2012 – June

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Chester Gets Robbed
1 June 2012
The weather today was uncertain. It was overcast, but not quite raining. At the park, the usual suspects were congregated. 

“Hi Hippo, How have you been?” I shook his broken hand very gently.

“My head hurts.”

“How is your hand?”

“It hurts too. Jake and I slept at ‘the heater’ last night — not together, just in the same place. The streets aren’t safe anymore.”

“Hi Jake, How are you?”

“I’m drunk. Hippo and I started early.”

“I guess that’s a good thing.”

Shakes was sitting on the lawn and was having trouble getting up. “I’ll use this wine bottle and this container as a crutch to help me up.” He made it half way then tumbled over. Jacques stood up and took Shakes’ arm to help him to his feet. “Did you know that Rocky got jumped last night. It was the same guys that jumped me. He’s in about the same shape as I am.”

“Do you know why they jumped Rocky?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“Hi Donald, how are you?”

“I have my methadone treatment at one o’clock. Everybody hates me. I don’t know why. They make fun of me.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say anything against you.”

“I appreciate you being my friend.”

“Hi Shark, how is Irene feeling today?”

“She’s with Anastasia. They’re drunk to the tits. They bought a case of Labatt Maximum Ice. It’s  seven point one percent alcohol. I bought myself a twenty-six ounce bottle of watermelon vodka. It’s thirty-seven per cent alcohol. I thought I should get something to catch up. You don’t need any mix with it. Have a swig.”

“That’s smooth. I’ve never tasted that before.”

“I had to kick Irene out at eleven o’clock last night. She was drunk. When she gets like that her mind goes on retard. She’ll have about five conversations going and she keeps repeating them. I guess she forgets that she’s said the same thing five minutes before.

“We’re planning to get an apartment together, the problem is she wants to go through the Salvation Army. I want to get something through my landlord. He has a bunch of buildings. If we get these workers involved, one group doesn’t talk the same language as the other group. I’ve been in the Welfare system for twenty years. I know what to say to them, so they’ll understand it and I’ll get what I want.

“Maybe it would be better if Irene and Joy got an apartment together. The only problem is that Irene drinks more than Joy. Joy has her drinking fairly well under control.

“Anastasia wants us to go with her to her mother’s house near Goderich. It’s on Georgian Bay, so there would be boating, swimming, fishing. The water isn’t very deep but you can still catch bass. The only problem is Anastasia is a bit nuts. You must have noticed that yesterday.

“I have to be back every week to see my doctor and pick up my meds.”

“How old is Anastasia, and how old is her mother?”

“I guess Anastasia is about sixty-one, her mother is in her nineties.”

“The problem would be getting back. I guess we could arrange something with the bus. It’s a long trip. Something to keep in mind though.”

Chester and Outcast were going over Chester’s bank statement. Outcast said, “We were playing cards last night and then I left. What’s the last thing you remember buying.”

“I bought beer at the Beer Store.”

“Okay, that’s listed here. Then, there’s a purchase in Scarborough. Did you go to Scarborough?”

“No.”

“There’s also a purchase at an Exxon gas station. You don’t drive a car, so that’s not you. There are withdrawals of two hundred, three hundred. These are since you lost your card. Do you remember giving your card to anyone?”

“No.”

Silver said, “Look at Donald, he’s never going to make his methadone appointment. I’ve been drinking since four thirty this morning and I can stagger straighter than that. I get up at four thirty, have a shower — yes, I drink beer in the shower. It’s okay as long as I don’t fall and hurt myself.”

“Hello Wolf,” I said.

“Have a look at my dog.”

“Is that a different dog? That doesn’t look like Shaggy.”

“That’s Shaggy, they clipped her, did all kinds of stuff to her. I brought her blanket and her bed so she’ll get acclimatized. Is she breathing?”

“Yes, I can see her chest going up and down.”

“I was just joking. I guess I haven’t known you that long. You haven’t seen Shaggy when she’s been clipped? I have her done once a year.”

“No, I only met you in January, so it’s been about five months.”

Donald didn’t make his methadone treatment. He was too drunk to walk. Even if he had made it there, they wouldn’t have taken him in his condition.

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Rocky Jumped by a Gang

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 hitch hiking 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 any more. 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 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 TV’s, 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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Daimon Released from Prison 

5 June 2012

As I was approaching the corner of Queen Street and Parliament I saw Irene and Big Titties Rosie waiting for the ‘walk’ light.

“Hi Irene, Rosie, are you leaving?”

“We’re just going to the restaurant to use the ladies’ room, we’ll be back.”

“I’ll see you then.”

This afternoon at the park, Buddy had passed out on the lawn. I have often seen him panhandling on Queen, playing his harmonica. The police were expected, so people spread out, hiding any open liquor bottles. Large groups are illegal without a permit. In one group were Andre, Gene and his girlfriend Fran. In another group were Joy, Hippo, Rocky, Shark, Lucy In The Sky and Daimon. In another group were Jacques, Charlie and Chester.

I first sat between Shakes and Andre who was wearing a light blue cap with a ‘Psssst’ badge on it. He had taken off his tee shirt and spread it on the ground. On it was an imitation of the Warner Brother’s movie logo and the words, ‘If you see da cops, warn a brother’. He was feeling better than yesterday. His throat infection is healing.

He said, “A cop car just pulled up, and the paramedics are following them. Just wait and see, after they take Buddy away they’ll come up to check on us. They’ll say, ‘How’s everybody doing?’ We’ll say, ‘Just fine officer, enjoying the nice weather.’ ”

Gene said, “Andre and I were throwing a hardball around. I was pitching to him. I used to be pretty fast in my younger days. I’d throw at around eighty, ninety miles an miles an hour, sometimes. I’m down to about seventy now. I asked Andre if he was ready, he said, ‘Let ‘er rip.’ Twice I caught him right in the center of the chest.”

Andre said, “When I was younger, both of my uncles used to pitch to me. They were fast. I used to catch the ball ninety-eight per cent of the time. I had really quick reflexes; but not any more. I remember my uncle throwing a bit wide one time. The ball missed my glove and went right through the backboard, left a neat circular hole.”

Shakes, who was laying on the lawn, said, “Dennis, do you remember me?”

“Of course I do, Shakes. I’d recognize that hat anywhere.” I shook his hand. He pulled me to the ground.

I moved on to the second group to say hello to Joy and Hippo. I was surprised to see Shark sitting next to Daimon, since, before he went to prison,  Daimon robbed Shark of his change, then beat him for not having any bills. I guess they settled their differences. Shark is skinny and is certainly not a fighter. Lucy had beat up Irene, Shark’s girlfriend.

As I was approaching, I heard Joy saying to Shark, “I don’t like you either, and I don’t punch like a girl,  so watch what you say.”

Shark said, “You always pick fights with men, because you know they won’t hit you back.”

“Hi Joy,” I said, “how’ve you been doing?”

“I’ve been keeping pretty quiet, staying at home and off the booze for the past few days. I’ve been cleaning the house, doing laundry, watching TV, resting. I’ve got marks on my arm where V has been biting me. I hate that dog.”

