any body mind if I smoke?”

‘No, that’s cool, ” was the general consensus.

“The only thing is, when I smoke, I don’t share…just kidding!” He passed the joint to Mariah who took a drag, she passed it to Debbie, then on to Rhino.”

“None for me thanks, ” I said.

“I remembered that you didn’t smoke, at least not last year. Maybe this year you’ve changed.”

“I don’t smoke or drink at noon;  that doesn’t mean I don’t at other times. Jacques knows that.” He nodded.

Stan said to Wolf, “How about you? You want some of this?”

“Thanks, but I’m going to have some from Jacques’ pipe. I don’t cough so much with that.”

Jacques said, “The only reason you cough is because the pot is dry. If it’s fresh it shouldn’t cause you any problems. The the hole in the pipe is quite large.” He lit up and passed the pipe to Wolf, who started coughing.

Wolf said, “See, I’ve just proved that I’m a hypocrite. I said that I didn’t cough when I used Jacques’ pipe. You know, we could be smoking crack, nobody’d know the difference.”

Debbie said to Rhino, “Did you know I’ve moved? I’m on Parliament now. I’ve already been kicked out of one of the grocery stores and the mall.”

Wolf said to me, “I wouldn’t brag about something like that. You should see me between seven and nine. I’m a real gentleman, when I’m talking to my regulars –‘Yes ma’am, yes sir, thank you ma’am, have a nice day.’ It’s only after I get into the booze that I get like this. Occasionally, at my beer store, they’ll say to me. Is there anybody else that can buy your beer for you. I can understand that; they’re just doing their job. They’re not allowed to sell to anybody under the influence. I just walk out. I don’t cause any fuss. Little Frank, on the other hand. If they refuse to sell to him, he’ll swear, call them names. He’ll be barred for a month.”

It was time for me to leave, so I said my goodbyes, shook hands all around. Wolf said, “You may not see me for the next few days, if it’s raining. I’m more of a fair weather friend.”





29 April 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. It’s another cold one.”

“Yeah, that’s why I pulled my hood up and wrapped my scarf around my face. I should have worn my winter coat. I was out earlier walking Goldie. My doctor wants me to walk a bit every day to help my muscles. To the end of the block and back is the most that I can do.

“I get so mad sometimes waiting to get on the bus. People see the ramp coming down, they hear the beeping. Sometimes they try to jump on while the ramp is still coming down. In the process they’re trying to jump over me. I really give them shit. The bus driver just laughs, because he knows I’m right. He just shakes his head.

“I’m so fucking mad today. I’m still having trouble over my television bill of eighty-six dollars. The bank made a mistake. They admitted they sent the money to the wrong account. I asked them to phone Bell. They won’t do that. I talked to a lady at Bell last night and she said everything was straightened out. She also said they would be sending me a refund for an overcharge for programming that I didn’t receive. I was supposed to get a check for fifty dollars. They sent me a check for a hundred and fifteen. I was just trying to be honest, I phoned Bell, got some guy with an Indian accent, and told him the situation. He looked up my account and said that I still owed eighty-six dollars. I told him that had all been settled. I’d paid the bill and had the receipt in front of me. He called me a liar. Then he said, ‘That might be a  bit strong, but the bill still shows as still being outstanding. If it’s not paid we’ll cut off your service.’ At that point I slammed the receiver down. I’m going to have to go to their office, if I can find it,  and get this straightened out.”

I asked, “Have you heard anything more from your son, about laying sod with Bearded Bruce?”

“As far as I know it’s still on, but I don’t know any details.

“I heard a joke today. Some jokes leave words out. This is one of those. Okay, there was this circus with two rings. In one ring were some acrobats. In the other ring were some strippers. In the first ring they performed cunning stunts. In the second ring they exhibited stunning ____. You have to fill in the missing word.

“There’s another one that I made up when I was a kid. I got in trouble for it in school. We had this question on an exam paper, ‘What is the difference between poetry and prose?’ I wrote, ‘Poetry rhymes, prose doesn’t; for example:

“There was a young woman from Vars
the water came up to her belt.’

“That’s prose.

If it was poetry it would rhyme:

“There was a young woman from Vars
the water came up to her ___.’

” The teacher got so mad. Do you get it? The missing word is ‘arse’.

There are a bunch like that. One time I was sitting alone at a bar in Newfoundland. Two guys from across the room asked, ‘Do you know any Newfy jokes?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ I thought that I was in for a pounding; but they said, ‘Come on over, we’ll buy you a drink.’  I know a lot of jokes. I kept telling them, they kept the beer coming. When I left, I could barely walk. They called a cab and made sure I got home safe.





28 April 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. I see that you have your winter coat on.”

“Yeah, I had a lighter jacket on yesterday and I nearly froze. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind. As it is only my hands and feet are cold. I’ve got some nice leather mitts at home somewhere, but I can’t find them.

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“Pretty good; I only got into one fight. For me, that’s good.”

“What happened.”

“There was this cranky old guy, complaining that he didn’t have enough money for a coffee. I was going to buy him one,  then this guy comes by with a case of  empty beer cans. He said, ‘Take these, they’re worth ten cents a can,  you can turn them in for enough money to buy a coffee.’ ‘Oh no,’ the guy says, ‘I can’t have people see me trading in empties. They’d think I’m poor. I don’t want that.’ I really laid into him for that. I put myself on the line out here. A cop could give me a hundred-dollar ticket for panhandling. If I didn’t appear for court, I could do jail time. Mind you, if I did appear. The judge would probably throw the case out. I’ve never actually seen the charges stick. I’d probably say something like, ‘Your honor, I can’t afford to pay the ticket now, but if you’ll give me a few days, I can probably collect enough money panning, to pay for it.’

