Archive for April 23, 2014




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.