Archive for March 21, 2019


Posted: March 21, 2019 in Prose


16 July 2012

As I approached Joy this morning, Christine, ‘the religious lady’, was squatting beside her, programming Joy’s telephone. “There,” she said, “now you have my phone number and I have yours.”

“Thanks, I’m so bad at keeping track of phone numbers.” They both promised to keep in contact. Christine left shortly after.

“This phone is useless,” said Joy. “As soon as my billing period is over, I’m getting a different phone that plays music as well. I need my music.”

I asked, “How has it been living with Chester?”

“He’s a sweetheart, except when he’s drunk. He keeps asking me, ‘Is everything alright, Joy?’ over and over again. He even yells up the stairs at me. Then he’ll start crying, ‘I  miss Anne, I miss Ipeelee.’ Now he’s met a woman who speaks French and drinks like he does. I’m so relieved.

“Yesterday I barbecued some ribs with a sweet and sour sauce. We also had boiled potatoes. Chester wanted them mashed, but I told him, ‘If you want them smashed, you smash them with your fork.’ When I was getting the ribs ready — I boiled them first, then put them in marinade — Chester came down. Since I was already in the kitchen, I asked him if he wanted me to fix him something to eat. ‘Sure,’ he said, ‘I’d like a fried egg, bacon and toast.’ I had in mind to make him a sandwich.

“We don’t have air conditioning. You’d think that, in a building for seniors, they’d have air conditioning. I have a door to the balcony, but it only has a screen at the top. I leave the door wide open to catch any breeze. The only problem is the mosquitoes. As long as I can get to sleep before they start biting, they can feast to their heart’s content. You can see I have a few bites on my legs.

“Chester asked me, “Why don’t we have Jacques over?’ I said, ‘Because he has bed bugs. He sleeps on his kitchen floor because that’s the only place there is no carpet. Bed bugs love carpet. I’m sure they can walk from the carpet to go over and bite him. They must be in his bed as well. They can hide in a pant cuff and lay dormant for eighteen months, then they drop a bunch of eggs. Soon, you’ve got ten thousand of them.”

I asked, “Isn’t there any way of getting rid of them.. Aren’t there sprays, or something?”

“There are sprays. You have to use them over and over, and the bugs can be anywhere. You never kill them all. Orkin sells a mattress cover that they can’t chew through, but that means that any that are in the mattress are going to be crawling around under the cover. That gives me the creeps.

“The best way to get rid of them is to rip out all the carpets and throw out the mattresses.”

“How about foam mattresses?”

“They can get into everything. Some people think they are safe if they use goose down pillows, but they get into them as well.”

I said, “I haven’t seen Silver for a while.”

“I’ve heard,” said Joy, “that he’s been panning down near the Mission. That’s crazy! The spot he has here is a gold mine and he’s been here over ten years. I think he’s smoking crack again. People have seen him sitting with the crack heads down at the Mission.”

“I said, “It must be hard to get off that stuff, once you’ve started.”

“I was fine when I was just dealing it, but when I started to smoke it I was hooked. What got me off it was my mother threatening that unless I quit I’d never see my kids again. I quit right away, no programs or anything. I used to be a lot heavier. When I quit the crack I also stopped eating so much. When my mother saw me losing weight she thought I was back on drugs. I just didn’t want to be fat anymore.

“Wolf and Weasel are both crack heads. I don’t know why Wolf puts up with the abuse that Weasel gives him. Wolf always gives him a place to stay. He even has a sign on his door that says, ‘gone fishing’, which is the same as saying, ‘fuck off’, but Weasel will just keep hammering on the door. One time he kicked it in.”

I said, “That was the night that Wolf and Shaggy slept at ‘the heater’. Wolf said he was so glad to see Andre and Hippo, just for protection.”

“Shaggy would never let anything happen to Wolf. I was over at his place with Outcast. It was an absolute mess. Wolf said, ‘Don’t lecture me, Joy. I know it’s a mess. I’ll get around to cleaning it.’ “

“I saw a lot of crack heads further down on Queen Street, where my son lives.”

“There are a lot in Regent Park as well. I remember one time I was running from the cops. In my building they used to have crash doors. I didn’t know they had changed them. Anyway, I was running down the hall, lickety split, hit the door and knocked myself out. I woke up at the cop shop. I said to them, ‘Okay, you caught me, write me up and I’ll get out of here.’ They let me go and I went right back to doing what I was doing before.

“I went to The Womens’ Center to see about my identification. They said, ‘We’re sorry, Joy. We’ve run into a bit of a snag, but we should have your papers shortly.’ It’s as if I don’t exist, but I get my G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax) check. See here it is. Joy K. Sturgess.”

“What does the K. stand for?”

“Kathleen, well actually, Kathlee. My mom ran out of room on the birth registration form. I thought that Kathlee was kind of neat, it was original, but people kept adding the ‘n’ anyway.”

The weather at noon was hot and muggy. At the park Shakes was laying on the sidewalk, the rest were sitting on a curb. Tempers were short. Shakes and Andre nearly got into a fight over whether or not Shakes had any wine. “I must have told him six times,” said Shakes, “I don’t have any wine.”

“I wasn’t asking if you had wine, I asked if you have any cigarettes. If you want one I got some,” said Andre.

Shakes said, “Andre and I went to the Jazz’n Blues Festival last night. Andre rode his bike and I walked. I arrived a few minutes before he did. I met an old friend there. He said, ‘Let’s get together around eleven.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ We got together sometime between eleven thirty and midnight. We went to his place. We had some beer, some wine, some pot, did some lines, ate some ‘shrooms. I woke Andre at eight o’clock. I said, ‘Let’s have some LSD.’ “

Andre said, “I partied with the band last night. All I had to do was show them some of my belly dance and I was in.”

Gaston said, “Next week I’m attending an AIDS conference in Chicago from July 22-27. I return home, then leave again for Arizona.

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