“I bought a lottery ticket yesterday. It sure would be nice to win some money. I know it’s selfish, but what I’d really like is to buy a small electric car. They cost about seven thousand, but if I could get a down payment of three thousand, a guy I know would let me pay the rest in monthly installments. That would give me a lot more freedom. Since the Wheelchair Taxi can’t get near my place in winter because of the snow drifts, I’m stuck inside. If I’m desperate I can get through the snow with my walker. I have enough strength to get to the corner store and back, but that’s about it.

I said, “I met Little Jake and Little Albert yesterday. Jake chased Albert away, he was drunk.”

“Drunk or sober that guy is an imbecile. I’ve chased him away a few times myself. If a person has a mental disorder I can empathize with that. I’m a bit crazy myself. I remember when I was a kid in Perth there was a kid that was slow. A local bully dropped a candy, rolled it in the mud, then gave it to this kid to eat. I slapped it out of his hand. I got beaten up for it, but I didn’t care. I don’t like to see people treated like that. When I got home I got a beating from my dad for fighting.

“At school I told my teacher off one day. Of course my parents were phoned. I got a beating for that too. Seems  I got a beating for just about everything.

“Sitting here, day after day, I see a lot of things. Quite a few hookers stop to talk to me; not a bout sex, just because they’re bored and I’m bored.  Speaking of hookers.  I was reading about some of these film stars from the thirties. Clara Bow had quite a reputation. A newspaper named her as the mistress of several men and claimed that she of ten had sex in public, engaged in threesomes with prostitutes, slept with women when no man was available and turned to animals when no human companionship was at hand.stated that between scenes. She’d go to her trailer and ask her manager to bring her some good-looking extra or stage hand. Another one was the same, I can’t remember her name — the one from Mommy Dearest” … Joan Fontaine. She had a ninety year feud with her sister Olivia de Havilland.  When wrestling, as children, Olivia broke Joan’s collarbone. They were both interested in Howard Hughes at the same time.

A beautiful woman, bent over, placed a five dollar bill in Chuck’s cap and smiled at him.

When she left I said, “That woman is gorgeous!”

“Yeah,” said Chuck, “I’d love to dive into that. Some people say I’m a dirty old man, but I’ve died nine times, so I’m entitled.

That reminds me of  nursery rhymes. They sound innocent until you start looking into them, Like The Muffin Man.” He sang:

Oh, do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

Oh, yes, I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane.

He’s never in a hurry
Never has a worry
Bringin’ joy to everyone
Then he knows his work is done

Oh, you should know the Muffin Man
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man
You should know the Muffin Man
Who dwells in Drury Lane

I’ve read two versions  of this story. In the first, the Muffin Man was a pimp who went by the name  of Muff.  He worked Drury Lane which was the Red Light District of London.  Actors, drunks, and even Queen Elizabeth flocked to the street after a play for a quick hand or blow job (or the like, for the females). That’s where the term ‘muff diver’ came from. His main street cookie went by the name Ginger Bread.

In the other version, the Muffin Man was actually a baker, otherwise known as the Drury Lane Dicer.  He would tie a muffin to a string, and as one of the street urchins tried to grab it, he pulled the string, eventually luring the child to his house. He’d knock the child out with a wooden spoon. He was convicted of killing fifteen children and seven rival pastry chefs.

There are also some other rhymes like:

Mary had a little lamb
she also had a bear.
I’ve often seen her little lamb
but never seen her bare.

Or this one:

Mary had a little lamb.
She tied it to a pylon.
10,000 volts went up its arse,
And turned its wool to nylon.


Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she bent over,
Then Rover drove her,
‘Cause he had a bone of his own.

I said, “I was talking to Bearded Bruce, Friday night. He said he was getting a job in Scarborough. He didn’t say what he’d be doing. I wonder if he’ll be a cook in a restaurant. That’s what he’s trained for.”

“He’s supposed to be working with my son, Chuck, laying sod. I hope Chuck doesn’t screw up. It would be just like him.”





25 April 2014

As I approached my bus stop near six o’clock I noticed a large man with a familiar face. I said, “Hi Bruce, how’s it going?”

“Dennis, man, it’s good to see you.  Have you got a couple of minutes to sit down and catch up? I haven’t seen you since when…?”

“Wolf and I had this discussion at noon. It was just before Christmas, so that makes it about four months.”

“That’s right, I was getting a Christmas meal ready for some of my friends. I had seven people over, in that tiny bachelor apartment with only two chairs and my bed that pulls out. A lot of them slept over, I had to step over people to get to the bathroom. It’s been a year and a half in that place. I told you about it didn’t I. It’s on Sherbourne. It used to be a hotel and the room I have is in what used to be the staff kitchen, so I’ve got my stove and fridge and a full set of cupboards across the top and the bottom. Instead of an apartment with a kitchen, I’ve got a kitchen with a place to sleep.

