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They Call Me Red

……

4 June, 2013

Little Chester, Back from Hospital

When I arrived at the park the only friend I saw was Little Chester. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. He took a few unsteady steps forward. I was worried that he would fall into traffic, so I suggested that we sit on the curb.

“Do you know where I spent last night?” he asked.

“No, where?”

“In the hospital.”

“Why were you in the hospital?”

“I was drunk.”

“Did you pass out someplace?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you pass out?”

“I don’t know. On the sleeping bench. The police were by earlier. They asked if I was drunk . I said, ‘Yes.’ They left me alone. They came by an hour later and asked me if I was drunk. I said, ‘No.’ They left me alone.”

I asked, “How long have you been on the street?”

“I’m not really on the street. I have a place to stay, with my daughter. She’s twenty-seven. She’s into fitness. She has her own studio.”

“You told me where you’re from, but I’ve forgotten.”

“Newfoundland.”

“That’s a beautiful province . I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen it featured on television.”

“They make that all up. It’s not beautiful; it’s ugly.”

“I like rocks and being near the ocean.”

“They’ve got plenty of that.”

Maryjane came by and asked, “Is anyone else here?”

I said, “Chester said it was just him and me. The police were by a couple of times.”

“I’ll go take a look.”

Wolf came down to the sidewalk, “Dennis, we’re over here! What do you think of my girl?” Shaggy had been clipped and groomed.

“She looks great, Wolf. It will be a lot cooler for her. I see she’s not panting. ”

“No, she likes it. She’s still got a head like a lion, and a funny tail, with nothing in the middle.” Shaggy started barking. Shakes took her tail and pretended he was winding her up. She lunged and nearly bit his finger.

“That’s it Shaggy, take another bite. She’s acting like she’s hungry, but I’ve run out of biscuits. It’s not like she’s on starvation rations, she ate a whole bag this morning.”

Shakes said, “You know Dennis, since I’ve had my apartment I’ve slept outside two nights. Both nights it was friggin’ pouring friggin’ rain.”

I said, “You’re lucky the police didn’t find you. They would have taken you to The Shepherd.”

“Yeah, but they would have released me the next day. There was only one time that they kept me for three weeks. I was on probation and had a stipulation saying that I wasn’t allowed to drink. When I was in jail they asked me, ‘Shakes, why do you keep drinking when you know it’s not allowed?’ I said, ‘I didn’t listen to my parents either.’ The piggies have only been to my apartment once. It was the time I was jumped and the other guy said I had stolen money from him, can you imagine that?

“It was at Queen and Jarvis. I was on the ground, but I kept fighting. It was like a turtle on it’s back, my fists were going, my feet were kicking. Ha, ha, ha.

“I guess they believed your word over his. Was that it?”

“The police said to me, ‘Shakes, show us your money.’ It had been in a banking envelope in the inside pocket of my jacket. The guy couldn’t find it. I gave the envelope to the police. There was two hundred and twenty dollars there. They said, ‘Shakes we’re going to keep this and return it to the man you stole it from.’ I said, ‘You’re not taking my money. I’m the victim here.’ They let me keep the money.

“Tommy gave me a lighter and, you know, I lost it. This morning I was going through the pockets of my leather jacket. Do you know what I found — my lighter. The only thing I need to get before I go home is two bottles of wine and some shit paper. Tommy bought some groceries, so we got food. I’ve got a gram.’

Wolf asked, “Has anybody seen my little buddy Jake? He wasn’t around yesterday and I didn’t see him Friday. You live close to him, don’t you Shakes?”

“Yeah, we live on the same street. There’s four buildings in a row. I live in one, he lives in the end one. I went over to his place Sunday at eight in the mornin’. I was afraid of making too much noise — it bein’ Sunday and all. He was sick — pukin’ all mornin’. I brought four bottles and two grams. I said, ‘Let’s have a drink!’ H e said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’ I said, ‘You mean I have to drink these four bottles all by myself.”

I said, “That doesn’t sound like Jake.”

‘Then I said, ‘How be, I roll us a joint?’ He said, ‘No man, I’m too sick.’

Wolf said, “That certainly doesn’t sound like that Jake I know. Here’s a little song that my dad used to sing:

Well, I walked round the corner
and I walked round the block,
and I walked right into a bakery shop.

I picked up a doughnut
and I wiped off the grease,
and I handed the lady a five cent piece.

Well, she looked at the nickel
and she looked at me,
and she said “Hey mister, you can plainly see.

There’s a hole in the nickel,
there’s a hole right through.”
Said I, “There’s a hole in the doughnut too!
Thanks for the doughnut, good-bye!”

I went by Little Chester on my way back to work. He was passed out, laying on the curb. The police will be taking him to The Shepherd, if he can walk, otherwise it will be to the hospital.

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