Archive for March 4, 2020

They Call Me Red




2013 September 4

As I approached Joy I could see that she was upset. Her hood was pulled up and her arms were huddled in the kangaroo pocket.

“How are you feeling, Joy?”

“I’m sick, I’ve got pneumonia and I’ve run out of inhalers. I’m using Jake’s old one, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Have you seen your worker about your Health Card?”

“Do you mean the outreach worker? John, who was helping me is now in the office. They got a new guy walking the streets and I don’t like him.  The first time I met him I asked, ‘Do I know you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I’m sure I’ve had dealings with him  in the past and I don’t get a good vibe.”

“How about your Salvation Army workers?”

“They’ve both left.  I’ve got a new guy. He seems pretty good, mind you, he said he was going to bring me groceries last week and he didn’t. He came by to see my apartment and said, ‘Is this what they gave you?’ I said, ‘It sure is. Isn’t it lovely? It even has a spare room.’ I opened the door to the closet. ‘And you have claustrophobia?’ ‘I sure do. I just open the back door, the windows. That’s the best I can do.’ ”

“Can you contact this new guy by phone?”

“Yeah, I’ve tried but just get voice mail. I’ve left messages.”

“How about going to their office? Could you do that? Maybe someone else could check your file.”

“That would mean going to the Salvation Army. I don’t go there; not since I was raped last Christmas.

Joy started crying. Her Australian regular stopped and slipped her a five.

“Thank you!” To me, she said, “That’s more than he usually gives me.” Five minutes later a woman wearing a green dress stopped and slipped Joy a folded twenty.  Joy was awestruck.  “Thanks and bless you!” she said in amazement.

“That woman never gives me money. I’ve known her for a long time. We’ve talked, but that’s all. It must be you.”

“Are you saying I’m lucky for you?”

“You’re darn right. Can you sit here for a few minutes while I go to the restaurant to pee?”

“Sure.” I waited, waved to some of the people I work with. Noted the expressions of other passers-by. I saw disgust, confusion, discomfort — I smiled.

Joy came back, “There’s Beyoncé, I’ve told her before, ‘Those pants really aren’t working for you. Stick to skirts.’ ”

I said, “What about the come-fuck-me shoes, with the sparkles?”

“No, they aren’t working either. She can barely walk in them. I’m good at giving fashion advice to women, but they don’t listen.

“I’m so stressed, and I’m drunk. Can you help me? I have to pay Bell for my phone. I really don’t care about having a phone, but I want to keep my TV. I’ve gotten kinda used to it.”

I said, “You’ll have to go to a Bell Center in any of the malls. There’s one in the Eaton Center.  Don’t even bother trying to phone them, you’ll be on hold for hours.”

“I’m going to drop Jake’s internet. I can’t get into his computer anyway. He gave me the code but I can’t figure it out.”

I said, “Maybe you have the Caps Lock on, that will interfere with your password.”

“No, I tried that. When I turn on the computer the box for the password has a dot.  Jake said to just backspace over the dot, then type in the numbers followed by ‘b’.

“Perhaps you need to type a capital ‘B’ ”

“I don’t know. All this shit Jake left me. It’s worse than having him around. Tomorrow he gets transferred to Joyceville. That’s where he’ll serve the rest of his sentence. If I brought his laptop down here, could you have a look at it? Maybe you could get it to work. I’m no good with computers.”

“Perhaps Jake can make a phone call to his bank and have money transferred?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t want to talk to him. Do you know what time it is?”

I looked for my watch, but noticed that it wasn’t on my wrist.”

Joy yelled, “Hey, what time is it?”

A confused looking man turned around. “It’s eight, forty-five!”

“I’d better go,” I said.

“Stella’s coming down this morning. She works in a bank, maybe she can help me. I may see you at the park later. I don’t know.”


Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People ($2.99 Download) ($.299 Download) ($.99 Download) ($2.99 Download)

They Call Me Red: ($.99 Download)