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salvationarmy

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27 August 2012

This morning I went over to see Silver, panning in front of Starbucks. He was sitting on a plastic box. When I said hello, he was startled, he may have dozed off. “Hi Dennis, you snuck up on me.”

“How are you feeling, Silver?”

“Fine.”

“How is your stomach?”

“I’m going to see my doctor on Wednesday. I still don’t have any appetite and haven’t been sleeping well. Look at my ankles. See how swollen they are. Those aren’t my ankles at all.

“I think I’m getting what my mother had, varicose veins. See, beside my knee and down my calf.”

“How did it go, panning at the church yesterday?”

“Not good.”

“Is that the one on Kent or on Sparks?”

“On Sparks, the one on Kent is where I was assaulted last spring. I didn’t even have to phone the cops. Two women from church were witnesses and there was a cop right on the corner. I was going to get up and talk to the cop, but the two women said, ‘Silver, you stay right here. We’ll deal with this.’

“When they came back they said, ‘Silver, you need to go to the hospital for stitches.’ I said, ‘No, just give me a couple of band-aids. It’ll heal better that way.”

I said, “I see you have a scar in your right eyebrow. Is that where you were hit?”

“That’s it.”

“So, what happened Sunday?”

“Where?”

“At the church on Sparks, you said it didn’t go well.” I said.

“No, I didn’t have a problem.”

“I’ve been taking a bit of a break lately. Trying to catch up on my sleep. On the weekend I watched a bunch of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies.”

I said, “I’ve always enjoyed those. ‘Pale Rider’ with Clint Eastwood is one of my favorites; another, is ‘Rooster Cogburn’ with John Wayne.”

“’Pale Rider’ is one of the ones I watched on the weekend.”

“I guess you’ll be getting your check soon.”

“Yeah, Sally will be around with it on Wednesday. I also want to get some laundry detergent and some socks from her.

“Were you up on the hill, Friday?” asked Silver.

“Yes I was.”

“Did the piggies come by?”

“Yes they did. They didn’t give out any tickets or ask us to move. Willy dumped part of his beer and Wolf had his hidden.”

“I was in the market. I saw them ride by and decided not to go to the park. I stayed at the loading dock where I often go. I’ve never been hassled there.”

On the way to the park at noon, I stopped to talk with Serge, “How are you doing today, Serge?”

“I’m fine.”

“On Friday you said you weren’t feeling very well.”

“When did I say that?”

“You were sitting on the bench, on Elgin Street, with William. I asked how you were. You said, ‘Not so good.’ ”

“I was tired,” he said. “I went beneath the bridge, where it was quiet, and I slept for a while. I felt better after that. Yesterday, I went up the stairs at the Art Centre and had a sleep up there.”

“So, your feeling better now?”

“Yeah, I got my booze,” he chuckled.

“I’m going up to the park. I’ll see you on my way back.”

“See you.”

At the park, sitting on the curb were seven of my human friends and a dog.

“How are you, Dennis?” asked Bruce.

“I’m fine, how about you?”

“I’m waiting here for my worker. She’s taking me to fill out the forms for housing. I’ll also have to get my picture taken – my health card has expired.

“Apart from that, it’s been a slow day. I was panning since 6:00 this morning and made 87 cents. I’m going to lose the busiest part of my working day, getting forms filled out, but it has to be done.”

I said, “Joy doesn’t do Mondays.”

“Wolf,” asked Bruce, “can I have a cigarette?” Wolf pulled out a clear plastic bag and threw him a cigarette. Bruce casually caught it in one hand. He lit it and said, “Shakes, can I have a sip from your bottle?” Shakes tossed the bottle and Bruce plucked it out of the air. He took a sip then tossed it back to Shakes who easily caught it in one hand.

Bruce said, “If that had been a sandwich or a ball I would have fumbled it, but a cigarette or a bottle, I never miss.”

I said to Silver, “You mentioned that you didn’t have a good day at the church on Sunday.”

“Did I say that? I think I meant to say, I didn’t make as much money as usual. Normally, I get from thirty to forty bucks. Yesterday, I think I got about twenty. At Christmas, one of my regulars dropped me five twenties. When he gave it to me I said, ‘This feels like more than a twenty.’ He didn’t say anything. I folded it, put it in my pocket. I didn’t count it until I got home.

”It has been slow lately. I blame it on the drifters — these people who live with their parents in the winter. When it comes spring the parents give them a hundred bucks and tell them to live somewhere else for a while. When winter comes they’re crying to their mommies and daddies to let them come home again.”

Bruce said to me quietly, “I could never pan in front of a church. I have nothing against those who do, but to me it seems wrong.”

Shakes said, “This morning I was just twenty cents short, to buy two bottles. Darren was going for a run, so I said to him, ‘Just bring me one for now.’”

Wolf motioned for me to move closer, “Don’t worry about Shaggy. She’ll be fine as long as you don’t touch her, or be aggressive.

”I was listening to these guys talking about panning, five or six days a week and getting maybe seven dollars. I couldn’t do that. Panning is hard work. Shaggy and I go out maybe once a week.

“I went to court Friday. Did I tell you about that? I was charged , a few months ago, with animal cruelty. Can you imagine that? Two women — I don’t know who they were — reported me to the police. It was just in the parking lot, behind where I live. I guess these women didn’t like the way I was putting Shaggy in her cart. They said I was too rough. I was walking along the sidewalk, pushing her cart, when three police cars screeched to a stop. They took my dog.

“You know, that dog means everything to me. I got her back the next day. I talked to my lawyer about it. He said I could plead guilty, or ask for a trial date. He recommended going to trial. Friday, they set the date for February 24. He said to contact him about two weeks before the trial. Last time, I got over a hundred signatures, from my friends and regulars, saying that I had never mistreated Shaggy.

“I rough house with her, but she always comes out on top. I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

Bruce’s worker came by. “Is Jake here?” she asked.

“No,” said Bruce. “I don’t know where he is.”

She said, “If any of you see him, tell him that I’ll be by here at noon tomorrow, to pick him up. Tell him that it’s very important.”

“Bruce, are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, just let me refill my bottle,”

Silver asked, “With apple juice?”

Bruce said, “Yeah, with apple juice.” The worker smiled. He pulled an Old Milwaukee out of his backpack and filled his bottle.

“Is anyone collecting?” asked Bruce.

“I’ll take it,” said Wolf. Bruce threw him the empty can. Wolf crushed it and threw it in Shaggy’s cart.

Hippo said, “Andre has gone over to Debbie’s. He asked me if I wanted to go. I thought about it and said, ‘No, I think I’ll just stay here.’ I really don’t like Debbie.”

It started to rain, and it was time for me to go back to work, so I said my good byes. I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Then, at the park bench, I said good-bye to Serge and William.

“See you tomorrow, Dennis,” they said.

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