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4 June 2012

 

This morning the rain continued for the third day. The showers were light and intermittent, as opposed to the downpour we experienced throughout the night.

Metro greeted me as I got off the bus. “Good morning, Dennis, or is it Gordon today?”

“Good morning, Metro, did you manage to stay out of trouble this weekend?”

“Yes, actually I did. I haven’t seen Joy. I don’t know if she’s in her spot. I have something I want her to do for me.”

“I’ll tell her, when I see her, Metro.”

“You have a good day.”

“You too, Metro.”

The sidewalk was free of panhandlers, except for Hippo.

“Good morning, Dennis.”

“Hi Hippo, how does your head feel?”

“It’s still sore. I get my stitches out in a couple of days. I haven’t seen anyone this morning, no Joy, no Little Jake, no Silver.”

“It’s eight-ten, how long do you think you’ve got until the lady from the hotel asks you to move.”

I don’t know, maybe ten minutes. I found a new place to sleep. It’s down a flight of stairs near where we meet in the park.  It’s dry and nobody bothered us. There even seems to be a bit of heat down there.”

“Was Shakes down there with you?”

“No, I haven’t seen him for a few days.”

“He’s always told me that when he’s tired, he lays down and goes to sleep, no matter where he is.”

“Yeah, that’s Shakes.”

“Did you know that he’s only forty-six? He’s only five years older than Little Jake.”

“Yeah, he looks a lot older.”

“I guess it’s partly because he used to be a boxer. That’s not too good for the face.”

“I know, just look at me.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-six — my birthday is March twenty-fourth, 1976.”

“My son is two years older than you. He’ll be thirty-eight in June.”

“Are you planning to visit your folks anytime soon? I guess by hitchhiking it would only take you about an hour.”

“If that — it all depends on who’s driving. I haven’t made any plans to go there, but we always keep in touch by phone.”

“That’s great.

“I was thinking, you would probably be eligible for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program).

“I guess so. It’s a lot of paperwork though.”

“You’d get more money — wouldn’t you? Shark could show you how to go about it. He could even get you a diaper allowance.”

Hippo laughed, “Yeah, he probably could. He gets about fifteen hundred a month.”

“How is your hand?”

“It’s okay.” He spread his fingers to see how much pain it caused.

“Did you work on the weekend?”

“I tried, but there was nobody around, especially with the rain. It’s just as bad this morning. All I’ve made, so far, is two bucks.”

A lady in a suit came up to us, “I’m from the hotel. I’m afraid you’re going to have to move.”

“Okay, thanks,” we said.

“I’ll see you later, Hippo.”

“I’ll see you, Dennis.”

At noon I met Serge, sitting alone, in the glassed-in bus shelter. “How are you, Serge?”

“I’m okay.”

“Are you staying at The Shepherd now?”

“No, I don’t stay there anymore. I slept in the park, just over there.”

“I’ll see you on my way back, Serge. I’m just going to say hello to the others.”

“Okay, I’ll see you then.”

“Further up the sidewalk, I met Silver, Rocky, and Hippo. I shook hands with Silver and Hippo. Rocky said, “I’d shake your hand, but I just puked in the bushes and got some on my hands. I’m sorry. I was in the hospital last night.”

“Did you get jumped again? I heard that you got jumped last week by the same guys that jumped Shakes. You don’t look as bad as he does. Was it four guys that jumped you?”

“It was five kids that jumped me. If I’d fought back I’d be back in jail. I didn’t think it was worth it. They stole my cap.

“I was in the hospital for alcohol poisoning.”

“Was there anything they could do for you?”

“Not really.”

Hippo said, “I got my papers sent in for assisted housing. I don’t know how long it will take, maybe a year, but it’s done.”

“That’s great, Hippo.

“Silver,” I asked, ” wouldn’t Rhino qualify for O.D.S.P.?”

“Yeah, he should qualify. It’s good to have a doctor to back you up. I had a letter from my g.p. and my psychiatrist. Hippo’s like me, he drags his feet with the paperwork. I’d like to get out of the place I’m in, as well. I just haven’t applied.