“Joy has stayed over. No sex or anything. We shared the same bed. Just a hug then we went to sleep. I haven’t seen her much lately. It used to be that she’d come over every couple of weeks, but now that asshole is back. There are somethings I just can’t understand, no matter how hard I try. Why does a woman invite a man back when he’s beaten her nearly to death. He went to prison for it. There was a restraining order against him; still, she invites him back as if nothing happened. That’s deranged. He’s going to kill her. I told her that. She phoned me a while back and asked if she could come over. I said, “Sure, but don’t bring that jackass with you. She never came. I just don’t understand why a woman who is beaten doesn’t just leave. I never will. Also, I don’t understand a man that would beat a woman. What’s in that for him. Big Jake is six-foot four, close to three hundred pounds. What does he have to prove… to anyone?

I don’t see most of those people very often. I only drink, maybe two days a week. I’ve been drinking today because it’s Friday. I was drinking vodka yesterday and I woke up with a massive headache. It would have been east to stay in bed, but I have to get money to pay my rent.

“I get a welfare check now, seven hundred and thirty-two  dollars a month. I’ve never taken welfare before, but I had to in order to qualify for my apartment. It’s a program they started me on in prison. Before that I was content to sleep behind the dumpsters, but after I was crammed in with a bunch of guys for three months, with no privacy, no freedom and I got to talk to my worker in a spacious, quiet interview room… what she was saying sounded pretty good.  They pay my landlord directly. It’s subsidized, so that leaves me with about two fifty. A person can’t live on two fifty a month, so I pan when the weather’s decent. There’s a restaurant that gives me their leftover food. When I cook I use a big pot. I have Tupperware containers; one for Shakes, one for Little Jake, one for Chuck. I have to take care of my boys.

“If I wasn’t on this program, the least expensive room, that’s ROOM, mind you, would cost five hundred and thirty a month. It would be in a rooming house crawling with cockroaches, infested with bed bugs, crackheads. Guys running up and down the stairs all night. I’d rather sleep on the street. If the city wants to cure homelessness they need to provide affordable, clean housing.

I said, “Speaking of Chuck, I’ve been talking to his dad most mornings. He’s really an interesting guy.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

“He said, if he wins the lottery, he’d like to buy a small electric car. They cost about eight thousand, but he’s got a friend who will spot him for five thousand. He’ll pay him back in monthly installments.”

“Chuck doesn’t need anything. He’s well taken care of.”

“I know, he’s got his electric wheelchair, his scooter a new winter coat. He admits he’s thinking selfishly, but it would make his life more comfortable.”

“I understand. Do you want to know what I’d do if I won a lottery?… I’d set up my own shelter for homeless people. I wouldn’t kick them out if they were drunk. There’s a homeless industry. We do okay in this city. In fact this is probably the best place to be homeless. If you stay at a place like the Mission, probably the best of the big three, you see the administration drive up in their BMW’s. They make money off us. They don’t want to end homelessness, they’d be out of a job. Do you know what the biggest corporation in the world is?”

I said, “I’d guess it’s the Catholic church.”

“You’re right. Do you know what the second biggest is?…The Salvation Army. I lost one of my regulars. She used to drop me twenty bucks a week. She’s with the Salvation Army and asked what I thought of them. You know me, I say what’s on my mind. When I first came to town, my pants were torn. I went to the Salvation Army and asked for a pair of pants. They said, we don’t give them away. You’ll have to go to our store and buy them. Okay, I can live with that. I panned for a while, got some money, arranged for a bed there for the night. I came back later. They said, ‘You can’t come in here. You’ve been drinking.’ I said, ‘Look, I paid for a bed. My stuff is up there. Where am I supposed to sleep?’ The guy said, ‘Anywhere you want, but not here.’ So I was kicked out. I’m barred from there now. I’m barred from the Mission as well. That leaves the Shep. That’s where everybody goes when they’re kicked out of every other place. You should spend a Friday evening there. See what it’s all about.”

“I’ve volunteered there. I was mostly washing dishes and wiping tables.”

“Well you know then. I don’t go there to eat. It’s not that the food isn’t good. They cook great food, but half of the guys there are talking to themselves. No matter what and civic or provincial administration does, there’s always going to be twenty percent of the population that will be, what they call, chronically homeless. It’s the crazies. Since they closed a lot of the mental institutions, these people are now on the street. Some of them are nice people, some of them rant and rave. Clark has stayed at my place, so has Craig. He’s the most honest guy I’ve ever met. He’s a panhandler, but if I drop a coin he’ll say, ‘Bruce, you dropped a dollar.’ Also he doesn’t change his clothes. He could wear the same pair of socks for three months, he’d never notice the smell. Clark is the same. I tell him, ‘You can stay at my place, but  first you’ll have to shower.’ I’ll have clean towels for him, underwear, socks. He says that staying at my place is like staying in prison.”

I said, “I enjoy talking to Clark. He told me that he’s a Stoic Epicurean.”

“Yeah, he likes to use big words. I tell him, ‘Shut up Clark, speak English.’  He’s a nice guy, but crazy.

“I think I mentioned that Chuck has been staying at my place for the last four and a half months. That was okay. When I didn’t have a place to stay he put me up. It’s only right that I do the same for him. On the day we moved his stuff to his new place we were sitting on the step having a beer. He said, ‘So, I guess you want me to leave now.’ I said, ‘Yes Chuck, fuck off. I’ll see you some other time.”

