They Call Me Red

……

 

7 November 2013

I wasn’t expecting anybody to be at the park at noon. It was cold and windy, but I went for a walk anyway. I met Little Jake.

“Jake, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Are you heading to your spot?”

“Yeah, that’s where I’m going.”

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“No, come right ahead. Pull up a curb and have a seat.”

“Have many people been coming by here lately?”

“You just missed Jacques. Wolf and Shaggy have been here every day this week.  I haven’t seen Joy for a couple of weeks. Hippo was here yesterday. He got back pay for his O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program). They gave him a check for seventeen hundred bucks. He was handing out money to everyone. He’s probably at Joy’s place today. You won’t see Shakes today. He owes me money.”

“How have you been feeling lately?”

“Not so good. My eyes are still watering, my throat is still swollen.  At least there is one good thing —  my doctor gave me a new prescription.  Now, I only have to take two pills a day, a big one and a small one. He said it would take about a week to take effect.

“What really pisses me off is the bed bugs. They kept me awake;  all night I was scratching. The first thing this morning I ran a hot bath, scalding hot. I jumped in and right away it felt better. When I drained the tub I was surprised at how much hair was in the drain.”

“Do you have them in your hair, as well?”

“Yeah, I’d been scratching my head. They’re everywhere. Anywhere I have exposed skin they bite. Look at my arms.  It’s funny, I was over at Shakes’ place when his workers arrived. They asked me, ‘Have you gotten rid of your bed bugs, yet?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘ We’re not going to have this place sprayed until your place is clean.’

“So, I have to put everything in plastic bags, duct tape them.  I’ll have to throw out most of my furniture. All I have is a bed and things I picked up in the trash. It’s been thirteen months, I still haven’t got furniture through my worker.

“I’m going to have to go through all my clothes. Most of them I’ll throw out. The others I’ll have cleaned. Hopefully, that will kill any bugs.”

I asked, “Do you have any plans to visit your family?”

“No, They’re more afraid of bed bugs than anybody. Last time I was up there my brother had me strip in the middle of the highway. He brought a change of clothes for me. He washed everything. When I was ready to leave I asked, ‘Where is my bag?’ My brother said, ‘Oh, it must  still be in the dryer.’ Can you imagine that he even washed my bag? I don’t have it now. I lost it last night sometime.”

“Where were you?”

“I don’t know. Around midnight, I was in the back of the Royal York, huddled in a corner. The manager woke me up. I don’t know if I left my bag somewhere else, or if someone took it while I was asleep. Anyway, it was gone then.  I can’t even remember if I was with anyone.”

Randy and Loretta came up the sidewalk. I asked, “How are you, Loretta?”

“Not so good. I’ve spent the last three days in court.”

“Does that have to do with your rape case?”

“Yeah, yesterday I spent with the Crown. Today I was with his defense lawyer. It seemed I was never in the right place. I was either outside puking or in the bathroom.  I had a lot of time just waiting around. I wanted to have a drink,  just to numb my feelings, but I didn’t.”

“How long has it been now?”

“Eleven months.”

“That’s really a great achievement.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of myself.”

I asked, “How have you been, Randy?”

“Great, I’ve been working up north, in the woods. I love it up there.  We’re clear-cutting with chain saws.  My whole family is up there. We hunt for a while, cut for a while.  I go back tomorrow. I’m getting paid five hundred dollars a day. I’m saving my money for an engagement ring for my girlfriend. I’ve already put down seventeen hundred bucks.”

“How much does the ring cost in total?”

“Five grand. It’s nearly two carats.”

“Congratulations, when do you think you’ll propose?”

“Maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll be going down on one knee. I’m heading off now.” Loretta and Randy waved as they left.

I said to Jake, “He’s earning a lot of money.”

“Don’t believe what you hear, only what you see.

“Hey, here comes Andre on his bicycle. What have you been up to!

“Running around everywhere. I have an appointment with my doctor. I’m going to have my teeth removed, the few that are left. He told me he can do the surgery in about three weeks. Then it’ll take three months to heal, then they’ll fit me for dentures. I’ll be able to eat corn on the cob again.

“Every time I go home, my mother serves corn on the cob, just to piss me off.  She has new dentures. I have to try to gnaw it from the end of the cob. I get corn all over my face. She thinks it’s funny. I said to her, ‘At least I won’t be without dentures for as long as you were.’ She went years with no teeth.

“I’d better get going or I’ll be late for my appointment.  I’d be lost without this bike.”

“Do you have a lock for it?”

“No, I bring it inside everywhere.”

I said, “It’s time for me to go too. I’ll see you Andre, Jake.”

~~~

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