“Hi Dennis,” said Shark. “Irene and I had a tiff, I can’t remember what we were arguing about, but I kept laughing at her. She hit me with her fist on the side of my head. I said, ‘Irene, don’t do that.’ She hit me on the other side of the head. I said, ‘Irene, if you do that again, I’ll hit you back.’ Then she hit me in the nose. I just kept gaming on my Playstation.”

Joy said, “She’s small and skinny, but with those knuckles she can pack quite a punch. Where is she now?”

“She took the bus home to get her health card, then she was going to White Cross Drugs to have her prescription filled, then she was going somewhere else. I wasn’t paying too much attention.”

“That’s what I used to do with Jake,” said Joy. “When he’d hit me, I’d just laugh and say, ‘Is that all you got, big boy?’ That would really make him mad. He’s six-foot four. I didn’t win many fights, but I hurt him.

“That’s Charlie the Chaser over there, Jakes’s so-called friend. He had to come and rub my nose in the fact that he’s been in contact with Jake. He said he’s sending him a TV, at Millhaven. There’s something strange about that. The last time Charlie was here he was flashing a lot of cash and giving money to all the men. Do you think he gave me any? No! If he was interested in women at all, you’d think he would have given me something. Do you think he’s ever shown any interest in me, since Jake has been in prison? No! He’s a cock slinger (male prostitute).

“Charlie bragged that he had been in prison for twenty-five years and he was affiliated with the gangs. I’ve had some experience with that in the past. If he was affiliated, and went around talking about it — like he has been — he’d be dead meat.”

Daimon said, “Was he saying he was with H.A. (Hell’s Angels)?”

“That’s what he was saying,” said Joy.

Daimon, who has distinctive prison pallor and crude tattoos covering both hands and arms, laughed and said, “There are lots of prison stories. Some of them are even true, but not many. He has ‘Shannon’ tattooed on the back of his neck. Is that his street name?”

Joy said, “Daimon, what’s that you’ve got on your face? Were you in a fight? It looks like you did a face plant.”

“If I’d been in a fight, it would have been the other guy who would’ve done the face plant.”

Lucy said, “I wondered how long it would take Joy to ask about that. Didn’t I Daimon?”

“It’s an infection,” said Daimon. “I must have picked it up from a guy in prison. He had sores like this on his thigh and his stomach. I didn’t go near him, but I must have touched something he had touched.

“I went to the doctor. He gave me antibiotics and some creme to put on the sores.”

“It looks like impetigo. My sister got that when she was young. That’s what comes of sitting on park benches wearing only a bathing suit.”

“Impetigo, that’s what the doctor said. I couldn’t remember the name, but that’s what it is. It hurts, and being near my mouth, it’s always breaking open.”

“Chester!” said Joy, “where are you going? Just because Charlie is going over there that doesn’t mean you have to. These guys follow him around hoping he’ll give them something, money, cigarettes….”

I said to Joy, “Did you hear that Rocky got jumped the other day.”

“I’ve seen him fight. He blacks out and goes wild, just like me. I fought with my sister once. I injured her neck, shoulder and back. That was before they charged people for things like that. I can imagine that Rocky did some damage to the other guy.”

I said, “It was five kids who jumped him. Shakes thinks it was the same gang that jumped him. Rocky didn’t fight them, because he would have gone back to jail. They stole his cap.”

“How are you feeling,  Rocky?” I asked. “Any better than yesterday?”

“Not really. I’ve got a pain in my liver.”

“What does the pain feel like? Is it a sharp pain, or a dull ache like a bruise?”

“It feels like I have to shit, but nothing comes out. When I was in the hospital, I asked them to check my heart and kidneys. I had surgery on my heart and had a hole fixed in my kidney, when I was four days old.

“I was born near Greenland. I have seven sisters. My parents never wanted a boy. My youngest sister wants to come down here, but I told her not to. She’s only sixteen.”

“I can understand why you wouldn’t want her to come down here. It can be a rough life.”

I said good-bye to the group. It was nearly time for me to go back to work.

Joy said, “I’ll see you tomorrow. I won’t be panning, I have to buy some groceries. I have Hamburger Helper at home, but Chuck wants to have a barbecue.”

“Bye, Joy.”

I stopped to say good-bye to the other group.

“Chester,” I said. “I heard you were hit by a bus last Wednesday. How are you feeling?”

“It happened at the corner of Jarvis and Queen. I’m in a lot of pain, but I keep it to myself.”

“Take care, Chester.”

“Do you remember my name?” asked Charlie. “Of course, I remember your name; You’re Charlie.”

“Do you know why they call me that?

“Because your parents named you Charles?”

“No, it’s because people say I look like Charlie Manson. They also call me that because I’m nuts.”

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Panhandlers Feeding Panhandlers 

6 June 2012

As I was walking along  Parliament Street I was approached by Stan. “Hi, brother, he said, “do you think you could help me out. I’ve been panning, but I’ve only made a dollar so far. I collected some beer cans, but had to walk across the bridge to to get a refund on them.  I’ve been walking all morning. I’m beat.”

“Sure, I can help you, Stan.”

“I really appreciate that. I’ve got to get back in shape. I have to start eating properly. I should be drinking more milk, eating more meat and eggs. I also need to go to a detox centre to get help. I’m having trouble with my liver and I’ve been puking blood.”

“Rocky and Hippo are having the same problem.”

“I know. Thanks again, brother.”

When I got to the park I first talked to Rocky. “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m feeling a little better.”

“You mentioned yesterday that you had an operation on your heart when you were four days old. Tell me about that.”

“They had me taken to the Children’s Hospital in Montreal. A valve in my heart had to be replaced. Two days later they operated on my kidney to fix a hole. I wasn’t expected to survive the operations. I stayed in hospital for five years. They’ll have to operate on my heart again soon to put in a larger valve.”

“You mentioned that your mother and father didn’t want a son. How did that affect you?”

“I didn’t have a name for the first four days. It was my grandmother who gave me my name and raised me. They say that most of a child’s development happens in the first five years. I didn’t have that. I think that’s what made me the way I am. I had my first cigarette when I was four years old. I started drinking when I was six. You may have noticed that I don’t talk much to people, I just hang around at the edge of the group and watch.”

“I can understand that. I was in a similar situation when I was eighteen months old. It completely changed my personality.”

“My youngest sister wants to come down here, but I told her not to. My sisters are all up north.”

“Toronto can be a tough place to live.”

“I find it good where I am. I’m near the hospital. My father sometimes comes to the city, but he never wants to see me.”

Chester came over. I asked,  “How are you feeling today, Chester?”

“I still have a lot of pain in my lower right leg. My toes started to turn black, but that’s going away now.”

“So the bus must have hit you on the right side.”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

“Take care, Chester.”

I walked up to the other group that included Joy, Irene, Shark, Jacques, Outcast, Chili and Gaston.

“Hi Joy, did you finish your shopping?”

“No, I still have a few things to get.”

“Are you going to be having a barbecue?”

“No, Toothless is checking out a new place on Spruce.”

“The street where Daniel, you and I lived!”

“Yeah, I lived in the pink house.”