I said, “I’ve talked to Craig, some days he’s friendly, one day i tried to give him a tim Horton’s card. He said, I can’t get what I want with that. I want some cash. I said, ‘Sorry, Craig, I don’t carry cash.’ He said, “You’re a motherfucking cheapskate. You just don’t want me buying beer. Well, fuck you!’

“Yeah, that sounds like Craig alright. He’s crazy. If he’s off his meds that’s how he acts. I don’t know if he’s schizophrenic or what his problem is, but he’s crazy.

“I got a job in Scarborough, I start next week. It’ll be three days a week in a restaurant. I’ll shave for that, but for now I’ll keep it on. I need it for what I do. I’ve finished for the day. See, I don’t even have my cup out. It’s been a good day. Isn’t the weather beautiful? This is just the way I like it. In a couple of months we’ll have the heat and humidity. That winter we had, wasn’t it horrendous?

“Chuck has been staying with me the last four and a half months, since he lost his place. I didn’t mind. When I didn’t have a place and was sleeping behind the dumpsters, he took me in. It’s only right that I do the same for him. Mind you I was happy when he got his own place. He’s a sweet guy, but he never shuts up. On the day we moved his stuff to his new place we were sitting on the step having a beer. He said, ‘So, I guess you want me to leave now.’ I said, ‘Yes Chuck, fuck off. I’ll see you some other time.’

“It’s funny, I was sitting on my front step with a beer in my hand when a squad car pulled up. The cop got out. He’s one of the guys I’ve had dealings with before, when I lived behind the dumpster. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘This is my house.’ He said, ‘Okay.’ and drove off.







25 April 2014

The park was awash with sunshine. Little Chester was the first to approach me as I neared the group. He said,

” Hi, Dennis. I just spent time with an old friend of mine from Gander, Newfoundland.”

I asked, “Was it the same guy I saw you with on Wednesday? He was from Newfoundland.”

“No, a different guy. This was a guy I grew up with.”

Loretta was standing near the group. “Dennis, can I have a few bus tickets. Thanks. I’ve got some good news; it’s been fourteen months now, since I’ve had a drink. Anyway, it was nice seeing you. I’ve got to go.”

Wolf stood up to greet me, “Dennis, I haven’t seen you for…  How long is it?”

“It must be six months,” I said.

“You must be high. It couldn’t be six months…  Can it? It was before Christmas. How many months is that? I guess you’re right it is close to six months. You see how much I respect you. I stood up, it’s not that easy at my age. Before you sit,  you can have Shaggy’s pillow.” He pulled it from under Little Jake. “You’ll be covered with her fur… everywhere but on your leather jacket. I don’t think her fur sticks to leather.

“Well, fuck you too,” said Jake. “If that’s the way you’re going to be about it.”

“Now, Jake, you know I love you. There I said it.  I got it out. Now it’s done with. Where was I? Yeah, I was talking to Dennis. Finally, someone who will listen. I got seven books today, so I’m all set.  I also got a bag of razors from Jacques. See the mess I made trying to shave today. The handle broke right off my razor.

“Shaggy got some dog food and biscuits from my ladies on the corner, near where I live. I’ve hardly been out all winter. Shaggy and I, we just stayed inside where it was cozy. One thing I noticed was I actually had to buy dog food. I had to put out twenty bucks.

I said, “I’ve seen Chuck Senior, most mornings.”

“Who’s he?”

“Chuck Junior’s father.”

“Oh, I know who you mean. We don’t get along so well. His dog Sandy and Shaggy don’t like each other. I was coming around the corner. I didn’t see Chuck there in his wheelchair. Shaggy jumped up. Carl said, ‘Get your dog away from my service dog.’ I said, ‘Well, Shaggy’s a service dog too.’ We haven’t seen eye to eye since then. I didn’t even know he was Chuck’s dad, until somebody told me.

“I had a new phone, paid a hundred bucks for it. Do you know how long I had it? Two weeks. A woman came over.  I was watching the hockey game with a friend of mine from downstairs. I hadn’t seen this woman for about three months — Yeah, she was good-looking. We had a few beer. She asked to use my phone. A couple of hours passed… she left. I was drunk; you know me.  A while later my friend asked, ‘Where’s your phone?’ I’d only had it two weeks. Now, what am I going to do?

“I know who she is. She’ll never come to my place again. She has no conscience, that’s what I’m getting at. You don’t steal from a friend. You know me, I help people. Maybe you don’t know that, but if somebody needs something; I give it to them. If they need a place to crash for the night; they sleep on my sofa — sometimes with Shaggy.

“So, anyway, what do you think about the streak the Habs have going for them? A 4-3 victory against the Lightning on Tuesday night. I’ve got my Montreal hat on. I should have my jersey, my scarf, all kinds of colors on, but they’re in the wash. I come down here and get dirty.That’s the way it goes.”

“Sorry, Wolf, I haven’t been following hockey.”

“Okay, enough of that. We got that out of the way. Let’s talk about something else… Monday, I have to go to court at seven, in courtroom nine, or is it at nine in courtroom seven. I don’t know. I’ll have to check. It’s been remanded so many times. I fell asleep last time. I can be charged if I don’t show up, but not if I’m there asleep. They called my name and I woke up. I knew they’d wake me up. It’s for this charge about Shaggy. I have it taped to my kitchen wall. I read it last night, ATTEMPTING TO INJURE OR KILL AN ANIMAL. It made me cry, can you imagine that. Four cop cars pulled up in front of my beer store. MY BEER STORE, mind you. Somebody objected to the way I put Shaggy into her caboose — as if I’d ever hurt her. Sure, she’s drawn blood from me enough times. She’s old, I’m old. What are you going to do? Enough of that!

