Archive for February, 2020

They Call Me Red

……

30 July 2013

At the park today were Little Jake, Shakes (asleep),  Mariah, Wolf and Shaggy (asleep). Joy hasn’t been around for a couple of weeks. I asked Mariah if she had heard from her.

“Joy hasn’t been too well lately with her fibromyalgia and headaches. At first, her right leg and left arm were stiff, then it was her two legs. She was thinking that she’d have to go back to the hospital, but she’s getting around with two canes. Every once in a while she manages to climb the stairs to my place. She hopes to come to visit everybody shortly. She was asking about you. I’ll tell her you said hello.

“I don’t know how Joy will make out when I leave. I’m looking for a different apartment. It’s just getting too bad.”

Little Jake said, “You mean you want to get out of Regent Park. I don’t blame you.”

“No, Regent Park is alright, it’s just our landlady. She does nothing for us.  It used to be I’d keep everything under control tenant-wise.  We used to have a lot of riffraff, but I let her know what was going on. I helped her get rid of this schizo guy that lived where Joy is now. He was a real nut case. Every crack he saw he put duct tape over it; every seam in the tile floor, the seams around the door, cracks in the wall. He always carried around a bag of rotten potatoes. That was really smelly and gross. He took a hammer to the counter, the cupboards the walls. He destroyed the place, but he had a really good lawyer. It went to court and his lawyer claimed it was all wear and tear. The guy did it again before he moved out.

“We got this one old lady who wears diapers and she leaks if you know what I mean. It’s not her fault and she can’t clean it up herself, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to clean that shit every day. It’s disgusting to find that in the hallway all the time. I’m usually the one who phones the landlady.

“We got this other guy who just moved in. He bought some kind of air conditioner/dehumidifier and it’s always tripping the breakers. It’s a damn nuisance if you’re in the middle of cooking supper, or relaxing in the evening watching a bit of TV. Only the landlady has access to the breakers. Now, every time she picks up the phone she asks, ‘Has he done it again?’ Actually, it hasn’t happened for about two weeks.

“Then there’s this problem of the floor sagging. There’s a pole in the corner of my bedroom, that used to be the living room.  When I first moved in there was a gap above it of about a half-inch. Now it’s about four inches. I told her that if my floor collapses, my lawyer will sue her for alternative accommodation, for the whole time they’re fixing the floor. That has her scared shitless. I better not call her again or I’ll be out. A rat lives down beside the pole. I see him every so often.

“The thing is they just bought this other sixteen unit building that they put money into fixing up. Got it all freshly painted. They rented it to a bunch of crack heads;  now it looks like a disaster area. If they had money to fix that place, why didn’t they put some money into our place where we have decent tenants.”

Luther walked up the sidewalk, “I just got out of court.”

Jake asked, “What did you steal this time?”

“I didn’t steal anything. I broke into an Anglican church.”

I said, “…and stole a jar of peanut butter.”

“Yeah, I told you that already, didn’t I. I’m allergic to peanuts. I just had a craving. When I was a kid, I was abused by an Anglican minister in Saskatoon. Anyway, at court, I told them I had a fit at the front of the church. They let me off. I just have to pay a hundred dollars for the door I smashed.”

“Luther,” asked Jake, “did you pawn your guitar again?”

“No, I got two guitars now, but I left them at home. It was too much trouble bringing a guitar in the cab and I’d have no place to leave it in court.”

“You look naked without your guitar, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I’ll have it next time. Gotta go.”

I asked Jake, “You’re looking for a new place aren’t  you?”

“No, I worked that out with my social worker. I’m going to stay there for the winter.”

“Has she arranged furniture for you yet?”

“No, I’m on a waiting list. I think a hundred and fifty-seven people are ahead of me.”

“Why is that, You’ve been there nearly a year now, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, but I missed a few appointments. Each time I miss an appointment I get moved to the bottom of the list.”

Mariah said, “You’re going to have to get that place cleaned up. Get all that garbage out of there.”

“Yeah, I know.

“Well, I paid all my debts and I got a hundred and thirty dollars to last ’till the end of the month. Jacques owes me fifty bucks.”

I asked, “Does he still owe you fifty bucks?”

“No, he paid that back. This was fifty he borrowed yesterday, just until he gets his check. I always get mine a day or two earlier.

“Whaddya know, here comes Little Chester and he’s dragging his foot. That means he’s drunk. He was dragging his foot at eight-thirty this morning. AND HE’S ALWAYS CUTTING MY GRASS, THE BASTARD. YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU, CHESTER!”

