Archive for July 3, 2014




03 July 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. Have you heard the news about Shakes?”

“Is he dead?”

“Yes, he died Sunday.”

“I can’t say that was unexpected. What was the cause of death?”

I said, “Heart attack.”

“Well, you can only abuse your heart so much. I know that from experience. Where was he when he died?”

“At Little Jake’s place. Jake called 911, the paramedics worked on Shakes for about twenty minutes. They got a faint pulse, but he died on the way to hospital. Jake was really shaken up about it.”

Chuck said, “I always liked Shakes. He was a good man. At one time he was quite the ladies’ man. I remember this tall, beautiful native woman that he was going out with. She wore a doeskin dress. He was all spiffed up, walking tall and proud. They made a striking couple. That lasted a couple of months, then he went on a bender, she left, he went back to the way he was before.

“He went on a twelve step program for about a month, was given a certificate. His family was there.  After, he declared that he was cured. He went to a bar to celebrate. That happens with a lot of alcoholics. A month isn’t enough time to be cured of alcoholism, you’re never cured. I should know, I still crave a drink, even after six years.

“There was an incident that happened in the alley behind the grocery store. Shakes, Ian, Tim and some loudmouthed guy were drinking, sharing a bottle. This guy bragged about beating a woman then raping her daughter. That didn’t go down very well. Also, after the bottle was empty. He pulled out his own and wouldn’t share. That also didn’t go down well. There was a fight, this guy was set on fire. He spent a horrible week in hospital before he died.

“Shakes was staying at the Salvation Army at the time. He went to the chaplain and said, “I’m not sure, but I think I may have had something to do with that guy being burned. A chaplain isn’t like a priest, there’s no code of secrecy. He told the police and Shakes was arrested. Ian and Tim were already in jail. In court Tim took the blame. He said that Shakes and Ian didn’t have anything to do with it. The judge sentenced him to life in prison.

“There was another incident where a native woman was in a guy’s apartment. He ripped her clothes off, raped her, then  stabbed her in the back. The blade of the knife broke off in her. She went running outside. The guy followed her and was met by Ian and a couple of other native guys. They killed him. In court they plea bargained for a lesser sentence of manslaughter. They were all given two years less a day. They served eighteen months, then they were out.

He continued, “I went to that wedding on the weekend. It turned out really well. We were at the farm. I took Goldie out in a field, took her leash of and said, ‘Go!’ She ran a few feet, turned around to look at me. I said it again and she took off. She ran around like that for a couple of hours. She had a great time.

“She hasn’t had very much chance to run free like that. One time I had her over at the university parking lot. It was Saturday, so there were no cars around. I let her run around for a bit, then a security guard came out and said, ‘That dog should be on a leash.’ I hate those pumped up assholes. They’re given a uniform and the power goes to their heads. Some cops are like that as well.

“I said, I have to head off now, Chuck, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you.”





2 July 2014

I had a window seat on the bus home and was , as usual, engrossed in a book to entertain me for the forty-five minute ride. A man sat next to me, invading my comfort zone. He began to lean on me. I looked at him and recognized Little Jake. He said, “I wondered how long it would take for you to notice who I was.”

“Hi Jake ,” I said. It’s good to see you.” He was drinking a dark liquid from a clear plastic drinking bottle. I didn’t recognize the smell, but it was strong, maybe brandy.

He said, “I’m going back to my place, but I really don’t want to go in. Maybe, I’ll just sit outside on the steps for a while. The paramedics left all kinds of medical shit behind. They worked on him for about twenty minutes. They got a slight pulse, so they loaded him on the stretcher, but he died on the way to the hospital. I was a mess. I was shaking so bad I needed help to dial 911. I felt so helpless. I’m sorry to vent to you like this.”

I said, “I can’t imagine how you must have felt. I’ve lost a father, mother, brother, sister and nephew, but I wasn’t there when they died.  I know that helpless feeling you’re talking about. It never really goes away. After my mother died, my father, brother and I stayed drunk for three days.

“Have you heard anything yet about funeral arrangements?”

“Betty and Fran are looking after that. They phoned around to a bunch of places. I think there’s something arranged for Monday, but I don’t know the details. I hate the guys those girls are with, Shakes did too. I had to get out of there before I hit one of them.

“Another person who was really upset was Blaine. He really fell to pieces, so did Curt.”

“Joy will take it hard. She’s known him since she was thirteen years old. We all lived in the same general area, but didn’t know each other then. Joy and I were in Cabbagetown, Shakes was nearby in Regent Park.

I said, “Last time I talked with you, you mentioned moving to a new place.”

“Yeah, now I’ll have to. I can’t stay in a place where my friend died. It was the same when Wolf and I found Weasel, sprawled on his back with his tongue sticking out. It really freaked us out, man. I have to my place to pick up the rest of his stuff to give to Betty, otherwise I’d crash somewhere else. I spent one night last week in the park.”

I said, “We didn’t know where Shakes was for about four days last week. When did he go to your place?”

“I was thrown in the booze can, Thursday. After the cops let me out I didn’t get home until about 3:30 in the morning. When I arrived, Shakes was asleep in front of my door. He was with me ever since. On Sunday we were having a drink together when, all of a sudden, his eyes roll back and he passed out. I couldn’t handle it, so I banged on the apartment next door. A woman came out and dialed 911 for me. My hands were shaking so bad, I couldn’t do anything.”

I asked, “How old was he? I think he must have been around fifty, but any time we asked, he wouldn’t give us a direct answer. He admitted that he was born in the early sixties, so that would make him fifty something.”

“He never wanted to tell his age. I’m forty-two and I figure he had about eight years on me. He and Uncle Wolf were about the same age. I wonder who will be the next to go. I hope it’s me.

“Now you got all these numbers going around in my head. I’m not real good at doing adding and subtracting — mental gymnastics I used to be, when I worked as a waiter, but not any more.

“Is this my stop coming up? I better get going.”

I watched Jake stagger across four lanes of traffic. I think he made it safely to the other side. I didn’t hear the screeching of brakes or tires sliding on the pavement.