Archive for December 10, 2018

Silver and Starbucks

Posted: December 10, 2018 in Prose

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26 June 2012

This morning, in front of Starbucks, I pulled up a plastic crate and sat beside Silver. He’d told me previously about going to reform school when he was young. I asked him about the details.

“I first went to reform school because I stole some money. I stole sixty dollars from a lady friend of my mom’s. I didn’t spend any of the money. I hid it in my sock drawer. The lady called the police. She told them, ‘I’m missing some money and I know who took it.’

“I was coming home from school. I saw the police car and my sister was crying. The police said that if I returned the money the lady wouldn’t press charges. I said to my sister, ‘Don’t worry, I have the money. I can return it. Everything will be okay.’ I went to my sock drawer and the money was gone. Somebody in my family found the money and took it. So, that’s why I went to reform school. I did some other things, nothing very bad — kid things. They seemed like good ideas at the time.

“Sunday I went to my church where I panhandle. Lately there have been a lot of new people panning there. They had every door covered. I said to one of them, ‘You’re in my spot.’ He said, ‘I’ve been coming here a long time. Do you know what time the service starts?’ I said, ‘You’ve been coming here a long time and you don’t know what time the service starts? Yeah, sure!’ It was a bunch of crack heads. There was no point in getting into a fist fight about it. I’ll see if they’re there next Sunday.”

I said, “Gaston was at the park Friday. He seems like a decent person. Does he come by often?”

“Yeah, he and his friend are both quiet. They don’t cause any trouble. They call him Bird. I don’t know why.”

“When I talked to him Friday he was telling me about rescuing a skunk who had fallen into a ditch and couldn’t get out. I know he has cats and a dog. I think he mentioned that birds come right up to him. I guess he likes birds.”

“That would make sense.”

I said, “Have you seen anything of Daimon and Lucy in the Sky lately?”

“No, not since Friday.”

“I don’t get it,” I said, “They want to beat up Alphonse and Magdalene. Alphonse is small and Magdalene is five months pregnant. They have no money, no anything, they’re panhandlers. What do Daimon and Lucy hope to gain from that?”

“They’re both psychopaths. What we should do is, get a group of us together, jump them and beat the shit out of them. Then they’ll get the message that they’re not welcome.”

“That was Joy’s idea,” I said. “How long have you been panning here, Silver?”

“I’ve been here about eleven years. I used to be where Joy is now. After she got out of prison, she said it was her spot. She gave me a couple of cigarettes for it. That was okay. I didn’t like that spot anyway. I got a few tickets there for panhandling. For some reason they don’t seem to bother Joy. When I was still with my ex I used to pan on the other side of this column. It’s a government building. They said that I was blocking their fire exit and asked me to move. If there had been a fire I wouldn’t have stayed around to be in anybody’s way. I’d have been long gone. Just to annoy them, I moved a few feet over. Now I’m in front of Starbucks. I’ve talked to the owner. He doesn’t mind me being here, he just asked that I don’t open the door for the ladies. I said, ‘That’s no problem.’ Now the ladies open their own doors.

“Before I came here I lived in a small town near here. I worked for a retired cop. I’d mow his lawn, dig his garden — anything that needed doing around the yard. He watched every move I made, as if I was going to steal something from his garden. Finally, I got fed up. I told him, ‘With you watching me all the time it’s as bad as being in prison.’ I guess it gets in their blood.

“Hey Dora!” Silver yelled, “where’s my treat?” She came back a few minutes later with a toasted Danish. “Dora, I was just kidding.”

“A customer left it on the counter. Don’t you want it?”

“Of course I want it. Thanks, Dora!”

A man stopped and dropped a folded ten dollar bill in Silver’s cap. “I’ve made forty dollars so far.. It’s just about time to quit for the day.”

At noon it was cool and windy. The first person I saw was old Serge. “Hi Serge, I said, “How are your eyes today. Do you have any headaches? You didn’t fall again did you?”

“No, I didn’t fall again. Last night I slept in a park, nearby. It was nice.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“Take care.”

Seated on the curb by the sidewalk was a group of a half dozen regulars.

Andre gestured to a camp stool and said, “Have a seat. Gene gave this to me. Look down below.” I looked, there were two zippered pockets. One held a plate, plastic glass and cutlery. The second was a cooler.

“That cooler will hold ten beer or four bottles of sherry. The cops won’t even know I have any liquor. Yesterday I must have drunk, let me think… nine bottles of sherry. I’ve got a hangover now, so I haven’t been drinking. See my hand shaking?”

I asked, “What’s this carved wooden animal in your hat? Is this for good luck?”

“You don’t recognize it?”

“It looks like a bear.”

“It’s a kitty cat. I call it my pocket pussy.”

Gene commented on a german shepherd that was being led on a leash by its owner. “That’s a beautiful dog. It’s well-groomed too.”

“Yes, it’s had a lot of brushing.”