Chester said, “I love you too. What do you mean I’m cutting your grass. When you come along I move.”

“Yeah, you move fifteen feet up the bridge. THE BRIDGE IS MINE. That’s been my spot for ten years. Go downtown or find some other spot. How about going for a swim? I’ll push you off the bridge.”

“No, thanks.”

“Actually, I love jumping off that bridge, especially when it’s hot.”

Mariah said, “You gotta wait until they cut the weeds, otherwise those things can pull you down.”

“Yeah, I know, the last time I dove in there was last September. I was drunk and stoned out of my mind. I saw this gorgeous girl across the river. She had one of those big dogs with the blue tongue. What are they called?”

Mariah said, “Maybe an Airedale or an Akita?”

“Yeah, one of those. Anyway, I just took my shoes off and dived in, pants on and everything. I got caught in the weeds and the more I struggled the further down I went. I saw a cop standing beside the river and I yelled at him, ‘Help! I’m caught in the weeds!’ Before he pulled me out with a pole he asked, ‘If I pull you out are you going to dive back in?’ I said, ‘No, for Christ’s sake, just get me out of here before I drown.

“When I was living with Weasel and Bruce, sometimes I’d wake up with Bear right in my face. Weasel had his face in Bear’s ass.”

I said, “I remember you saying  you woke up one time licking Bear’s face.”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you live under a bridge.”

Shakes woke up, “Dennis, how’re you doin’? I haven’t seen you for ages. Where you bin? Dennis, do you have any bus tickets?… Great, now I’ll be able to get home tonight and get to the bank tomorrow. My check should be in my mailbox.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

17 July 2013

After I got off the bus I was approached by Two-four who hands out the free newspaper.  He asked, “Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Sun Media is shutting down the newspaper. I’ll be out of a job in two weeks.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been through this before. I’ll pick something up. Maybe,  Metro is hiring. Who knows, I might be back at this same spot. It’s not the job I’ll miss it’s the people. I’ve really gotten used to my regulars. They make the job seem worthwhile.

“That’s the way it goes.”

“Best of luck, Two-four.”

When I approached Joy, she had her head down on her knees. “Joy?” I asked, “Are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah, I was just laughing. Did you see the guy who walked by with the Hawaiian shirt and the faux hawk hairdo? The lady I was talking to was saying what a womanizer he is. I said, ‘He’s gay!’ She said he’s always coming on to all the women in the office. He even asks them out. He’ll usually cancel at the last minute.’ I said, ‘That’s because he likes penises.’ The lady said, ‘Why would he go to all that trouble? We all know he’s gay.’

“I wasn’t here yesterday because I was still feeling sick. I didn’t go to the park, I just went straight to Giant Tiger. I threw up three times in there —  great gobs of phlegm. ‘Cleanup in aisle 4!’ They didn’t have the hamburgers I wanted, so I got bacon instead. I threw that up too.”

I asked, “Do you think you’re suffering from withdrawal?”

“No, I’m drinking. It’s just the heat. I can’t take it.”

“Did you see an outreach worker to arrange for your health card?”

“Yeah,  I filled out all the papers. They mailed them. I should get my card in two or three weeks. Then, I’ll be all set.

“I’m half in the bag today.”

“Did you have trouble sleeping?”

“Yeah, Big Jake and Hippo were over yesterday. I said to them, ‘You guys can’t just drop over here anytime you want.’   Jake said, ‘Yeah, well, they kicked me out of the Sally. I’m over at Shepherd now and they don’t have storage space for my boxes.’ I said, ‘Jake, I got a small place here I don’t have room to store stuff for people.

“It’s all his paper stuff. He can make a Harley out of folded paper —  little handlebars and everything. Something he learned in prison.  He’s really good at it.  One sale was for a hundred bucks. He’s making one for me now. I said, ‘I want it purple with silver flames.’ He said, ‘I do them with black flames.’ I said, ‘Either do it the way I say, or I’ll paint over it with yellow.’ That changed his mind. I even showed him how to make a v-twin engine. He was just making two boxes, but the way I did it looks really neat.

“He was asking if I would take care of him when he has his hip replacement surgery. I asked him, ‘You want me to take care of you? After what you did to me? No way! I don’t do that care shit.’  I’ll help him out a bit when he gets out of the hospital, but I told him, ‘You gotta get out of that chair and exercise. You can’t just sit there all day. Your joints need to move around or they’ll get stiff.”

I asked, “Does he know when he’s going into hospital?”

“He’s on a waiting list, but his situation is critical, so he’s at the front of the line.”