“Jacques, those are nice shoes you got on. Did Stella bring them for you?”

“Yeah, she gave them me last year. Soon it’s going to be time to wear my Crocs. I’m going to buy two pair, that’ll last me the whole season. With them I don’t wear socks all summer.”

Wolf said, “I saw a guy wearing them in winter.”

“Yeah, but with socks on!”

“Yeah, with socks on. He was a bit crazy.”

Wolf said, “Here comes Paul. Dennis, you know Paul don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ve met him before. Hi, Paul.”

“Hi, Dennis.”

Wolf said, “Paul’s a bit slow. His chipmunks don’t run so fast. Paul, don’t just sit there. Say hello to Shaggy. That’s what she came over to you for. Pat her. What did you think she wanted? Stupid fart.  How often do you come down here?”

Paul said, “About four days a week.”

“Four days a week, did you hear that, Dennis? He comes down four days a week. He’s an independent businessman, just like myself. How many days do you work?”

I said, “Five —  Monday to Friday.”

“You hear that, five days a week… But you’ve got the cottage. Right?”


Frank was trying to flip a cigarette into his mouth.”

Wolf said, “You did it, first try!”

Jake said, “No, actually it was my fourth try.”

“Now I suppose you want a light?”

“Yeah, that would be nice.

Chester, will you stop waving that bottle around. Pour it into a paper cup or something.

Wolf said, “Here comes Big Chester. He must be on a butt run.”

I said, “Hi, Chester.”

Getting up was difficult. Mariah asked, “Do you want a hand?”

“No, I said, I’ll be okay. It’ll just take a while. I don’t want to step on Shaggy. Maybe I’ll see you all next week.

“See you next week, Dennis.”





23 April 2014

I ventured outdoors at noon, not knowing what the weather would be like.  We’re well into Spring, but the temperature, in the mornings, still hovers around the freezing point.  A cold north wind added to the misery. I didn’t see anybody at the bench, but as I walked further down Queen Street I saw somebody waving to me.

“Am I ever glad to see you,” said Little Chester, standing on the curb. “I can look you straight in the eye. If I was on the sidewalk I’d be looking up at you.”

“I’m glad to see you too, Chester. I also have to look up at most people.  You must be cold standing here.”

“I got something to keep me warm,” from an inside pocket he pulled a half full bottle of sherry and took a long swallow. “I’m also wearing two coats.”

I asked, “Have you seen anybody else this morning?”

“Yeah, I saw a couple of faces that I didn’t recognize.”

A man walked up from behind, put his hand on Chester’s shoulder and said, “You’re under arrest!”

Chester turned around and laughed, “Hi Jack, it’s good to see another Newfoundlander. Jack, this is Dennis. Dennis, this is Jack.”

Jack and I shook hands. I said, “Chester tells me that the women in Newfoundland are all ugly. Is that right?”

“He should know. Do you know why there aren’t any whores in Newfoundland? Because Chester married them all.

“So, Chester, I’m going back to Newfoundland. Do you want to come with me?”

“No, I’ve had enough of that place and it’s had enough of me.

“I tried my key in the lock to my apartment and it wouldn’t work. The landlord changed the locks. I thought to myself,  I’m drunk, should I knock on his door? No, I’d better leave that until I’m sober.  They had a room for me at the Shepherd so that’s where I stayed last night. I came out here early and it’s taken me all morning to make the price of a bottle.” He took another long swig.

He offered some to Jack, “No, I don’t touch that stuff.”

Chester asked, “Do you have any money?”

“Sure, I got lots of money.” He reached deep into his pants pocket and pulled out two dimes.

“Thanks, that’s a start.”

Little Jake rode up on his bicycle, lay it on the grass, sat on the curb and set his cap out. “Hi Dennis, I haven’t seen you since last week.  I woke up this morning at seven-thirty at Shakes’ place. We really tied one on last night. Shakes was counting his empties. I said to him, ‘It’s seven-thirty, we’d better hurry to the store.’ He said, ‘It’s seven thirty in the morning, we got lots of time.’ Here I thought it was seven thirty at night. That’s pretty fucked up, getting my mornings and evenings turned around.

“Chester, give me a drink. That’s the least you can do since you’ve taken my spot. Now you can fuck off across the street. I gotta work.” To me he said, “I need a drink.  All I got is a dime for start-up. It was cold riding here on my bicycle. My eyes got all teared up. Look, my sunglasses are all streaked.

“Shakes has something awful on his neck. I don’t know what it is. He has to wear a scarf when he goes out.”

I asked, “Is it some kind of rash? I don’t suppose he’d consider going to a doctor to have it checked?”

“Getting him to a doctor is like pulling teeth. He’s at his usual spot now.

I asked, “Do you have another appointment to get your furniture?”

“No, I think I’m going to find a new place; something closer to downtown. This is crazy riding here on my bike. If I ride the bus, it takes me an hour.

“Look at that asshole, Chester. He’s making money over there. I saw someone drop him a bill… After one bottle, he’s wasted… I know he’s only had one bottle, I can tell. “

I said, “I should be getting back to work, Jake,  and I know you have to work. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, thanks Dennis. See you tomorrow. I hope the weather is better. Have you heard the forecast?”

