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13 June 2012

The sun was shining, but there was a moderate breeze that caused it to be chilly in the shade. At the park were Buck and his dog Dillinger, Loretta, Deaf Donald, Silver, Andre, Joy and Jacques. We were sitting in a circle. Joy had a blanket spread out. The others were sitting on newspapers.

Buck went on a run, leaving Dillinger with Loretta. “We’ve decided that Dillinger is getting confused with so many people telling him what to do, so only Buck and me are allowed to pet him, or give him commands. I don’t even let Jake pet him, and I’ve known him for ten years.”

Joy is agoraphobic and was feeling crowded, “This is getting a bit close for me,” she said.

Deaf Donald said to Joy, “Loretta said that I’m not allowed to pet the dog.”

Joy tried to explain, “Don’t worry, it’s not about you, they’re trying to train the dog.”

Donald said to Joy, “I’m having a barbecue at my place this afternoon. Do you want to come?”

“Sure, I’m up for it. Make sure you have some Imperial sherry. I don’t drink beer.”

Silver said, “A barbecue sounds good. Me, I hate cooking. I like to put something in the microwave, go have a joint and when I’m finished, I eat. Right now, I have a joint rolled, on my television set, just waiting for me.”

Loretta asked, “Am I invited too?”

Donald didn’t answer. When Loretta turned her back he made a hand sign indicating that she talks too much.

Silver said, “I’ll go along with that. In fact I’m going to sit beside Hippo to get away from all the racket.”

Donald asked Jake, “Do you want to come to my place for a barbecue this afternoon?”

“Sure.”

Andre said to Joy, “Do you know what’s going to happen? At the last-minute he’s going to tell Jake that he’s not invited, so it will be just you and him. He did the same thing to me last week with Loretta.”

“In that case I’ll give it a pass. I don’t need any of that shit.”

Today is Chester’s sixty-fourth birthday. He was wearing a tee-shirt with a slogan, ‘I’m 29 (this is an old shirt)’.

Loretta asked Joy, “Do you have any kids?”

“I’ve got five boys. They’re all doing well, living in Toronto. They don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Three are working and two are still in school. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but here I am crying. My youngest was the result of a rape. After my mother told him about it he asked me, ‘Why did you keep me?’ I said, ‘Your asshole father was just a sperm donor.  I carried you, I nursed you, I raised you. Most of all I love you.’ He was happy with that.”

Loretta said, “I have a daughter who’s sixteen now. She has the second highest marks in her class at school. I’m so proud of her. I had a tubal ligation. That hurt more than having a baby.”

Joy asked me, “Are you cold?”

“No,” I said, “I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Really, I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Okay, I’m a bit chilly.”

“Here, put my sweatshirt on.”

“No, I couldn’t do that.”

Andre said, “I’m not wearing my jacket. Here, put it on.”