”Hippo, it’s best if you go there. They’ll fill out the papers for you. You just have to answer their questions.”

“I got my worker filling out the forms for me. I’m just waiting for all my cards.”

“Silver,” I asked,“you don’t like staying at the Rex? I thought that would be a great place to stay.”

“There are a lot of crack heads drifting in. It’s not the same as it was a few years back.”

“I didn’t see you this morning. Did you work on the weekend?”

“I opened up the office and worked Saturday and Sunday. I started at eight-thirty, Saturday, at Grace Church on Queen. Later, I moved further down to the Berkeley Church. I have a lot of regulars there.  I’ve been panning there for about four years. On Sunday, I went to St Paul’s –the big one. Each day I made about sixty bucks.”

“You did well.”

“Sorry for the cigarette smoke drifting into your face. I wish I could quit. It was my girlfriend who got me started again. She’d say, ‘just have a little puff.’ pretty soon I was hooked again. When I was inside I didn’t smoke. I couldn’t afford it. I could buy pot for less than I could buy cigarettes, and I prefer pot.”

There was another group further up in the park. Seated on the grass were Little Jake, Shakes, Irene, Wolf, and his freshly clipped dog Shaggy. Standing at the rail were Deaf Donald,  and  Big Titties Rosie.

Shaggy was barking through the railing at some squirrels down below. It was a futile effort, but she seemed to be enjoying herself.

I went over and talked to Donald. “Hi, it’s good to see you. Do you have your methadone treatment today?”

“Yes, I’m supposed to go every day, but I was too drunk on Friday. I kept falling down. I fell once on my tail bone Now, every time I cough it hurts. I also lost my hearing aid. I’m going to O.D.S.P. this afternoon to see if I can get another one. I’m only allowed one every three years. My mom is really mad, if they won’t give me one, she’ll have to buy me a new one. It costs two thousand dollars. It’s a good thing I learned to read lips.”

“Hi Irene, “ I said, “how are you feeling?”

“Not good, I ache all over. I’ve put in two months’ notice at my apartment building. They’re saying I signed a lease. I don’t remember signing a lease. I’m moving anyway. What are they going to do – put me in arrears? I’ll just put them on the list of all the other people I have no intention of paying.”

“Irene found us a place,“ said Shark. “It’s a two-bedroom, all-inclusive. You’ll never guess where it is — right in front of the Scott Mission where I know everybody. There would be a constant line up my door. I walked past the place. From the outside, it looks good, but the location won’t work. We don’t need anything all-inclusive. I don’t mind paying heat and hydro.”

“I can pay for cable,” said Irene, “I have a satellite dish.”

Shark said, “I have two wide-screen TVs, a sound system. We both have futons. Between us, we’ve got plenty of furniture.”

I said, “You want to live in Regent Park, don’t you, Irene.”

“That’s my preference. I want to be able to walk to my doctor, walk here. If there’s an emergency – I don’t know. I don’t like that long bus ride from where I am now.

“If you’re walking back to work, I’ll walk with you. I have to go to the bathroom.”

Before I left, Shakes asked, “Dennis, can you spare me cash for a bottle?”

“Sorry Shakes, I don’t have any cash with me. I didn’t even bring my wallet. If I had it, you know I’d give it to you.”

“I know you’d give it to me, Dennis, you have before.”

”You didn’t see Joy today, did you?” asked Irene.

“No, “ I replied. “mind you, I didn’t see her last Monday, either. She didn’t come by on Friday. I’m thinking that she still has money and doesn’t want to pan unless she has to.”

Irene said, “I can’t believe that Shark still wants to marry me, but he does. We’ve been together four years now.”

“It makes a lot of sense to share expenses.”

“We both want to get out of the places we’re in now. We have the money. It’ll be a brand new start.”

“It sounds great. Perhaps, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thanks for walking with me.”

“It was my pleasure.”

~~~

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