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Wild Night at Bingo

22 May 2012

At the park, there were dark storm clouds hovering overhead. The air was muggy. As I approached the group I heard someone say, “Here comes Dennis!”

Joy came up to me and said, “I’ve been asking everybody if they’d seen you. When you didn’t come by this morning I was so worried. I stayed on the street until nine-thirty, thinking that maybe you had missed your bus. Then I began to worry that, because it was a long weekend (Victoria Day in Canada), you’d been on the highway and had a car accident.”

I replied, “I got a drive to work, that’s why you didn’t see me. I’m sorry you worried.”

“It’s just that I’ve never known you to miss coming by in the morning.”

“How was your weekend?” I asked.

“Fine, Nicholas and his girlfriend, and another couple were over for a barbecue. Chuck and I looked at an apartment for seven hundred a month — a one-bedroom. If I had been by myself I would have taken it. Chuck is saying to everyone, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do if Joy leaves.’ ”

That’s understandable,” I said, “you pay half the rent, buy groceries, and do most of the cleaning.”

“Chuck gets a lot of money from other people who stay over, more than I pay him. I think he’s afraid of being alone. So am I, for that matter. Sometimes my brain starts acting up and I’m not sure if I trust myself being on my own.”

Irene had streaks of orange, green, and blue on her arms, legs, and face after a wild night of bingo. She said, “Shark wasn’t even going to get on the bus with me this morning until I cleaned my face. I asked Wolf if he had a face cloth, but he didn’t. I wiped it with some wet toilet paper, but I only managed to smear the smudges; now it looks like I’ve been in a fight.”

“What time is it, Dennis? I have to see my doctor at three o’clock. Shark’s gone to get his prescription filled. I hope he’s not late coming back.”

“Do you have far to go?”

“No, just to Parkdale. It’s in the same building where I worked for the accountants and lawyers. I always wave at them as I’m going by their office. One of my cancers is acting up. I’ve had cancer twice. I only have half a nipple on my right side.”

Joy was sitting on her backpack, looking at her ankles. “I haven’t shaved my legs in a while. Do I look concerned?”

“I’m native,” said Irene, “I’ve got nothing to shave. I haven’t had sex for six and a half years, so I don’t even bother trimming.”

“I’m a half native,” said Joy, “so I don’t have much to worry about, just a bit of stubble. I don’t have sex very often, but I still trim, just for personal hygiene and common decency.”

I wasn’t quite sure if Serge was awake, but I went over and sat beside him. He raised his head and shook my hand.

I asked, “How was your weekend, Serge?”

“It was okay. I’ve been sleeping behind the Best Western Hotel. It’s quiet, nobody is opening and closing the door, nobody is shitting on the floor. I was drinking outside with a friend of mine at four-thirty this morning. When Tim Horton’s opened at six we went there for coffee.”

“You must be tired,” I said.

“No.” Shortly after, he nodded off.

“Has anyone seen Hippo today?” I asked.

“Yeah, he was by earlier. I sent him on a run. He came back and kept wanting to drink from my bottle, so I told him he’d better do some panning and get his own. He seemed fine. He wasn’t puking blood like he was Friday. He wanted to get drunk, so I guess his stomach wasn’t bothering him.

“I haven’t had a drink for two days, but today I’m going to get drunk. I wish I could drink beer. Since my kidney trouble, I can’t even stand the smell of it, but at least it would make me belch. This sherry is sitting in my stomach like a rock.”

“Would you like some vodka?” asked Irene.

“No, I wouldn’t like some vodka, it would make me crazy.

“Wolf isn’t here today because Weasel kicked in his door. He’s at home guarding his stuff. That’s really ignorant of Weasel. It’s Wolf’s place, not his. The man is kind enough to let him stay there, and that’s the way he repays him. Weasel is really something else.”

The rain started, slowly at first. We moved under the trees, then it started to pour. The trees were no protection at all. Little Jake and Jacques left to take cover under the overpass. Irene put up her umbrella. Joy put on Bearded Bruce’s raincoat. “Bruce’s in prison, he doesn’t need this, but I do. He signed himself in. He got a hundred and eighty days for two counts of trying to sell crack to an undercover cop. If it was me, I would have gotten years. Once he does his time and pays his fines he’ll be in the clear. That’s better than trying to run.”

Chester said, “I’m going to go home now.”

“Do you need bus tickets,” asked Joy. “I wouldn’t like to see you walking all the way home in this rain.”

“Thanks, Joy, I’d appreciate that.”

I stood in the rain and got soaked to the skin. Serge had taken refuge in a glass bus shelter and was fast asleep. When I returned to work I took off my shirt, so it could dry in the closet, and I put on a hoodie. By six o’clock, when I was ready to leave work, my shirt was dry.

~~~

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