group2

18 July 2012

Noon at the park was pleasant. The weather was warm with a refreshing breeze. Many of the regulars had gone to the Don River, near where Jacques lives. On the sidewalk were Jake, Loon, Hippo, Andre, and Danny.

“How do I get to the Don?” asked Loon.

“Fastest way,” said Andre, “is to take any of the long busses  on Queen and get off at Bayview. Make sure you don’t try to jump any of the short busses.”

Loon said, “What if I take the streetcar. Won’t that take me there?”

“For one, “said Andre,”The streetcars are harder to jump.  Two, it’s a two hundred and thirty-five dollar ticket if you get caught.”

Jake said to me, “I can’t panhandle any more.”

“Yeah,” I said, “You told me that yesterday.”

“No, I got charged again last night. I don’t know why they have such a hard-on for me, but I was at my usual spot and a cop car pulls up. He writes me a ticket and says, ‘This is the last time, Jake. I know that as soon as I’m gone you’re going to be panning again. I won’t be back, but the next time I catch you, you’re going to jail.’

“I asked, ‘Was anyone following him?’

‘No, not as far as I knew.’

“It wasn’t ten minutes before a cop on foot patrol came and wrote me up. He said, ‘Next time, Jake, you’re going to jail.’ It all started with Peterman, that’s what we call him. Now, I’m on probation and have two breaches against me. I’m going to start fighting back.”

“What are you going to do, Jake.”

“Spit on them!”

“Don’t do that Jake,” I said, “You’ve got AIDS, the charge will be assault with a deadly weapon. Because of Joy’s hep c, she did eighteen months for spitting near a cop. It didn’t even hit him.”

“What am I supposed to do? It’s still two weeks to check day and I’ve got no money. None of us have been doing very well, except for the Jazz’n Blues Festival. I’ve got a hearing tomorrow. That’ll just be in and out. Then I’ve got a court appearance on the twenty-ninth, I think. I’ve got it written down someplace. I’m going to fight it.”

Hippo said, “When you go to court, Jake, ask for legal aid. At the legal aid office, get an appointment with Sherry. Tell her you’re an alcoholic and that you’re living on the street. She’s an alcoholic herself.”

Andre said, “I don’t know why they bother you guys. I’m at my usual spot in front of Tim Hortons. I’ve got some regulars. One buys me a large coffee every morning. Today, I shared it with Hippo. There’s another who buys me a bagel or an English muffin. A cop came by and asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘Officer, I’m eating my breakfast.’ He said, ‘You’ve got your hat out.’ ‘Yes I do,’ I said, ‘I live on the streets. What else am I supposed to do?’ He left me alone.

“I worked at this bar in Calgary once. I was the cook, the maintenance guy, the bartender and the bouncer. When customers would come in I’d tell them, ‘We only got one rule here — don’t piss off the cook. If you piss of the cook, you won’t get anything to drink, and you’ll be thrown out.”

Danny said, ‘I have a regular who brings me heart-shaped cookies every morning. She calls them love cookies. This morning she said, “I’ve never given you money before, so take this.’ She dropped a twenty. She’s cute too.

“I found a lot of booze at the Jazz’n Blues Festival. I brought my flashlight to look for empties and I came across a bag behind a curb. In it was half a twenty-six of V.S.O.P cognac. It wasn’t Remy Martin, or anything special, but it sure was good. I almost threw the bag out when I noticed this can of weed. I also found sixteen full beer cans that people had stashed in the bushes and the hedge.”

Andre said, “Shakes and I didn’t make it through the gate until the last night. It’s a bit harder when you’re riding a bicycle. You can’t just jump the fence. Anyway, we were coming by one of the back trails and I saw an empty bottle of vodka. Nearby was a water bottle, but it had something orange in it. I thought to myself, That’s odd, what do people usually mix with vodka?. I put two and two together and took a sip. It was powerful.”

Jake said, “People think I’m lucky because I get to sit in the sun and get a good tan. The only reason I do is because I have to sit for hours, in the sun, waiting to get my price.”

Andre said, “I’ve still got a full bag of food left over from last night. I’ve got a slice of pizza, some steamed rice and half a sub.”

“I’m getting hungry,” said Hippo. I’m going to have to make another trip to Freshco. Yesterday, I got seventeen bucks worth of food and only paid a dollar for a bag of chips. That canned ham I brought over last night — that’s where I got it.”

“There’s the Farmer’s Market south of Dundas between Sumach and Sackville Streets.” said Danny.

Jake said, “I don’t have any batteries for my radio. I’m going to have to steal four double A’s.”

“You really are in a hurry to go back to prison,” said Andre.

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