“I remember the pink house. I walked past it, going towards Parliament, on my way to the shopping center.”

“It’s still pink.”

I wandered over to the railing where Gaston was standing by himself. “Hi Gaston, are you enjoying the warm weather?”

“Yes, it’s nice to see the sunshine after so much rain. I come here to get reacquainted with my friends. I’ll be going home soon to spend time in my garden. It’s small, but I have cabbages, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes. In the house, I raise my own herbs. I get milk from a farmer in glass bottles, just like in the old days. He puts some aside for me. The cream rises to the top. I love that, I can make my own whipping cream.”

“Do you live in Toronto?”

“I live in Corktown, within walking distance of here. I have my own house, I take courses at the university, teach courses at the university and at the HIV drop in center on Gerrard. I also teach at another drop in program on Markham Road  — that’s the place where they deal with people who have mental conditions.

“My main interest is psychology. We must first understand ourselves in order to understand others. We must understand our whole bodily system, how we are affected by nutrition, stress. Stress is a big concern. If we are stressed it affects our digestion, our thinking process, our internal organs and our ability to heal.

“I teach courses on HIV. Cleanliness is very important at every step. The first place people touch is the doorbell. I disinfect it after each person enters, the same with the door knobs. I’ve opened drop-in centers here and in and Ottawa.”

“That’s fascinating, Gaston. Do you have a website? How can I register for your courses?”

“It’s listed under The AIDS Committee of Toronto.”

“I’ll check that out, Gaston. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

I said good-bye to the congregation, including Nick, whose hand was in a cast up to his elbow.

“How is your hand, Nick. It must be feeling better having the cast on.”

Trudy said, “He was supposed to have an operation, but he declined it.”

“Did they want to operate on your hand?”

“No, on my liver. My friend died yesterday of the same thing. I decided to leave it in God’s hands.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Nick. I truly am. How are you feeling about your situation?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’re all the same, Nick. None of us knows how long we have to live, It could be years, months, weeks or days. We’re never sure. All we can do is take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time. I know you do a lot to help people. Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Supplying sandwiches to the homeless is very important. We’re here to help. That’s all any of us can do.”

“Yes, I panhandle to give to those who have less than I do.”

“Take care, Nick. God bless you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

.

War Memorial 

7 June 2012

Noon at the park was sunny and warm. Hippo and Andre were arguing over forty-five cents. They were short that amount to go to the liquor store. Hippo threw a nickel at Andre. Andre threw a quarter at Hippo.

Andre said to Hippo, “Do you want me to get up? Do you want me to get up?”

“No,” said Hippo, “I don’t want you to get up. Let’s be reasonable about this.”

I stopped to talk to Wolf who said, “If you wonder why I’m sitting with these wild men, it’s because that other group over there is too near the war memorial. That’s the first place the cops are going to stop. It makes sense, if someone has lost a friend or family member to the war, the last thing they want to see is a bunch of people standing around drinking beer. It’s not respectful. There used to be two benches there, but they took them out. That was the reason. Since then, they’ve taken two more benches out. They’re making a statement. Do you see what I mean?”

I wandered over to the other group. Joy was talking about an incident that happened yesterday. “Lucy punched Irene in the face and broke her nose. Then Daimon grabbed Shark and took his cell phone. He gave it back later. I said to Lucy today, ‘I don’t appreciate what you did to my friend. Shark was good to you, he sold you drugs at half the price he could have charged. Is this is the way you repay him? That’s not the way that friends treat friends. Does Daimon want to go back to jail so soon? Anyone walking by, seeing someone putting the boots to someone on the ground, could have called the cops.’

“That’s what happens when you’re dealing with addicts. They don’t think reasonably, they just think of their next fix.”

“Here comes Andre,” said Outcast.

“Little Jake has passed out on the bridge. The cops and the paramedics are sure to be here soon. Speaking of cops, there are four of them on bicycles talking to Hippo. One of them is riding in this direction. Dump your liquor!”

As he rode by, the officer on bicycle said, “Hi, Andre!”

Joy poured the contents of her plastic bottle on the lawn. “That should kill the grass,” she said. Outcast kicked over his can of beer that he had placed on the bottom rung of the railing. Andre started staggering to where the action was. “They probably won’t do anything to Little Jake because he has AIDS. He usually has a cut on his lip or something. They won’t want to go near him.

“Earlier they talked to me. I said, ‘anything you want to know is on my dossier. Just look me up. ‘Dossier?’ he said, ‘that’s a pretty big word for you.’ ‘Look dude,’ I said, ‘I’ve been in the system for as long as I can remember. If there’s one thing I know, it’s the system. You’ll find that I’m red flagged for violence and there’s a green C beside my name for hep.c. Anything else you want to know is in there.”

“Andre,” said Outcast, “stay here, you’re drunk! If you go over there you’re going to be charged! Stupid bastard!”

Joy said, “He rode right by. I wouldn’t have needed to dump my bottle.”

“That’s the third can of beer I’ve kicked,” said Outcast. “That’ll tell you how many times they’ve been here this morning. They’ve been coming every hour.”

“Dennis, I think you may have been lucky for us. You look respectable. They’d treat you decent. You should have seen the bicycle cop that was here yesterday. A red-headed guy with big muscles. I wish I’d had a video phone. He stood there, in front of the women, scratching his balls. He was really disgusting. He said, ‘They don’t make condoms big enough to fit me.’ and ‘I’m so big that I’m cramped by this bicycle seat’. If I could have recorded that I’d have been on the phone right away to the police. I’d say, ‘This is how one of your officers talks to the public.’ They think that, because we’re alcoholics, they don’t have to treat us like humans.”

“Dennis is always lucky for me,” said Joy. “Every time he stops by, I get two or three drops.”

Outcast said, “The Chief of Police was on T.V. the other night. He said they’re going to crack down on drugs in the Market. I guess that means here too. It’s because of the tourists. He said so. They don’t want tourists looking at people like us, hanging around drinking beer.”

“I’ll have to mix another drink,” said Joy as she reached into her backpack for her sherry and water bottles. “Are there any female cops over there? If there aren’t, they won’t be able to check my bag. I hope there aren’t, because I’m carrying pot.”

Outcast said, “I think Hippo has outstanding warrants against him, but that’s in British Columbia.”

Hippo came walking up, “They charged me with pissing against the wall. I got a thirty-five dollar fine. I couldn’t have held it any longer anyway.”

“May I see your ticket?” I asked. “I’m just curious to see what they wrote.”

“I threw it away. It didn’t have my real name on it anyway.”

“And even if it did, you wouldn’t pay it, would you?”

“No, but maybe I should have given it to Jacques. He could have taped it on his wall with all the liquor violations, and Joy’s ticket for jumping the bus.”

Hippo walked over to Outcast, “Can I have forty-five cents. Rocky is going for a run.”

“Will they let him in?” asked  Outcast. “Is he sober enough?”

“Well, he’s more sober than I am. I’m hammered.”

Joy reached into her bra and pulled out a change purse. She gave some money to Hippo, “Buy me a bottle too, will you?”

“Joy, I knew you stuffed your bra,” laughed Outcast.

