……

19 December 2012

At noon the weather was mild, slightly above freezing, with no wind. The streets were slushy, but most of the snow had either been cleared, or it had melted. At ‘the heater’ I met six of my homeless friends and Shaggy. I’m never quite sure about Shaggy’s mood.

I said to Wolf, “I downloaded the James Ellroy trilogy, the one that ends with Suicide Hill.”

“You say you downloaded it? How did you do that?”

I said, “I have an electronic reader, a Kindle, and I downloaded the book from the internet.”

“I didn’t know you could do that. It’s a great series. It really gives you a feel of what life was like in Hollywood in the 1950s. They didn’t have cameras everywhere like they do now. No cameras in the holding cells. The cops could do anything they wanted. Don’t tell anybody I said this, because some of these guys, criminals, gangsters, think they’re tough by spitting on the cops and calling them names. Not me, it’s, ‘Yes officer, no officer.” If I’m drunk and they take me to jail, which they’ve done a few times, I’m polite. I say, ‘I don’t want to cause any trouble.’ We have it good now. I’m glad you got those books, you’ll enjoy them.

“Does anyone want a chocolate covered muffin?” Wolf passed the plastic container to Jacques who took one. He broke off a piece and asked Wolf’s permission to give it to Shaggy.

“Sure, Jacques, Shaggy likes chocolate.” To me, Peter said, “Now if it was Weasel, he’d have a fit if anyone offered chocolate to Bear. He’d kill them. But, I figure, a little piece of chocolate, just a little one, mind you, I wouldn’t give her a whole chocolate bar, but one square of a Cadbury’s Caramilk, or something like that, isn’t going to hurt her. I know I shouldn’t smoke or drink beer. I shouldn’t use pot or the other stuff, that we don’t talk about, but I’m healthy. I don’t have stomach problems. I enjoy a drink and a smoke with my friends every once in a while. It’s a treat for me. Shaggy needs a treat sometimes too.”

I saw Bearded Bruce. He walked over to me and shook my hand. He said, “I haven’t been around here for the past four months, but I was hoping I’d see you. I have my own apartment now. I’ve been there about three weeks now. I still can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I have my own place, my own brand new oven, fridge and a new floor. I still sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag, but gradually I’m getting some furniture. I’ve got a couple of chairs to relax in.

“Jenny from 507 approached me a couple of times. She said, we have spots for ninety people in our program and we want to choose you to be a part of it. I said I wasn’t interested, then she visited me in jail when I did the five months. I was in there with thirty guys. When she came we were allowed to go to a big empty room to talk. Just being in a room with so much space got me thinking about how much I was missing. Anyway, when I got out I started on this program, she found me the apartment, got me on O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They cover part of my apartment rent, the rest comes directly out of my monthly check. I haven’t even cashed my last Welfare check. Jenny asked me about it. I said, ‘I’ve still got some of my start-up allowance.’

“I’m cooking Christmas dinner, it’ll be Weasel and some of the homeless people. If you don’t have any plans, you’re welcome to come. I got a fourteen pound, Lilydale, grain fed turkey. I’ll be cooking that on Christmas day. I’ll be getting a ham Friday. I’ll cook that Christmas Eve because my oven isn’t big enough for them both. We’ll have mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the trimmings. I’m a certified chef you know. I’m qualified to work at the Chateau Laurier.

“I have a good resume, good qualifications, it’s just the five-year gap when I was into drugs and alcohol. I’ve been to a few interviews, and I’m straight forward about my time in jail. I just have to find an employer who’s been there, who knows where I’m coming from.”

“It’ll come, Bruce. Just give it time.”

“I’ve also joined A.A., but I don’t like it. I may find another group I like, but at this one there’s too much talk about God. I’m not a God person. I was when I was little and I may be later on, but not now, so that puts me in conflict with a lot of the steps in the twelve step program. I have cut my drinking back to about eighteen beer a week. I smoke more pot, but no crack, no other drugs. I won’t even allow them in my house.

“Have you seen Hippo?”

I said, “Not for the last week or so.”

“Tell him that I want to see him. He owes me money, but he doesn’t have to worry. I’m not going to fight him. I wouldn’t beat that lovable, fat bastard. I forgive him the debt and I want to forgive him in person. It’s a Scottish tradition that on New Year’s Eve I put on new clothes, new socks, new underwear, and forgive all those people who have wronged me, or who I have wronged.”

“That’s a good tradition. Have you seen Joy, she’s in the hospital?”

“I mean to go see her. She may not want to see me. We had kind of a falling out a while ago. I said some bad things to her. I want to apologize and set things right.”

It was time for me to go. I shook hands with Wolf and Jacques. Wolf had been to the food bank. Bruce asked him, “Wolf, will you sell me those eggs for two dollars?”

“Sure, I’ll even throw a loaf of bread in for free. Sorry, I don’t have any cheese, you could have made an omelet.”

Dave said to me, “See, Peter knows I cook and Inuk’s tasted my cooking. Inuk, tell Dennis what a good cook I am.” She nodded.

“Inuk, you’re welcome to come over to my new place. I won’t sleep with you, but you’re welcome to visit.”

We all said goodbye for another day.

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