“I used to have a dog just like that, a King German Shepherd named Chinook. She was a really smart dog. There are a lot of tests that you can put a dog through to determine its intelligence; putting food under an upside down cup, putting a blanket over the dog’s head. He passed all the tests. She knocked the cup over to get the food, shook her head to get out from under the blanket. Some dogs would just sit there. Like when you put a cover over a bird-cage.

“We had a four-foot fence around our yard. I had a problem with some neighbourhood kids who were teasing and throwing stones at Chinook. I told their parents what was happening and asked if I could teach the kids a lesson. They said, ‘Okay.’ When the kids came over again I went out and talked to them. I said, ‘This dog is almost as big as you are. It has a gentle nature unless it’s provoked. This dog could kill you. You think you’re safe behind this fence. Watch this.’ I gave the command, ‘Chinook, over!’ She easily jumped the fence and came to my side. She used to jump into the back of my pickup. You should have seen the expression on those kids’ faces. Their eyes were like saucers when they saw the dog up close.

“We had kids in the house at the time, so we didn’t smoke or drink very much. It’s a funny thing, but Chinook didn’t like people smoking or drinking. It was alright if I was sitting at the table and had a few beer or a smoke, but it someone came to the door with the smell of alcohol or cigarettes on them she’d get upset. She even growled at my mother-in-law. I asked her if she’d been drinking . She said she had. If I was sitting on the lawn with a beer beside me Chinook would knock it over. She was great with kids. They’d pile on top of her, pull her ears.  She wouldn’t react at all.

Gene’s cell phone began to ring. “I’m going to have to take this,” he said. “I’m supposed to be working today. I’m a carpenter. My boss has my belt and all my tools. I can’t contact him. I think he’s at his cottage. If he didn’t have any work for me, I could have found work with someone else —  if I had my tools.

“I talked to Stewart the other day. He’s living in Orleans.”

I said, “I talked to him too. No, I’m thinking of Weasel. He’s been in the East General since last Tuesday. He got out around four yesterday. I bet Wolf will be happy. He won’t have to look after Bear anymore.”

Joy said, “Wolf’s hand still hasn’t fully healed from where Bear bit him. I was thinking that maybe Weasel had died. If he had, I wonder how many people would attend his funeral.”

Silver said, “That’s a morbid thing to say, Joy.”

“I’m not wishing he was dead, I was just thinking that it wouldn’t be like the funeral we attended for Hobo. That was packed.”

Steve said, “It looks like Bear has already started digging a grave for him here in the lawn.”

“It’s a pretty shallow grave,” said Silver.

Joy said, “A shallow grave would be good enough. He’s skinny. I’d be glad to throw in the first shovel of dirt.”

Hippo said,”I’m getting pissed off with Little Jake. We’ve been panning together and he keeps saying stupid things like, ‘This is my bridge.’ It scares people away. If that’s his bridge then this is my park.”

Pierre said, “I have to go home to feed my kid and me.”

Andre said, “What’s that?”

Joy said, “Pierre has a son. He has to go home and make his lunch.”

“Oh,” said Andre, “I thought he said, ‘I have to go home to feed my kidney. That just sounded wrong.”

Pierre said to Joy, “Do you want me to cut the ribs.”

“Separate them, don’t cut through the bone.”

“That’s what I meant.”

Rocky arrived and said hello to me. “Hi, Rocky, how are you feeling?”

“I’m good.”

“Is your stomach okay? Have you been eating?”

“I’ve been eating.”

“Have you received any more information about housing?”

“I move July fifteenth.”

“Do you know the location yet?”

“It’s in the suburbs. To get here, I’d take a bus,  a subway, then a streetcar. That takes about forty-five minutes. It’s about half an hour to downtown.”

“How did it go with your probation officer? You were worried about being breached.”

“No, he didn’t breach me. I’ve been going to my A.A. meetings.”

“That sounds great, Rocky. It sounds a lot better that when you were throwing up blood in the bushes.”

Andre said, “You know, I got five tickets the other day. I was sitting on the sidewalk with a couple of guys, actually it was Little Jake and Hippo. There was an open bottle in front of me. The cop said, ‘Whose bottle is that?’ I said, ‘I might as well own up to it.’ He wrote me up. I said, ‘Since I’m being charged can I keep the bottle?’ He said, ‘I’ll ask my partner.’ His partner was my cousin. Of course he said I could keep it.

“He said, ‘We’re going to come back. If you’re still here, you’ll be charged again.’ We stayed and we were charged again. I even got a charge for smoking within twenty feet of a doorway.”

Outcast said, “Something similar happened to me. I was drinking a big bottle of beer. The cop charged me and I said, “Can I at least drink the rest of this beer instead of dumping it?’ He said, ‘If you can drink it before I finish writing up your friend, you can drink it.’
Well, It went down in two seconds.”

Wolf said, “I was talking to Francois the other day. Remember he and I got tickets? I said to the cop, ‘It’s my fault that he’s here. Can you go a bit easy on him. The cop wrote him up. I only found out today that he only got a warning. I got two tickets, $125.00 each. He has a driver’s licence so he would have had to pay the fine before he could renew his licence. For me it doesn’t matter.”

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