“Earlier, Daimon saw me put money in my backpack and he kept eyeing it. I figured this way, he’d have to come through me to get it.”

“Charlie was by earlier, but he didn’t stay long. I guess nobody would give him anything.”

The police had left, so I wandered down to say good-bye to the other group. Shark had joined them.

“Hi Shark,” I said, “I’m sorry to hear about what happened to Irene. Joy said her nose is broken.”

“It’s not broken. It was just bleeding. She’d be here but she’s mad at me for not stepping in when Lucy punched her, but I couldn’t. First, I was in the middle of a drug deal with Daimon. Second, he said, ‘Stay out of it!’ He grabbed my arm and held me down. See the bruises?

“I wouldn’t say this to Irene, but she had it coming. I’ve told you before that when she’s drunk her mind goes on retard. She just keeps repeating the same thing over and over. She was saying, ‘That person has sucked Sharks’s cock, that person has sucked Shark’s cock, and on, and on, and on …’ I said, ‘Irene, this may be of some concern to you, but it isn’t to anybody else, Now, shut the fuck up!’ That’s when Lucy popped her.

“She won’t be mad at me for long. I talked to my landlord and I have a two bedroom apartment arranged.”

“Where is it?” I asked.

“I don’t know, he has buildings all over the city, we can take our pick. I told him that I’d pay him the last months rent now and the first month’s rent, August first, when we move in. He’s willing to give me the last month, in my present apartment, for free. Not a bad deal, eh? I’ll have a room to myself, so when Elaine gets mad at me I can go there and play my games.”

.

Little Jake Gets Charged 
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.’ ”

.

11 June 2012

Chicken Man

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.”

.

13 June 2012

Barbecue 

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 aid, “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.”

.

14 June 2012

Hobophobia 

This morning the weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the temperature was not too cool, not too hot, humidity was moderate. I was welcomed by Metro.  Silver gave me a wave from across the street. Joy was smiling and waving. Soon, Hippo and Andre stopped by to chat.

“Where did you sleep, Hippo?” I asked.

“Behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks.”

Andre said, “I woke up and one of the waitresses came out and asked me if I wanted a coffee. ‘Sure,’ I said.”

Hippo said, “Andre and I both made our price (for a bottle of sherry) today.”

“I’m still short a quarter,” said Andre.

“Here you go,” said Hippo as he handed him a quarter.

Andre said, “I’ve got a peanut butter and jam, and a tuna sandwich, if anybody wants one.”

Joy said, “Neither of those appeal to me.”

“Me neither,” said Andre, “that’s why I still have them.”

“Hey!” said Hippo, “what about me!”

“Hippo,” said Joy, “you’re a human garbage can.”

“I know.”

Andre and Hippo wandered off, probably going to the park to relax and have a drink.

Joy said, “I wonder how long that tuna sandwich has been in Emile’s backpack.” She looked in her cap, “I’ve been here since six o’clock and I’ve made exactly four twenty. That’s depressing.

“There he goes , he’s the one with the sign that says, ‘Help Put An End To Hobophobia’. What does that mean?”

I said, “A homophobe is a person who doesn’t like homosexuals. A hobophobe is a person who doesn’t like hobos.”

“Hobos?” asked Mo, “People like me?”

“Yes, a misogynist is a person who doesn’t like women.”

Misogynist / Misogyny: is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women.

“That’s Jake. I’ll have to remember that.

“You have access to a computer, don’t you? I’d like the address of Millhaven Penitentiary. I want to write Frank a nasty note using the word ‘misogynist’.”

Millhaven Institution
Highway 33
P.O. Box 280
Bath, Ontario
K0H 1G0

telephone: (613) 351-8000

fax: (613) 351-8136

“I’m trying to get Fran away from Gene. I said to her, ‘Look at me. You’ve seen me with black eyes, a broken nose, cracked and broken ribs. I could hardly walk because of the chest pain. My legs have been black and blue, all because of Jake. I’ve seen you with black eyes. If Gene hit you once he’ll hit you again. I know what I’m talking about. If you’re ever worried or in trouble, promise you’ll phone me. Even if you just want to talk, give me a call.’ ”

Just then a pigeon, sitting on the roof of the library, shit. It landed on the knee of my pants. Joy laughed as she handed me some paper napkins and her bottle of water.

“That’s considered good luck. I’m morbid, but it reminds me of a place I lived – Laurel something or other. There were two apartment towers, one higher than the other. It was mostly elderly people living there. One day a friend and I were just leaving the building when I heard a ‘thud’ and noticed some blood on my leg. At first I thought I had scratched myself on something. Then I saw an old lady lying on the pavement. She actually lifted her head, then died. She’d jumped from the twenty-fifth floor. I guess she felt she’d lived long enough. Why would a person want to end their life like that? Her head made a dent in the pavement. They had to scrape her face up with a spatula. That’s really getting morbid.

“While I was living there, maybe five years, about fifty people jumped to their death. Usually they’d hit the railing. You can imagine what a mess that made.”

I said, “ There are also a lot of subway jumpers. In the first five months of this year, seventeen people jumped into the path of oncoming subway trains.  Nearly once a week, the subway shuts down because someone jumped in front of one of the subway cars.”

Joy said,“One time I was waiting at the bus platform. There was a woman beside me who looked like she didn’t have a care in the world. When the bus came she threw herself in front of it. I can still remember the sound of her scream. She wasn’t killed. They had to amputate one arm and one leg. I’m not sure what other injuries she had.

“I’m just babbling away here. I’m like dinner and a movie without the dinner. You can have this apple. I can’t digest the skin. I’ve also got a banana. I don’t eat much fruit. I’ll probably give it to Jacques or Hippo.”

At the park this after noon there were about ten people and one dog.

“How are you feeling, Rocky?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I have to see my probation officer at one o’clock. I think he’s going to breach me.”

“Why would he breach you?”

“I was supposed to quit drinking and I haven’t.”

“Have you been in any programs to help you quit drinking, like Alcoholics Anonymous or the Wet Program at the Shepherd?”

“I’m banned for life at the Shepherd and the Mission. I have six tokens from A.A.”

“What are the tokens for?”

“They give you a token for every meeting you attend.”

“Do you enjoy the meetings?”

“I do enjoy some of them. Some of the speakers are really good. Others take and hour and a half for what could be said in five minutes.”

“Have you been eating? Do you need money for food?”

“I had breakfast. It’s Thursday, so the ‘sandwich ladies’ will be coming by shortly.”

“Excuse me, Rocky, I’m going to sit down.”

I sat between Andre and Gaston. I mentioned to Gaston that I had visited his  website. He manages a  drop-in center for victims of AIDS.

“I’ve started several drop-in centers. One in Montreal and one in Ottawa for children who have been physically or sexually abused.”

“How do you go about starting a drop-in center?”

“First of all, I’m a very confidant person. Before starting any venture I know I will succeed. For funding, I approach groups such as the Wives of Lawyers Auxiliary group. I make my presentation to them and they convince their husbands to invest money.”

I noticed that Andre was eating his peanut butter and jam sandwich (pb & j was written on the plastic wrap). “I thought you didn’t like peanut butter and jam, Andre.”