“It’s supposed to be warmer.”

“I hope so. I wore the wrong jacket.”





23 April 2014

“Good morning Chuck, how was your Easter weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’d planned to attend the big meal at the Mission. They have one every Easter, really good food. First, I went to the mall to have coffee with a few friends, as usual. Then I went across to McDonald’s to have coffee with a few other friends, as usual. I went to Metro to buy some chicken and veggies and a few other things I needed. I took that home, turned on the TV and they were showing people at the Mission having their Easter dinner. I missed it!  I’d forgotten all about it!”

“How about going to the Shepherd or the Salvation Army?”

“I wouldn’t go to those places — too rough. The Shepherd has  the rejects from the other places. The people who are kicked out of the Mission, go to the Salvation Army. When they get kicked out of there, they go to the Shepherd.  Even at the mall I have to be really careful. Just the other day, at the front door,  there was a swarm of drugged up kids attacking people with knives, stealing purses, whatever they could get. This was ten o’clock in the morning.

“It reminds me of a long time ago when I worked at the Rex. I did all kinds of things:  slung beer; when the elevator operator was off, I covered his shift; when the cleaner was off, I did his job. Anyway, one night there was a scuffle in the front lobby. I stepped in; it was my job, I worked there. The fight was broken up, people were sent on their way. One of the guys involved was the son of one of our cooks. She was so pleased with me. She said, ‘You come back tomorrow at six. I’ll cook you the best meal you’ve ever had.’ She was right too, she was our best cook. I cant’t tell you how good that was. You know, when the meat is so tender that you don’t chew it; it just melts in your mouth.  Everything else was done to perfection.

“Her son, the one I saved went on to rape two women. I was ready to kill him. Another regular was a huge guy. As long as he was sober he was a good customer; gentle as they come. This one night he’d had too much to drink and was asked to leave. He complained about it, but he left. About an hour later he came back. This time he was raging. Three of us from the hotel grabbed him. The police were called and about six of them were also trying to take him down. Do you remember those big marble pedestal ashtrays, the ones they’d have near the elevators? They weighed about three hundred pounds. He picked one up and with it he pushed two cops against the wall. Eventually he was hauled off to jail.

“When he got out, I heard that he’d stabbed his landlord. Rushing out of the building, he ran towards a cab, slashed a woman getting out of the back door, held the knife to the throat of the driver and they took off. He was eventually caught. When he went to trial the judge sentenced him to life in prison, which is twenty-five years. Do you know what he did when he heard his sentence? He laughed. The judge asked him, ‘What about this do you think  is funny?’ The guy said, ‘My doctor gave me ten years to live. How are you going to collect the other fifteen?’ He stabbed a guy in jail; ended his days in a rubber room.

“I’m going to have to leave here soon; I’m keeping an eye out for security. It reminds me of one time I was panning in front of the church, down the street.  A cop came along and really started giving me shit. I said to him, ‘I’m not bothering anybody. I’m just trying to get some money for food.’ He walked up the church steps, waited for a while, then a guy came along. I saw the cop give the guy two clear packets of white powder. The guy gave the cop a couple of bills. It probably would have been two twenties. Then another couple of guys came along. The cop gave them each a packet.  So, in a matter of minutes, he’s made eighty bucks, and he was trying to run me off for trying to collect a bit of change.

“I tell you, when you’re on the street you see a lot of things. Usually, I just turn my head. I don’t want anybody coming after me — not the cops, nobody. There was one lady around here… I haven’t seen her for ages. I’d hear this hollering and screaming from a way off.  I’d think that somebody was fighting, but she was alone. She’d talk to her hand, just like you would to a sock puppet, but there was no sock. She’d argue, swear, carry on a real conversation.  At times her hand would smack her in the head. At other times she would be sweet as could be. She had a beautiful singing voice, it was like hearing an angel.





17 April 2014

The temperature was five degrees above freezing and the sun was shining. I took a walk to the park to see if any of my friends had come out of hibernation. I met Jacques, Little Chester, Little Frank and Mariah who insisted that I sit on her plastic box. She took a place on the sidewalk, cushioned by a blanket. It was a true reunion; everyone was glad to see each other and catch up with what had happened over the winter.

I asked Mariah, “How is Joy doing?”

“She’s okay, I guess. She has good days and bad days, just like the rest of us.”

I said, “Chuck Senior told me that she and Michelle got into a fight over fifteen dollars and a bus ticket. Joy was stabbed by Michelle.”

“A stabbing, I never heard about that. Here’s Joy on the phone now. You can ask her yourself.”

I said, “Hi Joy, how have you been over the winter?”

“I’m doing okay. It’s been too cold to come downtown to do any panning. I caught pneumonia again.”

I said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve been talking to Chuck Senior most mornings. He’d heard that you and Michelle were in a fight and she stabbed you. I guess it must have been somebody else.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about. I haven’t seen Michelle for ages and I sure haven’t been stabbed. It should be warmer next week, perhaps I’ll see you then. Could you put Mariah back on the phone?”

They finished their conversation and I asked Mariah, “How have you been? Is your back still giving you problems?”

“Generally , it’s better than last winter. The landlord fixed the heating, so I don’t have the problem with humidity, that I had before. That helps. My knee has been giving me trouble. Sometimes it feels like it’s burning.

