They Call Me Red



10 October 2013

Another perfect day. I walked by the park and didn’t see any of my friends. There was a person sleeping on the lawn, but I didn’t recognize her. I turned to leave and saw Little Jake riding up the sidewalk on his bicycle. He wandered over to the person sleeping and said, “It’s Magdalene. I’ll just let her sleep it off.”

“Are you in a rush to go anywhere?” Jake asked.

“No, let’s sit for a while, enjoy the weather.”

Jake said, “I was in a panic this morning. I was desperate for a coffee and I couldn’t find the card you gave me yesterday. I looked everywhere. I finally found it. It was in the plastic case with my dope. So, I was able to have my coffee.

“My throat still feels miserable. I have trouble talking, swallowing. I’m still waiting for three government checks. Ever since I filed my income taxes, I haven’t seen a check. I got a letter in the mail asking me to confirm my address. Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?”

“Yeah, ” I said, “it’s like phoning you, and asking what your phone number is. ”

“Exactly. I got my worker to fax a copy of my lease and all the other shit they wanted. I need that money. I owe a lot of people.”

I asked, “Have you been seeing your doctor and taking your HIV medication?”

“No, I asked my worker yesterday to set up an appointment with my doctor. I need to get my prescriptions renewed. Also, one of the pills I have to take is huge. I usually puke trying to swallow it. That’s no good.”

I asked, “Can you crush or cut that pill smaller?”

“No, it’s a gel capsule. I asked my doctor last time if they came in smaller sizes. He said they did. I don’t know why I got these big mothers. I’ll have to get that settled when I see him. I also have to get new papers signed for my special diet. That’ll be three birds I can kill with one stone.”

Jacques walked by and mumbled something about having to put some money on his phone.

Jake said, “That guy can be a real tit some times. I gave him fifty dollars when my last check came in and said, ‘Hold on to this for me. It’s for my bus pass.’ At the first of the month, he was talking to my new dealer, who said I owed him thirty bucks.  Jacques gave him thirty and when he saw me, gave me twenty.  I said, ‘For Christ’s sake. You didn’t smoke that dope. Why did you pay for it?’ So, I’m left without a bus pass. I hope this warm weather holds out until the end of the month.

“Shakes should be down shortly.  I was at his place last night. On my way home I picked up a dozen pork cutlets and some bread crumbs– I left my other bread crumbs at Shark’s. I dropped six off at my place, then took six to Shakes’ apartment. I didn’t know if he was at home, but his door was open, so I walked in. He was passed out on his couch. I made schnitzel with a big green salad. It was delicious. I love green salads.

“Later on, we heard a knock on the door. It was a woman cop, serving a subpoena for him to appear in court in January because he had been robbed.  The cop asked him how he was doing, He said, ‘Just having a drink and smoking some dope with a friend.’ That’s what he said to the cop. Anyway, they really must have a hard-on for this guy. If Shakes isn’t to appear until January they must have a lot of charges to go through.

“It looks like I’m going to have to pan to get some money. Not that it’s anything different from what I’m doing now, just sitting here.”

What other jobs have you had? I know you were a maitre d, at one time, you’ve been a cook. What else?”

“I started off stealing bicycles. I used to be a bicycle mechanic. I know everything about bicycles.  I can take them apart, put them back together. I know every part and what it’s for. If something isn’t working I can make it work.  I remember, one time, I had five bikes in the back yard.  I was living with my grandparents at the time. One afternoon a cop came by and said, ‘We’re looking for some stolen bicycles. Have you seen any around?’ I said, ‘No.’ After they left, I hoisted two over each shoulder and hightailed it to the back forty. My grandfather asked me why I was riding a particular bike that evening. I said, ‘This is one that the cops aren’t looking for.’ He just laughed.

“I’m Jack, man. I can do anything. When I was a kid I had an older brother. It seemed that he got everything and there was nothing left for me. My mom said, ‘If you want something, get a job and earn it.’ I was thirteen at the time. She shouldn’t have said that to me. I got a job at a restaurant washing dishes and was earning a hundred bucks a week. This was back in 1980, so for a thirteen-year-old, that was a fortune.

“It was actually a family business. My mom worked in the kitchen and my uncle ran the place. Some of my cousins were waitresses. I worked my way up to cook and finally, maitre d. It was an Austrian type restaurant. I got to dress to the nines, got big tips; $100 to $150 a night.

“One time we had a big group, forty-five people. My mother and I  served forty-five meals in forty-nine minutes.

“Why did you leave that job?”

“My uncle was killed in a car accident. He was also my best friend. I was twenty-five at the time, he was thirty-five.

“I’ve done lots of other jobs; worked in a bowling alley setting pins, that was back in the day before they had automatic pinsetters.”

I said, “I did that back in 1960. We were paid a penny a pin. if it was one guy, playing one game of five-pins, ten frames, I’d get paid fifty cents. If it was a league of ten-pins, I’d be setting two alleys, five bowlers per alley, three games, it would work out to fifteen bucks. A lot of money in those days. I’d have about twenty bruises on each leg, between my knees and my ankles, from pins bouncing back.”

Jake said, “I’ve also worked concrete, electricals, any kind of construction. Like I said, I’m Jack, man!”


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)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.