“I don’t, but when I’m hungry it’s better than nothing. Here Shaggy, see if you like this?” Andre fed small pieces to Wolf’s dog who was hesitant at first, then decided that she liked it.

.

 

 

15 June 2012

Millhaven Penitentiary

Joy was quiet this morning, “I didn’t have much sleep last night. Chuck had the television on loud until eleven thirty. The crack heads next door were so loud that he phoned the police. He woke me at five this morning. I said, ‘You didn’t need to wake me. I’ve been awake most of the night.’

“He’s getting lazier and lazier. He got the dog for exercise, but he hardly takes him out. I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for any dog food. He hasn’t been doing any panning, he just lies on the couch watching TV.  That means when I get home I don’t have any time to myself. He wants to have a barbecue tomorrow. His parents are coming over. I’ll have to check with him later to see if he wants me to get any groceries at the store on my way home.”

“I tried to check on Big Jake,” I said, but the information is only available to immediate family.”

“How did you check?”

“I Googled Jake’s name, but nothing came up. I Googled Millhaven and got a directory, but that’s as far as I could go. They don’t have any listing of inmates. They have instructions as to what to do if you want to visit.”

“No, I don’t want to visit. I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Hippo and Andre were by earlier. They’ve been sleeping behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks. I guess Hippo had been panning, across the street from Andre, and had only made a quarter. He came over to get a cigarette. He saw a woman reach down toward his hat. He thought she was dropping money, but she took his quarter. They seem to have been eating pretty well according to what they tell me.”

“You mentioned yesterday that your youngest son is still in school. Who is he living with?”

“He lives with my oldest, who is twenty-eight now. He takes really good care of him. The second youngest was adopted out. I guess I wasn’t a very good role model. Of course, I didn’t have good role models myself.”

“Chester hasn’t been doing too well lately. He had an inheritance of eight thousand dollars and it was gone in a month. He asked me to do a run for him one time and gave me his bank card and number. I asked him, ‘How many people know your bank number?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He’s been like that ever since he fell down that flight of concrete steps and split his head open. He forgets a lot of things, and people take advantage of that.”

Noon at the park was sunny and mild. Serge was lying down asleep on a park bench. Shakes was lying on the lawn.

Debbie borrowed Joy’s phone to check her bank balance. She didn’t know how to open Joy’s phone. She threw it back.

“Thanks for throwing it, Debbie!”

Joy said to me, “My mom was sort of a swamp lady. She’d catch bullfrogs and deep fry them in batter. She’d also make squirrel stew. It tasted a bit gamey. We also had deer and elk, that taste pretty much the same, we had buffalo, bear, rabbit —  pretty much anything.

“Jake’s parents live in Rockland. They never approved of me. We stayed at their cottage one time, they left to go back to Rockland, we were to stay there and cut firewood for the winter. Jake got into his mom’s codeine pills and spent all his time on the couch. I was the one who went into the woods with the chain saw, cut the trees, hauled them out, cut and split them for firewood.

“I said to him, “What kind of support is that. I don’t know what I’m doing up there. What if a tree had fallen on me?”

Little Jake had staggered away to lie on the grass with his head on his backpack. Debbie said, “Joy, I’ve got lots of newspapers here. Why don’t you sit on these instead of your blanket. I think Jake should have something over him.”

“First of all, Debbie, this blanket is going home with me, to go on my bed. I don’t want to be sharing it with Jake . Second, the weather is warm. he doesn’t need anything covering him.”

Debbie left to drape some newspapers over Jake. Silver yelled at Cathy, “Will you just leave him the fuck alone? Jesus!”

Joy said, “Silver, you don’t get your balls up very often, but when you do, it sure is entertaining.”

Andre said, ‘Whatever kind of food I want to eat, that’s the type of restaurant I pan in front of. Last night Hippo and I had roast beef, maybe tonight it will be sushi.”

Hippo said he has been gaining weight since teaming up with Andre.

.

18 June 2012

Algonquin Land

Noon at the park was sunny and warm. Serge was sitting in his usual place.

“Hi Serge!”

“Hi.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“I’ve been feeling sick the past few days.”

“What kind of sickness did you have?”

“Too much booze. I’m taking a break for a while.”

“It’s good to take a break every once in a while.

“Are the others up top?”

“There all up there.”

“I’ll see you on my way back, Serge.”

“See you.”

There were several groups of people on the lawn. I talked first to Debbie, Little Jake, Wolf and Shaggy, who was very friendly. She rubbed against me, slid her head under my hand to be scratched and patted.

“Jake,” I said, “Friday you mentioned that You had a dream about me. Do you remember the dream?”

“No, it wasn’t sexual though. I think I may have dreamed that you gave me a hundred dollars. I don’t know.”

I moved to another group that included Shakes , Daimon, Lucy In The Sky, Hippo, Andre and Ian.

Ian was talking to Andre, looking very sombre. He had been sitting with his girlfriend Marlena and had touched her breast. The police saw it and charged him.

“You’re a marked man, Ian,” said Andre. Even if she goes to court and tries to have the charges dropped, you’ll have a stay on your record. If you get charged for anything else, you’ll go straight to jail, and as a sexual offender expect a lot of beatings. They’ll probably put you in P.C. (Protective Custody), but even there you won’t be safe.”

Ian handed Andre the summons. “I thought you just got a domestic, this says you’re charged with sexual assault. You’re fucked! If you go within fifty feet of her you can be charged.

“Don’t get me wrong, Ian, we’re family. We know you didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll always have your back. It’s just the police.”

Daimon said, “I’ve had domestics before. Even if you’re just arguing with your old lady, they can kick you out of your house or apartment. They won’t do a thing to her, but if you leave, they figure there’s no more problem.”

Andre said, “I’ve served twenty-five years in jail, in and out. If there’s one thing I know, it’s the law. Since it was the cops who laid the charges against you, it’s them you’ll have to deal with.”

“I have witnesses too,” said Irving.

“That could help. One time I was charged with uttering death threats against my wife, her parents and my kids — five counts I was charged with. I spent eleven months dead time before I went to court. When I finally did to court the judge said, ‘Is there anything wrong with this picture? Here’s a man pleading innocent, after eleven months, and he still hasn’t had a trial. I’m throwing this out for time served. Andre, you’re free to go.’

“Six-up to my left.”

One male and one female bicycle police officers rode up. The female officer said, “Hi Andre, Ian. Are you guys keeping out of trouble?

“You over there,” she said to Outcast. “Did I just see you kick a beer can over the railing?”

“No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some empties down there.”

“Shakes,” she said, “you’re sober. What happened?”

“What happened is you made me pour out all my booze last night. I have nothing to drink.”

“I’m going to lay it out for you guys. If you’re just up here shooting the shit that’s okay, but this is private property. Do you understand? If we see any liquor, you’re going to be charged. You got that?”

“Yes, officer,” said Andre. “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke would you?”

“No, Andre, I don’t smoke.”

After the police left Ian said, “This is Algonquin land. I’m Algonquin. There’s no way they can keep me off my own land.”

 .