“There’s still some crazy shit going on in the apartment. Last Saturday, at three in the morning, my bedroom light fixture came crashing down.  It just missed my head. The glass globe shattered all over the place. The first night I just wrapped the big pieces in a carpet and threw it in the corner. The next  morning I phoned my landlady. I said, ‘I’m sorry for phoning you on a Sunday morning, but one of my light fixtures just fell. I didn’t do anything. It just came down, all on its own.’ She said she’d send over an electrician to  fix that and install a new plug. The ones I have aren’t grounded.  I’m always tripping breakers. Having a light on and drying my hair will knock out the power. I don’t have access to the electrical panel so it means a lot of phone calls to my landlady. The house is over a hundred years old. She can’t even get insurance for it.”

“Do you think it was spirits that knocked down the light?”

“Yeah, they’ve been acting up. Stuff gets moved around in my kitchen. It’s time for another cleansing, another smudging. It’s all through the house. Joy hasn’t had problems with that little girl since we dealt with her last time, but Buddy is still knocking in the closet and there’s a black presence hovering around the place.”

I asked, “How about the guy who sits on the end of the bed and watches television with her? The one who hates paranormal shows?

“I haven’t heard about him, maybe Buddy sometimes comes out of the closet.

“Because I’ve lived there the longest — it’s coming on four years now — everybody comes to me with their problems. The woman next door, the one that Joy had problems with, came over and asked, ‘Do you know who’s been phoning the city bylaw office about my dog. Do you think it’s been Joy?’ I said, ‘No, Joy likes dogs. She wouldn’t report you.’

I said, “That’s the one that Joy calls ‘the stomper’. She always stomps around her apartment and up and down the stairs. There are a couple of guys up there as well. Joy figures she’s getting it on with both of them.”

The woman has anxiety attacks. Sometimes she’ll phone and ask if she can come over to talk. She says, ‘Mariah, you can always manage to calm me down.’ She can be a real pain in the ass.

“Even the landlady phoned and asked, ‘So, what’s going on?’ I said, apart from the door you had fixed that keeps banging, I don’t have any problems.’ She said, ‘That’s not really what I was phoning about. Is everyone getting along okay? Is there anything I should know about?’ I said, ‘No, everybody seems to have worked out their issues. If It doesn’t affect me, I don’t worry about it.’ We’ve gotten rid of the crackheads and the crazies, everyone gets along.”

I asked, “How about you Jacques? Have you been coming down here often? Have you seen anybody else?”

“I think it was last Monday that I came down. That was the only nice day we had. Nobody was here.

‘Tomorrow I’m meeting Stella at the Eaton Center. She has a microwave oven for me and a few other things. Apart from that I’ve been staying in. I noticed at the market that they have some hanging pots of tomatoes. I’d like to get some of those, but I don’t think I get enough sunlight. Just a couple of hours in the late afternoon. I don’t think that is enough.”

Mariah said, “I’ve  just got a small balcony. It’s not even a balcony it’s a walkway.  Everybody would be picking  at my tomatoes if I had some hanging there. I don’t think I get enough sun anyway. I guess I could hang them inside in front of one of the windows, but the air conditioning wouldn’t be good for them.

I asked Jake, “So, have you seen Shakes lately?”

“Why does everyone ask me about Shakes?”

Mariah said, “Perhaps, because you live closer to him than anybody else.”

“We’re in different buildings. I haven’t seen him for a long time.”

I asked, “Have you had any luck getting your furniture yet?”

“No, I fucked up another appointment. It’s been a year and a half now without furniture. Mind you, they did get me a new bed. That’s a good thing.”

I said, “I remember, your old bed was soaked with blood.”

“Yeah, from the time I fell on the scissors.

Jacques said, “You can get another appointment. Just call them.”

“Yeah, but it won’t be for another month. I’m back down at the bottom of the list again. I still use the air conditioner in it’s box as my table, or a place to sit.

“You’ll never guess what I saw the other day. I was riding my bicycle and I saw this crow or raven. It must have stood two feet high. I’ve never seen a bird so large. It really freaked me out”

Mariah asked, “Are you sure it wasn’t a turkey vulture? They’re big.”

“No, when it turned sideways I could see the bluish black in its feathers.”

Mariah said, “That would be a raven. They’re bigger than crows. We have some large ones that hover around the cemetery. That sounds spooky, right?”






17 April 2014

“Good morning Chuck, it’s still cold . When are we going to get some Spring weather?”

“Well it’s better than the rain we had yesterday. I think the Man upstairs is playing tricks on us. Maybe, he had too much to drink, woke up with a hangover and got his seasons mixed up. He forgot that Christmas was supposed to be cold and Easter, warm. I’m not religious, but I’m, afraid of the alternative. If I make the wrong choice I don’t want to spend an eternity in hell.

“People have said to me that I must be here for a purpose, but I lay awake nights trying to figure out that purpose. I’ve died nine times on the operating table, they keep bringing me back. If I miss one heart pill, everything backs up and I’ll be dead. The only problem with those heart pills is I have to piss a lot more often. In a wheelchair that can be awkward. People keep bringing me coffee and I have to keep going to the bathroom.

“Women seem to like me. I always have a joke for them; flatter them a bit. Maybe that’s why I’m here.  A nice looking woman walked by earlier. She was wearing one of those light dresses. I don’t know what kind of fabric it was.  Just after she passed,  the wind whipped it up around her waist. I enjoyed that. There was another one wearing a see through top. She was gorgeous — really got my heart pounding.