I asked, “Did you hear that the free newspaper is shutting down? Two-four will be out of a job.”   “Yeah, he said he’s going to try at Metro. I hope he replaces that asshole they got now. He’s always asking me how my day is going. I’ll say, ‘Okay.’ He says you should be having an EXcellent day!  Bye now and have an EXcellent day!’ I’d like to ram that newspaper down his throat.”

Chester came by and said, “Hi Joy, hi Dennis.” He waited for a while without speaking then asked Joy, “Do you have some money for a coffee?” Joy handed him a Tim Horton’s card with five dollars credit on it. “How about bus tickets?”

“Chester, It’s Wednesday, seniors ride free all day.”

“Well, there’s always tomorrow.”

“You’ve had enough, Chester. I’ll see you later.”

After he left I asked, “Why doesn’t he panhandle, if he needs extra money?”

“I don’t know. He picks up butts and eats at the Mission, the Salvation Army or the Shepherd. He can be a pain in the ass sometimes. He’s too proud to ask the public for money, but he’s not too proud to ask us, who have hardly any.”

“Hi sweetheart!” Joy yelled to a woman crossing the street. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”

She said,  “I don’t work around here any more. I’m just dropping something off.” To me Joy said, “She’s lost half her ass. I notice everything.”

A ragged looking man wearing shorts walked by. Joy said, “Hey, Buddy, want a smoke?” She held one out.

“Yeah, thanks.”

“There was another woman by earlier who was really nasty, she had a kid with her too.  She said to me, ‘You’re no better than dirt.’ I said to her, ‘How would you like to see your hair on fire?’ That shut her up pretty quick. At first she wasn’t sure if I was serious or not, but the look I gave her told her I was.’ Sometimes I just like scaring people.

“After I leave here, I’m going to meet Tracey. She has a phone for me. I’ll really feel human then.”

~~~

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They Call Me Red

……

 

15 July 2013

When I approached Joy she was doubled over, holding her knees. When she lifted her head her face looked pale and gaunt.

“You don’t look very good,”  I said.

“I don’t feel very good. I’ve been this way for five or six days now. Can you spare some change so I can get some Gravol. I can’t seem to keep anything down. I even tried my grandmother’s remedy of burnt toast scraped into water. It’s supposed to have the same effect as the charcoal they give you when you o.d.

“One time I got picked up by the police and I had a bunch of prescription drugs on me. They didn’t check, they just threw me in the back of the cruiser. I wolfed down these pills, I nearly gagged. When they got me to the station I was kind of dazed. They said to me, ‘You weren’t like this when we picked you up. What did you take?’ They found the empty pill bottles on the floor of the cruiser. The Desk Sargent asked the cops, ‘You didn’t check her for drugs?’ They didn’t know how many pills I’d taken so they sent for the ambulance. I went to the hospital and had my stomach pumped.

“Even granny’s remedy didn’t work. I couldn’t hold that down. Since last Tuesday I’ve been going from the sofa to the garbage pail. Half the time I don’t make it. I’m tired of mopping my floor. At least I don’t have the runs, but since I don’t have any food in my system there’s nothing to come out.”

A lady stopped by and handed Joy a blister pack of Gravol and two slices of dry toast. ‘Bless you,’ said Joy.   To me, she said, “I didn’t think she was going to come back. I’m going to save the toast for later. I can’t face the idea of eating right now. I  think I’ll just stop for a cup of tea.”

She took two of the tablets and waited a few minutes. “These are supposed to make me feel better, but I feel horrible. They have an orange taste, like the Tang we used to mix with vodka. Remember that orange powder stuff? Supposedly the astronauts drank that —  Yuck!  I think I’m going home.

“I have to stop at Giant Tiger on my way. They have those frozen burgers on sale. I can just fry them or nuke them. If I can’t eat them it’s not much to throw in the trash. I hate going to Giant Tiger this time of day. It’s when all the skids are there. They smell so bad. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to take it.”

“I haven’t had a drink for six days. Jacques is the same way. We just can’t face it. I feel chilled, then I feel hot. Jacques gave me this purple hoodie. I put it on, then take it off.

“I was really pissed off last week. I told you the cable guy was supposed to come by Tuesday. I waited around all day, but he didn’t show. He came Thursday — that meant I missed my appointment with the outreach worker to see about my health card. Greg was acting all pissy about that, but I couldn’t phone him to cancel or explain because the phone guy didn’t leave me a phone. He said, ‘We don’t do that anymore. Too many phones were being stolen.’ I have to admit I’ve stolen a few in my time.

“At least I have television now. That makes a big difference. I don’t have to watch the same old shit all the time.”

 

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