Chili Beaten

19 June 2012

This morning was overcast and becoming muggy. It had rained overnight and we’re expecting a heat wave over the next few days.

Joy said, “I was late getting down here because of the rain, but once it stopped, I hopped the bus. I was here about seven thirty. It was too hot for me to come out yesterday.

“We had a barbecue on the weekend with Toothless Chuck’s parents. Chili had smashed some coke and was swinging on the pipes above Chuck’s mom’s head. Chuck was not impressed. He threw her out.

“She told us that Daimon and Lucy had jumped her for her drugs. Her eye is black and swollen now. I told her to keep away from people like that. Lucy is psychotic around women. The other day she saw my phone hanging out of my pocket and she asked to borrow it. I said, ‘I have no time left on it. it isn’t working.’ Then, of course, it rang. She grabbed the phone, we were struggling for it when Daimon came up behind me and smacked me in the head.

“Stealing from panhandlers is bad. Friends double teaming friends is just sick.

“I have to get away from people — into the woods somewhere.”

I said, “Shark and Irene  have mentioned vacationing someplace near Georgian Bay. I think Anastasia also has a place on a lake somewhere.”

“I’d love to go somewhere with Irene or Anastasia, but Shark and I would be at each other’s throats after a few days.”

“Daimon and Lucy are bound to be at the park today, because this is the day that Shark gets his meds. I don’t think that Irene will come down again. She’s too scared.”

“Shark said that Anastasia is a bit crazy.”

“Irene and Anastasia like to drink together. Usually Anastasia has gone through a bottle of vodka before she even comes to the park. She’s so pretty, but she can get wierd.”

“So, is there any news about your birth certificate or your other cards?”

“No, I’m going to go to The Womens’ Center to see if I can find out what’s holding things up.”

At noon the sky was threatening rain, but it held off. Finally, the sun came out. There was palpable tension at the park. Three groups had formed. Daimon, Lucy, Jake, Hippo and Andre were sitting on the lawn in one group. Joy, Chili  and I were sitting on the curb. Facing us, on the opposite curb, were Outcast, Chester, Silver and Rocky.

Chili’s right eye, cheek and chin were bruised and swollen.

Joy asked, “Does it hurt when you smile or laugh?”

“Yes, it does.”

Joy said, “One time I was on the floor when Big Jake hit me in the cheek with a billy club. I had a bruise in the shape of an “L”. The cops asked Jake if he had done it. He said, ‘One of your finest did that.’

“I’m going to phone Toothless to see if he’ll change his mind about letting you stay at our place.”

“Hi Chuck, I’m sitting with Chili. She’s sorry for what happened on the weekend. She knows she fucked up, but she has no other place to stay and I’m trying to keep her away from Daimon and Lucy. Chuck, don’t hang up okay? Chuck… He hung up.”

“He’s still pissed about that thing with his mother.”

“I know I fucked up.”

Andre came over and gave the women a hug. “Andre,” said Joy. “How can you sit with that pair of assholes after seeing what they did to Chili?”

“It’s just that I’ve known Daimon for over twenty years. I used to hang out with his older brother who is three times his size.”

“Has Daimon always been an asshole?”

“Yeah, he’s always been the same.”

“Will you come with us to the bank? Chili needs to deposit some money, and she’s afraid that Daimon and Lucy are going to jump her again.”

“Sure, I’ll ride shotgun.”

“Thanks, Andre, you’re someone I know I can trust.”

Daimon and Lucy eventually walked away together.

Joy said, “I really wish someone would boot fuck those assholes until they were just twitching. Then, maybe, we’d call 911 — sorry too late.

“I’m really the matriarch around here. Jacques and I are the last two left from the old group, now that Rip is dead.”

 

.

Psycho

20 June 2012

“Hi Joy, how did everything go after I left yesterday? Was there any more trouble with Daimon and Lucy?”

“No, Andre walked Chili and me down to where she had to go, then I took the bus home. When I was on the bus I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it tucked into the cuff of my jeans. It must have fallen out when I was helping Chili. I tried phoning the number and it sounded like a kid that answered. I said, ‘Look, I’ve just gotten off the number fourteen bus. I really need my telephone. Would you do me a really big favor and bring it to the mall’ Then the phone went dead. I tried calling the number later, but it wasn’t in service.

“A guy gave me a phone, but I have to pay a thirty-five dollar activation fee. I’m going to check around and see if I can get a better deal than that.

“I swear that I’m going to give Loretta a shot in the head today.”

“What did she do?” I asked.

“She was panning in front of Tim Horton’s. I said to her, ‘You can’t stay here, you’re cutting my grass.’ I sent her over to see Silver. He sent her over to Hippo’s spot. She’s probably only got about ten minutes before the woman from the hotel asked her to move.

“Chuck has been real pissy lately. He’s always talking down to me. Last night when I came home I still had a piece of steak in the fridge. I nuked it, then put it in a bun with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It tasted just like one of those Philly Steak and Cheese sandwiches that you can get at Arby’s. I worked at Arby’s one time. It was mostly a front for a drug operation. I used to call it Garby’s. I left just before they got raided.

“Nicholas was really getting on my nerves. He just kept talking and talking about everything. He even followed me into my room. I said to him, ‘Nicholas, you may know about some things, but you don’t know everything. If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to do you right here.’ ”

“But, I have a girlfriend.”

” ‘I didn’t mean that I wanted to have sex with you. I meant that I was going to punch you in the head.’

“Chuck was barbecuing and asked me if I wanted a sausage. I said, ‘No’ He got all pissy about that and I really lost it. I packed all my things, put them in my bag and walked out. I slept behind Starbucks. I had my blanket under me, a soft pile of cardboard underneath and another blanket that I pulled over my head.

“Hippo and Andre came by sometime in the night. Andre peeked under the corner of the blanket and said, ‘Hey, it’s Joy.’ Later on he said, ‘I may accidentally put my arm around you in my sleep.’ The first time he did it, I just moved his arm. The second time, I gave him a shot in the head. I didn’t want any spooning going on. I was all snugly, Andre and Hippo shivered all night. I don’t know why they don’t get some blankets or a sleeping bag. There are lots available now.

“Hippo had a shower the other day and he’s acting all different like, ‘I’m King Hippo’. He’s still wearing the same dirty pants that are nearly worn through. He said to me, “Joy we should go down to Queen Street now.” I don’t need him telling me where I should and shouldn’t go.

“I have to see  my probie today. She wants me to move to a womens’ shelter. I don’t even know where it is. I’ve talked to a few women who’ve lived there. They say there are a lot of rules, like doing daily chores; not coming in drunk; once a week having to cook a meal for the entire floor. I don’t even cook for myself. If I can’t throw it in the nuker, I don’t buy it.”

I said, “How about sharing a place with Chili? You seem to get along fine with her.”

“The only problem is that she has a place In Scarborough. I don’t want to stay somewhere it takes three busses to get downtown. The only person I would consider living with is Pierre. He’s invited me over sometimes on the weekend. He has a twelve-year-old son that he talks to on the telephone. I hear him saying, ‘I love you, son.’ I can here the son saying, ‘I love you dad.’ That’s really special.