“Thanks Andre, I appreciate that.”

~~~

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11 June 2012

The weather at noon today was ninety degrees and sunny. Typically, everyone was complaining about the heat. I met Serge sitting on the curb. We shook hands.

“How are you doing, Serge?”

“Not bad. I’m just drinking my lunch. The others are up top.” He was sipping from an innocent looking clear plastic water bottle that also contained rubbing alcohol.

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park were Loretta, Silver, Chester and Outcast.

Loretta said, “I’m sad today. It’s my birthday, I had to appear in court on an assault charge and I met my ex. We had a big fight right in the Court House. They think I may get jail time. I hope not.”

“Hey,” said Silver, “my birthday is coming up this month. What kind of present are you going to buy me, Outcast.”

“How be I give you a kick in the ass? My birthday was in January. What did you give me?”

“Well, could I have a smoke?”

“I’ll throw it over the railing. Will you get it?”

“Sure I’ll get it.”

“How be I throw you over the railing?”

“How old will you be, Silver?” I asked.

“On the 23rd I’ll be fifty-two. Outcast is a couple of months older than I am.”

“How old are you, Chester?”

“I’m sixty-four.”

“How are you feeling. Are your toes still black  from being run over by the the bus?”

“Yes they’re still black, but they’re getting better.  I’m still in a lot of pain. I usually don’t take pills. The only thing I take is demerol. My doctor gives it to me for migraines. They get very bad. I get them about once a month.”

“Have you seen Joy today?” asked Loretta.

“No,” I replied, “she wasn’t panning on Parliament this morning.”

“She was here yesterday,” said Silver. “Maybe she panned large and doesn’t need to come out today. I’m just staying around until the pigs come. Then I’m taking off. I hid my backpack with my beer in it, so if they come, all I can lose is this can on the railing.”

“Friday, they were here nearly every hour,” said Outcast. “I kicked over three cans.”

Loretta said, “I left my beer on the railing, right where it was. They didn’t say anything.”

“Debbie’s computer crashed today,” said Heartless. I had some savings put away, so I bought her this laptop. It was regularly four hundred, I got it for two.”

Silver said, “Sorry, Dennis, for my smoke getting in your face. It’s getting so we’re not allowed to smoke in parks, on public patios, or any public places.

“I nearly burnt my bed the other night. My mattress is on the floor. The end of my cigarette fell off and I guess it rolled under the edge of my mattress. I kept asking my roommate, ‘Do you smell something burning?’ I flipped over my mattress and there was a plate sized, smoldering hole. I got two or three pans of water from the sink and doused it. Then I had to sleep on the floor.”

“Silver,” said Outcast, “you’re dropping ashes on Chester’s backpack. Soon, it’s going to be on fire.”

“Chester,” said Loretta, “come over here and stand in front of me. I want to take off these long pants and put on my shorts. I’m too hot in these.

“I’m really being stupid. I have asthma, I’m smoking and I don’t have my puffer with me.”

Outcast said, “I’ve got lung problems too. Now, it’s turned into cancer. In the 1980’s I was working on the Post Office building, removing asbestos. We weren’t wearing masks. We didn’t even know it was dangerous back then. Of the twenty-seven guys I worked with only thirteen are still alive. The rest of us are still waiting for a settlement from the government.

“At least I have insurance so my kids are taken care of. My brother was a fire fighter during 9/11 in New York. His lungs are so badly corroded, from the dust and the smoke, that, he can’t do anything. I come from a family of eleven boys and one girl. I’m the youngest.”

“That’s a big family,

“How was your weekend, Silver?”

“I panned in my usual place on Saturday, at the church on Queen and the other on Power, in four shifts from ten in the morning until one. I always do well there.

“This morning I went for breakfast at the Salvation Army. Mondays they always have a full breakfast. I had a three egg sandwich. They have really good sausages there. Tuesday, at the Mission, they’re having their full breakfast.

“On Father’s Day the ‘chicken man’ will be coming by. He came into a lot of money, now he’s spreading it around. On Father’s Day and on Mother’s Day he gives away chicken and turkey hot dogs, and with them he hands out five dollar bills. He must know we’ll buy booze with the money. From the fumes of our breath alone, he could get drunk.”

~~~

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8 June 2012
At noon the sky was threatening rain. It had rained earlier and the streets were still wet. The first friend I came across was Serge.

“Hi, Serge, how’s everything today?” He mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out.“Did you say, ‘not bad?’ ” I asked.

“Not yet,” he replied and chuckled.

“Take care, Serge, I’ll see you on my way back.”

“The others are all up there,” he pointed up the hill.

Sitting on the lawn were a dozen of the regulars. Lying on the grass, sound asleep, was Shakes.

Joy came over and said, “I wasn’t panning today because Chuck and I had a big fight. Chili has been staying with us. This morning before she left for school, she took some pills and drank half a twenty-six ounce bottle of Bacardi. We got into an argument and Chuck took her side. She isn’t the one paying half of the bills; I am.

