Archive for April 19, 2019

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group3

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10 September 2012

I wore my Autumn windbreaker today. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing. The congregation was at the far end of the park. Joy walked toward me and we met at the sidewalk.

“I didn’t know whether or not you’d be coming,” she said. “I was about ready to leave when I saw your head above the bushes. I’m feeling sick. I cooked some chicken from Loblaws and I’ve been throwing up all night. It didn’t affect Chester, but it’s the second time I’ve gotten sick after eating their chicken. I’m always careful to cook it thoroughly, same with pork, I know how sick it can make you. I’m going to leave now. I just want to lie down and take it easy today. I can’t even drink.

”You wouldn’t happen to have some extra bus tickets for Chester would you?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m all out. I’ll have to get more at the convenience store.”

“I just thought I’d ask. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, Joy. Get lots of rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hey,” said Andre, “Don’t I get a hug?”

“If I bend over, I might puke all over you.”

Andre put his wide-brimmed hat upside down on his head and said, “Okay, I’m ready. How about my hug?”

The grass was still wet from the overnight rain. Sitting on the curb, near the railing, were Timmy, Clint and Chester. On the lawn were Andre and Shakes. I sat between Timmy and Shakes who, as usual, was lying on his side, resting on one elbow.

“Shakes,” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”

“I just got back into town from Kingston. I spent the last week there. A friend took me. He wanted to get out of Ottawa for a while, just to have a change of scenery.”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“The first day was awful. A dog died, some women were fighting and one guy tried to commit suicide; but that was just the first day.”

“Were these friends of yours? Did the dog belong to one of your friends?”

“No, I didn’t know them.”

“I spent seventy dollars on food, but mostly I had meals, home cooked by friends I met.

“Since I got back, I lost my wallet. Could you give me another of those Tim Horton’s cards? The one you gave me before was in the wallet I lost.”

“Sure, Shakes.”

Timmy put some Kleenex in Andre’s wide brimmed hat. “That’s for Shakes, he’s drooling.”

“He’s just drunk, that’s all.“

“Andre,” I said, “you’ve got a couple of fancy hats, since I saw you last.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get a collection. This one has feathers around the brim. If I ever get lost in the woods, I can use them to tie flies for fishing. I lost most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. A friend, who’d been sleeping at the hut with us, was leaving town. He made a pile of all the stuff he couldn’t carry with him. There was a pair of size twelve work boots. I was going to bring them to Clint. There was also a pair of size ten, Gortex winter boots with Kevlar toes, heels and shanks. They were insulated and Thinsulated — do you know what I mean? — two layers of insulation. They came up to my knees. I’m guessing they were worth about $400.00. I stayed at the Sally Ann one night. The next day, I left my things in storage. They were locked and were supposed to be secure. I stayed at Katrina’s for two nights.

“When I came back to the Sally, I went to bed 245, where I thought I had slept; but the locker was empty. It looked like my bed, same color blanket, made up like mine. I always make my bed after I get up in the morning. I went to the desk and asked the guy, ‘What bed was I sleeping in? I thought it was 245.’ He checked and said, ‘You were in 295.’ I checked that bed and again, an empty locker. I was really pissed off. I figure the guys at the desk cut the lock and took my stuff.

“I went down and yelled at them, ‘I had two brand new pairs of boots in there, and a bottle and a half of sherry.’ One guy said, ‘Andre, are you ratting yourself out, telling us you brought liquor on the premises?’ I said, ‘I’m just being truthful.’ They said, ‘It shows on our record, that the contents of that locker were signed out.’ I said, ‘Well, I didn’t sign anything out. I don’t believe that. You guys cut the lock and took my new boots. They were so new they didn’t even have dirt on the treads. You don’t want to see any of us building up a stock of anything.’ I stormed out.” I was living outside for four months and after one night at the Sheps and one night at the Mission I’ve lost everything.

“I’ve been getting these bites all around the waistband of my track pants.” He pulled his pants down to expose his hip and to show the red marks. “They’re some kind of mites, I think. I threw all the clothes I was wearing in the garbage, then took a shower. When I came out all I had to put on was a towel. The guy at the desk asked, ‘Why are you walking around like that, Andre?’ I said, ‘I need new clothes. My old ones were full of bugs.’ He said, ‘We can’t help you with that until 7:45.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I guess I’ll be walking around in this towel until 7:45.’ ”

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

Andre said, “You’re not likely to, either. He’s probably in hiding. Jake was drunk and Hippo came up and punched him four times in the head for no reason. Then he was causing trouble at Starbucks. They called the police. The police knew we were staying out back. Bearded Bruce said the police ripped down our hut and threw all our stuff into the dumpster. Later, someone set fire to it.”

Shakes said, “I lost my brand new sleeping bag.”

Andre said, “Those women at Hope Recovery are really saints.”

Clint asked, “Do you mean at the Sheps?”

“Yeah” said Andre. “They all know me there. It’s funny though. I went downstairs and they said I was too drunk, so I went upstairs and they said I wasn’t drunk enough. One of them  even asked me, ‘Andre, do you have any more booze? Go out, have a few more drinks and we’ll let you in.’

“I went out back to, what we call, the pig pen. A sister came by and asked me, ‘Do you want to buy a twenty-six of rye for $13.00?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. That’s a pretty good price. I just happened to have $13.70. I’d already drunk two and a half bottles of sherry. A guy sat next to me, pulled out a fancy crack pipe and put a forty in it. His buddy, sitting next to him, said, ‘Be careful.’ The guy looked around for cops then lit his pipe. I drank more and more of the rye, straight up. Then I smacked the guy in the back of the head. The pipe flew out of his mouth, the forty went rolling across the parking lot. Some sisters picked the stuff up, but the pipe was fucked. The guy’s buddy said, ‘I told you to be careful. When Andre gets into the hard stuff, he gets crazy, especially around crack smokers.’

“I went back upstairs and they let me in.”

Timmy said, “That reminds me — we should have walkie-talkies. Then I could six you if I saw the cops coming from my direction, and you could six me if you saw them coming from where you were.”

Andre said, “They’ve got this new fangled invention now. It’s called a cell phone. That’s what people use them for.”

Clint said, “You know, one time a cop was really nice to me. I was up in North Bay. I asked him if there was any place I could set up a tent. He said, ‘Sure, get in.’ He let me sit in the front seat. He didn’t pat me down or anything. He took me behind this gas station, where some empty rigs were parked. He said, ‘You should be safe here.’ Then he left.”

Timmy said, “I’ve been given rides by the cops before, but they always frisked me. They even apologized, said it wasn’t anything personal, it was regulation. If a guy was in the back seat with a gun, he could shoot the cops and steal the car. They left the sliding window open so we could chat back and forth. I’ve never ridden in the front seat of a cop car. Sometimes, they even have shotguns mounted on the console, on a swivel.”

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