Bearded Bruce signed himself into prison

Posted: October 6, 2020 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

RRBC Interview, Eyes on the Book hosted by Rox Burkey


4 May 2012

Today was muggy, overcast, and warm. The fog of earlier had lifted, but the humidity remained. I approached the bench, “Hi Joy, did Shakes tell you that he and I were panhandling together yesterday?”

Shakes turned to Joy and said, “Yes, we went to ‘my office’.”

“Shakes,” said Joy, “do you mind turning your head in the other direction, Your breath is foul. It smells like you’ve been chewing on a dirty sock all night. You really should consider brushing your teeth once in a while.”

“Okay, If you say so, Joy, I’ll turn my head.” He laughed.

“It’s not funny, Shakes, you should start taking care of yourself, and change your clothes.” He got up and sat next to his daughter Fran. Before long he was laying on the grass.

“Dad!” said Fran, “don’t go to sleep here!”

I asked Joy, “How’s everything? Are there still a lot of people staying at Chuck’s?”

“Jeff is moving out today. Bearded Bruce signed himself into prison, Wednesday morning. He and Inuk have been together for three years and she didn’t even come home to spend their last night together. She owes Chuck money. She saw him Wednesday and didn’t mention anything about paying him back. She said she’s coming over tonight, but Chuck may have something to say about that.

“V is going as well. Chuck is trying to sell him. He’s a biter. I reached under the bed to get my bottle of water and he chomped on my hand. I didn’t even know that he was there. With my free hand, I punched him right between the eyes.

“Larry, what was V’s name before Toothless got him?”

“Star,” said Larry.

“When I get home I’ll see if he responds to that. He doesn’t pay attention to anything else, especially V. I think that dog has been abused. He’s only six months old. He shouldn’t be vicious like that if he had been well treated. Chuck doesn’t have the patience for him anyway.

“Yesterday he was talking to some guy from Scarborough. Chuck is asking a hundred. If the guy is at all interested, but can’t afford the price, I think he should drop it to fifty. It would be nice if the dog could go there. He needs fields and a place to run.

“You’d better be careful spending time with Andre and Shakes. That’s a sure way to get into trouble.”

“I’ll be careful, Joy.”

“So, this weekend Chuck and I may have the place all to ourselves.

“I have to go to court next week about my breach, but my lawyer says it will be thrown out. I have all the medical records showing that I was in the hospital.

“I saw my probie this morning. She arranged for me to take the anger management course with a counselor one on one. That’s the only way I’d be able to take it. Angela knows I can’t do another prison term. The last time, they had me in the psych ward, in solitary, under suicide watch.

“You may have noticed that I can be a bit mouthy sometimes. When I go through alcohol withdrawal,  it’s worse. You don’t want to be around me then; I’m not a pleasant person. That would also cause me problems in prison.”

“How is your pneumonia?” I asked.

“It’s still there. I’ve been procrastinating about going to Public Health, but I need to go there to get my medical card. I could go to my old doctor. He’d give me a prescription for antibiotics, but I have a hard time dealing with him. He’s one of those guys under a turban. Half the time I don’t know what he’s saying.

“He also checks my blood. If I go there after I’ve been drinking my levels are normal. If I go there when I haven’t been drinking my levels are high. Go figure?

“My kidneys have been kicking me, so after I finish this bottle it will be a dry weekend. Either that or I go back to the hospital for dialysis. I don’t want that. As it is, my sherry is so watered down, nobody else will drink it. Chuck calls it ‘goof’. He and Shakes drink it straight. I couldn’t do that now.

“When Big Jake and I were drinking beer we got along fine. We used to drink Labatt Blue, which is five percent alcohol. Then we switched to Labatt Maximum Ice at seven point one. That’s when our problems began. It was even worse when we switched to Imperial sherry at twenty percent. I could drink any of these guys under the table, but Jake just got mean and nasty. That’s when he started beating me.

“We’ll probably get together again. My probie said, ‘He’s not allowed within sixteen hundred yards of you, or he’ll go right back to jail.’ I asked, ‘When has a restraining order ever stopped him before?’

“I don’t want to be in a relationship with anybody. To have Jake as a fuck buddy would be okay, but I don’t want to live with him again.”

After work, I caught my usual bus. I was surprised to see Shark and Irene. They were going to Irene’s place, about four blocks from where I live. Shark said, “I guess you missed all the excitement this afternoon. Shakes and Shamus were passed out on the lawn and somebody phoned the police. They sent three squad cars and the paramedics. They let Shakes go, but they took Shamus away. He couldn’t even walk. They’ll probably take him to the Shepherd to let him sleep it off.

“Joy has been after Shakes not to panhandle at ‘the bench’, since it attracts attention. When he lay down, she told him to sit up. His daughter, Fran, was sitting beside him. I thought she’d take care of him.

“I guess Fran went shopping. Everyone else just stood around, pretending like they didn’t know what was going on. I’ve known Shakes for fifteen years since we both lived near Allan Gardens.”

I said, “That’s my old neighborhood too. I lived on Spruce Street near Parliament and Carleton. We used to be neighbors and didn’t know it.”

Shark said, “Shakes is slowly killing himself, but he doesn’t care. It’s his choice.”

I said, “I spent my noon hour yesterday with Andre and Shakes. They were both staggering in different directions. Andre was saying things like, ‘Drunk man walking,’  ‘White man on a program’ and ‘Don’t get in the way of my staggering.’ We went to where Shakes calls his ‘office’. I sat with him for a while, then went across the street and sat with Andre. He sure is a character. I don’t think he repeated himself once.”

Shark said, “He must have had his rubber legs on. He’s been staying up in Chinatown lately. Probably into that Chinese cooking wine. It’s thirty-seven percent alcohol. It’s great for stir-frying, but it’s powerful stuff to drink.”

“Do you miss living in Montreal.?” I asked.

“Montreal has changed so much I wouldn’t even recognize it. I’d prefer to live in the country. I studied horticulture for four years. I didn’t do well with the chemistry, all those symbols. I like to grow things. Spike, a friend of ours has a place in Quebec on a lake. You met Spike the other day. His double pneumonia has cleared up, but he’s still feeling very weak. He was looking white as a ghost. His mom is keeping a close eye on him. Anyway, he’s invited us to stay for the summer. There is a rowboat, a boat with a small motor for trolling. The only problem is we couldn’t get any liquor up there. Maybe it would be good to dry out for a while. We’d still have our pot. We haven’t decided.

“When I grew up in Montreal, my grandmother had a farm a few miles out of town. If any of us kids misbehaved, my mom would threaten to send us to the farm. We preferred to stay in the city.”

By this time we had reached Irene’s stop. It turns out that we’re neighbors, living just five blocks apart. It’s a small world. We said goodbye and agreed to meet at ‘the bench’ on Monday.


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