They Call Me Red

……

 

 

29 August 2013

There was a party atmosphere at the park today since everybody had received their monthly check. Chester was passed out on the sidewalk. He was led away before it was reported to the police.

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “Do you know what happened to me this morning?”

“No, tell me Shakes.”

“My workers picked me up to take me to my doctor’s appointment. I needed to have my blood test and some other things. When I got there, they handed the receptionist a photocopy of my health card. She said it had expired. I said to her, ‘You might as well say that I’ve expired.’ They wouldn’t take me. We went all that way for nothing. I don’t know what the problem was, they had my health number.”

I said, “You may have past your best before date, but you haven’t expired. Your workers will make sure you get a new health card, won’t they?”

“Yes, they will. This morning I was panning on Bank Street. A woman stopped and asked me if I’d like something to eat. I said, ‘Sure, but I have to make a stop on the way.’ I bought a bottle of Imperial at the liquor store, then we both went to Hartman’s. She bought me two frozen pizzas, two two-quart bottles of apple juice and some scalloped potatoes.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, he invited me over for supper and wouldn’t let me have any of the scalloped potatoes. The pizza was so friggin hot I had to take a swallow of beer with each bite. We watched videos, got stoned and drank beer. I live two buildings down from Shakes, about one hundred and fifty feet, still I managed to fall and bruise my arm.”

Shakes said, “Jake likes playing in the dirt.”

Jake said, “Last time I was taking a shower, I was leaning against the wall, looking down at the drain — the water was brown. I couldn’t believe it.”

“What movies did you watch?” I asked.

“What did we watch, Shakes? I can’t remember.”

“Gone in Sixty Seconds and True Lies.”

“That’s right. Shakes has a big collection, about fifty movies.”

“Yeah, I got a friend, I served time with about fifteen years ago. He’s got a used DVD and record store.  He always gives me good deals.

“I haven’t paid the bill for my telephone or my TV, but I got two friends that work for Bell. They’re going to hook me up.”

I asked, “How have you been Jake?”

“This abscessed tooth started bothering me,  a couple of days ago; but this morning it’s really swollen and painful.”

Shakes said, “I’m good at removing teeth, just lean in my direction.”

I asked, “Do you think a right hook would do the trick?”

Jake said, “I pulled this bottom one by myself. I tied some fishing line around the tooth, then tied the string to the doorknob. I gave the door a kick and out popped the tooth. It flew straight up. I couldn’t find it until I looked in the garbage pail beside me — there it was. Isn’t that amazing? I couldn’t have done that if I’d tried.”

Raven had been here earlier, but she disappeared. Shakes asked, “Where’s Raven? Oh yeah, she’s down in the park with her crackhead. I meant to say granddaughter, but crackhead came out.”

Mariah came over, “It’s good to see you, Dennis. I don’t know where Joy is. I called her place, but there was no answer. She probably has her check now, so there will be people she has to pay back, and errands to run. We don’t expect to see her until next week, sometime.”

“I heard that Andre came by yesterday and you took care of him.”

“Well, he deserved it for what he did to Joy. He was with his new girlfriend and I didn’t like the way he was treating her either. I was talking to her for a while. I said, ‘Look, I don’t know you and I don’t have any beef against you, but if this guy ever gives you a hard time, just let me know.’ She was pretty quiet at first, but when Andre stepped away she said, ‘I’ve just had laser eye surgery and Andre keeps telling me to take off my sunglasses, but the sun really hurts my eyes.’ So I had a talk with him about that.  It seems every time I see him I’m either smacking him in the face or punching him in the belly. It started one time he was over at my place. He kept taking pictures of me on his phone. I said, ‘Don’t take my picture!’ He kept on doing it. There are reasons that I don’t want my picture all over the place, so I let him have it. He was whimpering like a little kid, ‘You’re not going to hit me again are you?’ I said, ‘If you stop acting like a dickhead, I won’t have to.’ ”

Chili is still in her walker, I heard her mention that she was scheduled for an operation. She said,  “I’ve got osteomyelitis (infection of the bone, common to intravenous drug users).” In this case, injecting crack. “I’ve already had about a half-inch of bone loss. They’re treating me with antibiotics. If that clears it up the infection, they’ll schedule a hip replacement. That will probably happen in about four months.”

Jake said, “Shakes, hand her a drink, will you? That’s the only way to shut her up, otherwise, she’ll never stop talking.”

Before I left, Jake handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I asked, “What’s this for?”

“Just for safe keeping.  I’m sure to be broke before next check day, so you can give it back to me then.”

 

~~~

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