“Pierre says he’s not interested in a relationship. He’s interested in a friend with benefits. He’s a bit older than I am, but it’s something to think about.”

I said, “I met Pierre yesterday. He seems nice. I think he’d probably treat you well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Before getting ready to leave I asked, “So, what’s going to happen with Daimon and Lucy. Are they going to just keep on jumping, beating and robbing people?”

“Yeah, until Daimon goes back to jail again. I felt so bad when I saw that you weren’t wearing your watch yesterday. It’s really bad when friends can’t visit friends without stashing their stuff.

….

Before I left work I had taken the precaution of putting my watch in my pocket. Noon at the park was very hot and humid. Everyone felt drained of energy. Asleep on the grass was Shakes. Sitting in a circle were Daimon,  Lucy, Chili, Hippo, and Andre. In another group were Little Jake, Chester, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. The police had been by earlier and said that any groups larger than five people had to disperse.

I sat next to Hippo. Someone had found a newspaper photo of a hippopotamus. The photo was being passed around and someone was teasing Hippo that it was an image of his father. Hippo said, “Yeah, he’s famous. He got his picture in the paper and he’s being fed by a prince or something.”

“I remember one time going to the Clayton fair. It’s a tiny town but they have a big fair. That’s where I got driven over by a car. Another guy drove his truck straight into the swamp. He was just sitting there in the cab, he thought he was still driving. Somebody was there with a big winch truck. Nobody wanted to jump into the swamp to hook up the chain, so I did — ‘bloop.’  ”

I was surprised to see Chili sitting next to Lucy and Daimon. Her bruises still haven’t healed from the last time she was with them.

“We went to pan this morning,” said Daimon, “There was a guy in our spot. I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here! This is our spot.’ He didn’t move so I kicked him in the head. Then he moved.”

Hippo said, “I had to ask Loretta to move. She was in my spot.”

“What if she hadn’t moved?” asked Andre.

“Then I would have asked Lucy to move her.”

Daimon said, “There is someone else that’s looking for a beating. It’s Alphonse and Magdalene.”

Gene said, “Daimon could take Alphonse, Lucy could take Magdalene.”

Andre said, “The problem is, Magdalene is five months pregnant.”

“I don’t have a problem with hitting a pregnant woman, ” said Daimon.

“It’s a shame,” said Gene, “that someone would beat and rob Shakes. All you have to do is ask him for something and he’ll either say, ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ That’s not complicated.

“If it’s, ‘No,’ ” said Daimon, you can wait until he passes out, then take it… I was just kidding!”

.

21 June 2012

This morning was muggy. I had trouble staying awake on the bus. The only panhandler I saw was Silver. I sat down with him, then I saw Magdalene and Alphonse sitting across the street. It appeared that Alphonse had bought her something cold to drink.

“So, Silver, have you made a decision about moving out of your place?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been there so long — over four years. There aren’t too many crack heads. There are a few pot smokers down the hall. Everyone, pretty much keeps to themselves. I like it that way.

“It’s really hot for sleeping, even with two fans going. They just move the hot air around. I have to get a new mattress. I burned the last one and threw it out, so now I’m sleeping on the floor. I just keep tossing and turning.

“I got my last mattress from the Mission. I don’t know where I’ll get the next one. I’m worried about bed bugs. I don’t have any now, but the landlord brought around some bed bug traps. I said, ‘Oh no, not this again!’ I hate bed bugs. It’s people who bring them in, especially the ones who stay at the Mission or the Shepherd.

“Something really spooky happened last night. I usually leave the door to my room ajar, for air circulation. I woke up and my room-mate was standing in the doorway. I jumped up and asked him, ‘What’s going on, man?’ He was sound asleep. I shook him and he said, ‘I must have been sleepwalking.’ That could be dangerous. He could fall down the stairs. I said to him this morning, ‘You really wierded me out last night, man.’ He didn’t remember a thing.

“After you left the park yesterday the cops showed up again — a Sargent and a rookie. He said, ‘If there are more than four of you guys sitting around, we’re going to ask you to move.’ I said, ‘What if there are a lot of groups with just four each? Is that okay?’

“We’ll be back. You’d better be gone.”

“I wandered over to the loading dock. I’d bought myself a big sausage sandwich and I drank my beer. I know all the guys there. They don’t know that I panhandle.

I said, “I saw Hippo last night at about six o’clock. He was really drunk and said that he still had a bottle to go. He hadn’t been eating.”

“He can really eat when he wants to.We went to a funeral for Hobo at the Rosar Morrison Funeral Home. They put out six meals for us downstairs, before we went to the service. Hippo stayed behind. When we got back he’d eaten all six meals.

“Hippo really guzzles that sherry. I don’t know why people drink that. It’s killed so many of my friends, like Hobo and Rip — no, I think Rip’s still alive. They have him under house arrest. He wears one of those collars on his ankle. As soon as he leaves his front door, an alarm rings.

“He was nearly killed by a six-foot Amazon woman. I don’t know what he saw in her. She was nuts. She pulled a knife on him. He tried to defend himself. He got a slash across the palm of his hand and a stab wound to the groin.”

Chester said, “I had a nice breakfast at the Mission: bacon, eggs, toast, home fries. The only one at the park now is Jacques.”

This afternoon the park was hot. Everyone was drained of energy. There were two groups of people; Trudy, Mary, Little Jake, Wolf and Shaggy were in one group. I was about to shake Wolf’s hand when I saw that it was purple and swollen. He said, “I won’t shake your hand today. I was feeding Bear and she bit me. It’s Weasel’s dog, he should be taking care of her, wherever he is.”

I said hello to Little Jake, Trudy and Mary then wandered up to the other group. Daimon and Lucy in the Sky were just leaving with Shakes. Seated on the grass were Hippo, Andre, Gene and Fran.

“Are Daimon and Lucy heading off to work?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re taking Shakes to his office. He’s so drunk he couldn’t make it by himself.” I expect that his pockets will have been emptied, before they leave him.

Gene said, “It’s too hot to do anything. I know that the money’s out there, but I hate to leave this shade. You guys with your long pants make me sweat just looking at you. Does anybody have a cigarette?”

“No,” all around.

“I’m going to have to go to work just to get a smoke and a drink.”

Hippo had been drunk when I met him the night before. I asked him, “How are you feeling, Hippo?”

“Hot!”

Andre said, “I was panning last night in front of Tim Horton’s on Dundas. A guy dropped me thirty dollars. I thanked him and said, ‘Don’t forget my buddy across the street.’ He walked across and dropped Hippo a twenty. We did a lot of  on drinking after that. I had the shakes so bad this morning, I couldn’t do anything.

“After last night, it’s feeling a bit rough, but I’ll be okay. I’m just going to take it easy.”

Andre pulled out an egg salad sandwich from his backpack. He said, “I’d better eat this before it goes bad.”

I said, “It’s Thursday, the ‘sandwich ladies’ must have come around.”

“Yeah,” said Hippo, “They were just here.” He was sipping on a  drinking box of apple juice.