“I like to watch the old movies on TV. I remember when my son Chuck Junior  was about sixteen. There was a movie I was watching, Salome made back in 1953. The heroine was  wearing one of those slinky, see through dresses. Chuck was full of raging hormones and said, ‘Man, I’d like to do her!’ I said, ‘You’re a little  late, she died of Alzheimer’s  in 1987. Her name was Rita Hayworth.

“I asked my friends the other day if they’d rather watch a movie starring Archibald Alexander Leach or Cary Grant. They said, ‘Cary Grant!’ I said, ‘So would I, it’s the same person.’  Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino. Tony Curtis was  Bernard Schwartz.

“Something nice happened at the mall yesterday. I went to the Thai place in the food court. It was late in the day.  I’ve gotten to know the owner, he’s a nice guy. I ordered  the stir fry. Anyway, he gave me three servings, then didn’t charge me. I was still so full later on, I could hardly watch TV. I fell asleep during the hockey game.

“This morning, I didn’t get downtown until six thirty. I spent about a half hour in front of Tim Horton’s then came over here. On my way I stopped at McDonald’s for coffee.  Whenever I go there I buy a couple extra packages of hash browns. I give them to the girl at the convenience store, she’s always running late and doesn’t have time for breakfast. She gives me a newspaper.

“Yesterday I went to pick up my glasses. I spent about a half hour on the bus getting there. They told me that my glasses were made, but they wouldn’t be delivered to the store until four o’clock. This was at one. I went to Wal-Mart, got some spring pants and a jacket for a good price. It’s right across from the dog groomers, so I took Goldie in for a trim. I’ll have to be here every day next week to make up for the money I spent.













14 April 2014

“Good morning, Chuck, have you heard anything more about Joy?”

“No, I was just talking to the one guy. He said there was some kind of altercation between Michelle and Joy. He said something about fifteen hundred dollars or fifteen dollars. Knowing Joy, it would be the latter. There’s no way she could get hold of fifteen hundred dollars. There was also something about a bus fare. Michelle was either drunk or high, I don’t know which. She pulled a knife and stabbed Joy.

I said, “I’ve met Michelle many times. She’s always seemed nice to me.”

“Yes, when she’s sober. She stabbed her idiot boyfriend a couple of times and he’s still with her. He’s a real asshole. I don’t know what she sees in him. That’s all I’ve heard. I don’t know if Joy is a t home or in hospital.

“I guess you heard about that other stabbing involving Brittany Hawk. I know her.  She’s a nice enough person when she’s straight and sober. She’s a prostitute, met a guy in front of the Shepherd. They went to his apartment, got drunk.  An argument broke out, she tabbed him  in the face, head, chest, thigh and hand with one of his own kitchen knives. One of the wounds pierced his heart.  She was still on probation for stabbing her mother and stepfather. She’d previously stabbed a man during a home invasion robbery, cutting his thigh before saying sorry, asking him not to report it to police, and kissing him on the cheek. You never know about people. Anyway, she plead guilty. They expect that she’ll be sentenced to fourteen years.”

“I got in a real row with my son this past weekend. I’ve mentioned that I have a lady friend that lives in Brampton.  I’ve decided that when I die I wanted to be cremated. The ashes are to be saved. When Goldie and my lady  friend die the three sets of ashes are to be mixed in one urn.  They have this special cemetery for people without much money. They’ll be buried there. Chuck Junior wanted to know all about this woman in Cornwall and why I wanted to be buried with her. I said to him, ‘It’s my funeral, it’s my decision. It’s got nothing to do with you?’ He said, “Yeah, It’s always about you.’ I said to him, “Do you know why nobody likes you? It’s because you talk too damn much and you don’t mind your own business.’ He was even on Facebook sending messages to people I know. They’re not friends of mine they just happen to live in the same building as me. There are probably only two people in that building that I would consider friends. In the summer sometimes, a bunch of tenants will gather in the parking lot and have a barbecue, share a few beer; that doesn’t mean they’re friends.”

I asked, “How was the rest of your weekend?

“It was quiet. I have to get new glasses. Welfare will pay for the eye exam and lenses, but I have to pay for the frames. I phoned all around the city to find the cheapest price, mind you with Welfare we only have so many to choose from. I had to go way out to the end of Scarborough for the frames. They were regularly a hundred and eighteen, but I got them on sale, fifty percent off.

“It’s the same with my electric wheelchair. They’ll pay for the chair, but not servicing. If I have a chair, they won’t pay for a walker. Sometimes I go to places without wheelchair access, like my daughter’s home.

“I even had a guy complain that he saw me using a cell phone. Well, why shouldn’t I use a cell phone? How else can I get the Wheelchair Taxi to pick me up?

“Here comes trouble. See that man across the street with the dog?” Chuck put his cap over Goldie’s head.

The man said, “Don’t worry, my dog won’t hurt your dog.”

Chuck yelled, “Just keep your dog away from me.”

To me he said, “Some pet owners are so irresponsible. It happens in my building. Guests with dogs will come over and let them run loose in the halls. I knew who it was and I complained. I said, ‘Either keep that dog in the apartment, or get it out of the building.’

“We have the same problem with tenants letting their friends use the laundry facilities. They always leave a mess. We have recycling boxes and they don’t use them properly. There was one neighbor who even let her friend use our trash disposal. I told her, ‘You do that one more time and I’ll report you.’ I get so mad sometimes.”