Sleeping Rough

Posted: February 7, 2019 in Prose

9 July 2012

I was walking along Queen Street, toward Moss Park, when I saw Serge, sitting on a bench. “Hello Serge, how are you doing?” “You startled me. I didn’t see you coming. I’m okay. I was feeling sick before, but now I’ve got my booze, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

As I continued I met Joy and Chester. “Hi Joy, how is everything going in you new place?” “It’s great. Living at Chester’s is awesome. It’s so quiet. I hear kids and cars, but nothing like the noise at Chuck’s.”

“There’s not the people coming in and out,” added Chester. “I’ve got the whole house cleaned,” said Joy. “Now we’re going back. I’ve got some laundry to do. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“You’re a good man, Chester. Bye. Bye, Joy.” Further up the sidewalk were Trudy, Buck and his dog Dillinger, Shakes and Little Jake. We shook hands all around.

“How have you been feeling, Jake?”

“My legs are sore.”

“I notice you have a lot of bruises.”

“Yeah, I’ve got bruises all over. I’ve been throwing up every morning — the dry heaves. I’ve been drinking a lot of water just so I have something to throw up. At Weasel’s place the bathtub is really close to the toilet. Sometimes I’ve got it coming out both ends. I feel better now, though.

“I slept over there in the bushes last night, along with Weasel, his dog Bear and Andre. I woke up next to Bear. I think I kicked her during the night. I was the first one up at about six. The sun coming up was orange. It was really picturesque. I went down to see Silver, but he wasn’t there, so I panned in his spot. I didn’t stay too long because I’ve got two charges against me. The cop, the big one with the tattoos — he’s really got a hard on for me — he said that if I get caught again, I’ll be going back to prison.”

“Just ignore them,” said Shakes. “I’ve got two charges as well. I was charged with vagrancy. When have you last heard of that charge — back in the sixties? They’ve been saying for ten years now that they’re going to put me back in jail, but it never happens. Just go out there on Parliament and start panning. You’ll see, nothing will happen.”

“Parliament is a red zone for me.”

“Every street is a red zone. I slept in the Scotia Bank last night. I just couldn’t hold it any more, so I dropped my pants and used the waste basket. There was a garbage bag inside so I took it out, tied it up and placed it outside. The cops came by and said there had been a complaint that I had taken a dump in the bank. I said, ‘Look officers, there’s just me, my sandwich and a broken cigarette. I don’t know what these people are talking about.”

Jake said, “The cops came by yesterday and there was Shakes pissing through the rails of the fence. They said, ‘Shakes, you just can’t do that in a public park.’ He didn’t care.”

Shakes asked Trudy, “Will you roll me a joint? My hands are too shaky.”

“Sure, do you have papers?”

“Do you need scissors, Trudy?” asked Jake.

“No, this stuff isn’t too fresh.”

“I’ve had my first drink of the day,” said Shakes. “Now, I’m going to have my first joint. Then, I can get my mind right.”

Jake said, “You’ll be able to stagger straight. Is that it, Shakes?”

“I’m leaving now,” said Trudy. “They’re having a memorial service for Alistair at St. Paul’s. It starts at one o’clock.”

“Ask them to play some Ozzy for him,” said Shakes. A soldier was passing. “Thanks for defending our country, sir.”

To me he said, “I respect the military. One time I was at a bar and I saw an old veteran. I said to him, ‘Come over and join us.’ I had a 1942 penny in my pocket. I gave it to him. He started crying. He said, ‘I was in the war then. That’s the year my brother was killed.’ “Some people say that men don’t cry. I can be arrested, beaten up, stabbed, shot and I’ll never cry. But when it’s something sentimental, like the service for Alistair, or that old veteran bawling his eyes out, that makes me cry.”

“I remember back at ‘the Haven’ (Millhaven Maximum Security Penitentiary), I was training this guy to box. I told him, ‘I’ll keep training you as long as you don’t mess up. If you mess up, no more training.’

“Do you know where I learned to box. It was when I was six years old, on the farm. In the barn we had one of those heavy farm bags, hanging from a rafter. My uncles showed me how to use it.”

Buck was playing a scratch and win Bingo card. “I won,” he said.

“How much did you win?”

“Three dollars and fifty cents.”

“I’ll pay you for the card.” said Shakes. He pulled out a plastic zip lock bag full of quarters. “Here I’ll even pay you for one extra.”

“This is a nickel, Shakes.”

“How much do I owe you, now?”

“One quarter.”

“Okay, here’s one quarter.”

To Jake he asked, “How much money did Joy say I have here?”

“$37.50”

“Buck can you go on a run for me and get two bottles of sherry?”

“Sure.” Buck left and headed toward the liquor store.

Jake said to Shakes, “Aren’t you worried that he’s going to head south with your money.”

“No, I’m not worried. I trust Buck.” He returned about twenty minutes later and handed Shakes two bottles of sherry.”

Jake said to Shakes, “Don’t forget you owe me twenty.”

Shakes passed Jake a near empty sherry bottle. “That’s great, ” said Jake, “He owes me twenty and he offers me a buck’s worth of sherry.”

Shark and Irene came by. “Well, I got a new apartment, a three bedroom for eleven hundred  a month, all-inclusive. It’s really large. Officially, I move on the first of August, but the landlord said I can start moving stuff over beginning tomorrow. They’ve still got some repairs to do. It’s on Parliament and Power. Now, I’m at Parliament and Queen, I’m just moving across the parking lot. It’s the same landlord. I’ve been with him a long time now. My present place and the one before were both with him. Now, we just have to arrange for a truck to bring Irene’s stuff over.”

I said, “Irene was concerned that, with your morphine and medicinal marijuana, the police may come over when you’re away and she might be charged, because the licence is in your name.”

“We’ll have three bedrooms, one for me and one for Irene. The morphine and marijuana will be in my room. As long as it’s in my room they can’t touch Irene. I can just get another licence for when I’m not home.”

Irene said, “That means we won’t be neighbors any more, Dennis.”

“Don’t worry, It’s not that far away.” Buck was leaving. We shook hands. Dillinger licked my face.

 

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