“I packed all my stuff into my bag and set it by the door. Anyway, Chuck got mad and threw my bag across the room. I said to him, ‘I’ve got breakable stuff in there. If anything is broken, you’re in big trouble.’ I checked and everything was okay.

“He phoned me later and asked, ‘Are we through?’ I said, ‘You’re the one who hasn’t been talking’. So, I don’t know what’s happening. I just know that he’s there, and I can’t have the place to myself like I do some afternoons. I could really use some peace and quiet right now.”

I asked, “How is it going with getting your medical card?”

“I don’t know. I’m going through the system, so however long it takes. I really need my meds. I’m psychotic, schizophrenic and I have all these voices going around in my mind. I can never get a good nights sleep.”

I sat down between Ian and Andre who said, “Don’t sit on the grass, it will stain your clothes. Sit on my jacket. It’s dirty anyway.”

“Thanks, Andre.”

Silver said, “Dennis, are you sitting on the grass. Here’s a newspaper. It’s free.”

“He’s not sitting on the grass. He’s sitting on my jacket.” said Andre.

“Oh,” said Silver, “I didn’t see it. I guess you don’t need this then.”

“Thanks, anyway, Silver,” I said.

“Andre,” I asked, “How did everything go, yesterday, after I left.”

“I went to check on Little Jake. There were two bicycle cops talking to him. One was a big muscular guy with tattoos on his arms. Jake kept mouthing off to them. He was charged, the cop gave me a carton of smokes.”

“He gave you a carton of smokes?”

“Yeah, then I got up to leave and he said, ‘You don’t have to go, if you don’t want to, but this guy, meaning Jake, has to move on. You stayed quiet when we asked you to, so we’ve got no problem with you.”

Rocky was throwing up blood in the bushes. Joy said, “Rocky, stop drinking and eat something. I know you haven’t been eating. Here’s a bagel you need something in your gut.” He ate the bagel.

“This is the first thing I’ve eaten in five days,” he said to me.

Ian said, “You know, I inherited a twenty-seven thousand dollar commercial fishing boat. I don’t own it any more. I kick my self for that. My sons will inherit it when they turn eighteen. It’s working now. It brings in about seven hundred thousand a year. I don’t see any of that.

“Marlena wants me to quit drinking, but I explained to her. ‘I can’t just quit like that. It takes time and I need some help, but I’m working on it.”

“You seem to be doing well, Ian,” I said. “You seem to be sober now. Even at Alcoholics Anonymous they stress one day at a time. You’ll get there, if that’s what you want.”

Ian said, Marlena and I were sitting on the sidewalk yesterday. I had just opened a beer when a cop stopped at the curb. I said to him, ‘Officer, this is my first drink of the day. Can I please have another swallow before I pour it out?’ He said, ‘You lift that beer and I’ll kick your teeth in.’ I said, ‘Okay, if you’re going to give me a ticket, go ahead. If you want to go (fight), we can go. It’s fine with me. You put your gun down and we can go right now.’ He just gave me the ticket, but I’m going to see my lawyer. He threatened me and Marlena is my witness. I’ve got a good lawyer. I don’t know why the cop couldn’t have just been polite. We weren’t causing any trouble. He could have said, “Excuse me sir, would you mind pouring out that beer. It’s against the law to drink in public.

“Another cop said to me, ‘Ian, if you shave off that beard and moustache we won’t charge you next time.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Do you mean that I can walk past you, drinking a beer, and you won’t give me a ticket.’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s what I mean.’ ”

Andre said, “The other night — well I guess it was four thirty in the morning — Shakes and I were wandering around. We went to the Toronto Dominion Bank. Ian, Marlena and Hippo were asleep on the floor. Ian was closest so I said, ‘Ian’. There was no answer so I said it a little louder ‘Ian’. I kicked his pack sack under his head, no response. I kicked a little harder, still no response. Shakes said, ‘Ian, you want a drink?’ and his hand shot up. ‘What do you think? Of course, I want a drink.’ Hippo just said, ‘Fuck off, I want to sleep.’ ”

~~~

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