Two bicycle cops rode up on the lawn, a male and a female. I had seen them there a few days ago. The female stopped to talk to Wolf’s group. The male rode up to where we were sitting’

“How are you guys doing?”

“We’re just enjoying the shade,” answered Andre.

“Andre, are you sober?”

“Stone cold sober.”

“Why is that?”

“I woke up with the shakes this morning and thought I’d better give my body a rest.”

“Why did you have the shakes?”

“I drank too much last night.” He held out his shaking hand.

To me he said, “Where are you staying, sir?”

“I live near Westgate.”

“Why are you here?”

“Just visiting with my friends.”

‘You guys know that they don’t want you here. Why don’t you find another place that we don’t patrol all the time?”

“No matter where we go,” said Andre, “they tell us to move along. We’re not drinking, there’s not a big group of us, we’re just enjoying the shade. Where do you want us to go?”

“I’ll check with my partner.”

I noticed that Wolf was being charged, probably with a liquor violation. After the officer finished writing the ticket they both rode off.”

Andre said, “I’m going to go pick some butts.” Shortly after that I left. I met Andre coming back with a handful of cigarette butts.

 

.

22 June 2012

Saint Nick

This morning was perfect. Joy was nodding on her box. I surprised her when I said, “Hello!”

“I wasn’t around yesterday,” said Joy. “I was taken to hospital with heat stroke. I asked the doctor , ‘How can that be? I’ve been drinking lots of water. I have two large bottles in my bag.’ He said, ‘Some people are more susceptible than others, especially if your immune system is low.’

“I hate hospitals. I couldn’t wait to get out. When I was in there in November, I picked up some superbug, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) or VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci). That’s why I was in so long. I could have died from those.

“When I got home, Chuck  lit into me, ‘Where have you been? I made supper for you!’ I said, ‘Before you get all wound up, listen to me. I’ve been in hospital. I had heat stroke and they kept me overnight.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Anyway, there are a couple of pieces of chicken left, in the oven.”

“Oh really? How long have they been in there? I think I’ll leave those for you, Chuck.”

“He invited Nicholas and Corrine over for a barbecue yesterday. They were sitting on my bed. Chuck knows I don’t like that. I asked him, ‘Chuck, when am I ever going to get this place alone to myself?’ He said, ‘Maybe Sunday.’ I’ve got to get away from here.”

“I have the addresses and phone numbers for the YMCA. There is one a few blocks from here if you want to check it out?”

“The problem with the Y is they don’t allow smoking and you can’t cook in your room. I can’t imagine living in a place where I couldn’t smoke or cook.”

“Nick, with the glasses, isn’t with Trudy any longer. He said I could stay at his place for free. I could even have my own bedroom. He’s a real sweetheart and he’s quiet.”

I said, “I’ve talked to Nick many times. I’m really impressed with him. He makes sandwiches and hands them out to homeless people. He’s really a great guy.”

“So what’s been happening at the park? What drama have I missed?”

“Chili is hanging out with Daimon and Lucy. That was a surprise! The other day she left with them. The three of them were heading downtown.”

“That poor kid, she just won’t learn.”

I added, “The police were by yesterday afternoon. I was sitting with Andre and Hippo. The cop couldn’t believe that Andre was sober. He said, ‘I drank so much last night that I woke up with the shakes this morning. I decided to give my body a break for the day.’ He held out his hand to show the cop how he was shaking. Hippo was sober as well.

“The cop said, ‘You guys know that they don’t want you here. Why don’t you find another place that we don’t patrol every day?’ Andre said, “Every place we go they tell us to move on. We’re in a small group, we’re not drinking or making noise. We’re just sitting here, enjoying the shade, on a hot day. Where do you want us to go?’ ”

“That’s just it, said Joy, “they’re talking about that place being private property. I’ve never heard that before and we’ve been going there for fourteen years. The other cop said we could stay there as long as we weren’t in a big group, like twenty people. Otherwise we were okay.”

I asked, “What kind of a beef do Daimon and Lucy have against Alphonse and Magdalene. A couple of days ago, Daimon said they were in for a beating. Andre said, ‘Magdalene is five months pregnant.’ Daimon said, ‘I have no problem with hitting a pregnant woman.’ ”

“I told those guys, they should gang up, jump him and beat the shit out of him. I’d have no trouble one on one with Lucy and she knows it. The problem is Daimon. He can’t just go around beating and robbing people. When the cops were by the other day they were checking out some of the guys. I kept nodding towards Daimon and Lucy. They must have a breach outstanding somewhere. The cops just ignored them.

“Alphonse has always been a sweet quiet guy. I don’t know Magdalene.”

When I arrived at the park there were two groups of people. In the first group were Shark, Wolf and his dog Shaggy, Silver, Nick ‘with the glasses’, Mary and Trudy. In the other group were Andre, Hippo and Little Jake. Sitting by herself, between the two groups was Joy.

“I’m not being antisocial,” said Joy. “It’s just that the reflection of the sun, from that building over there, was shining in my eyes. I think it’s moved now, so let’s go join the group.”

“Have you talked to Nick? Is everything okay about you staying there?”

“Yeah, I even asked him, if I paid by the month, would it be alright if I moved in permanently. He said we could work out the details, but it was fine with him. I didn’t want to talk too much. I don’t want everyone knowing my business.”

We joined the group and Nick said to Joy, “You come over any time you want – rain or shine. I don’t want to see you sleeping outside again.”

“I won’t come unannounced,” said Joy, “I’ll phone first.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’m usually home.”

“It’s just that Chuck always has so many people over.”

“I know, and who ends up funding these barbecues? You do.”

“I just can’t afford it. Even around here — I bought a carton of cigarettes from Wolf and I had maybe a third of them. The rest went to Hippo, Little Jake and Andre. Chester hit me up for bus tickets. I know his leg is still hurting him, but I have to get home as well. I don’t owe Chester anything. It’s him that owes me.”

Joy left to talk to Chuck. Nick said to me, “Every morning when I walk across the bridge, I’m surprised at who comes out. I have sandwiches that I distribute. I bought some of those plastic containers and filled them with stew. I gave out sixteen of them. I got one container back; the rest I didn’t.

“Sometimes I’ll meet someone and I’ll invite them to come with me to a restaurant for coffee or breakfast. They might ask, ‘Could you buy me a beer?’ I say,’ Coffee or food, but no beer.’

“I always have my bible with me and I’ll pray for people. We may not be the same religion, but it doesn’t matter. I think it helps them to have someone pray for them.”

Nick’s phone rang. He talked for a while then handed the phone to Joy.

Joy said, “Hi Pierre, how are you? Are you pissed with me? I was in the hospital. I had to stay overnight. I didn’t have my phone with my contact list. I didn’t know how to get a message to you. Am I still going to see you on the weekend?… Oh… I’ll call you then. Bye.

“He’s acting all pissy because he had invited me to his place for a barbecue and I was going to sleep over, but that was the day I went into hospital. I didn’t have my phone. I couldn’t contact him. He says that he has things to do on the weekend and he has a lot on his mind.

“His girlfriend is in Inuktuk with his year old baby. He’s heard that it isn’t his, but what’s he going to do?

I said, “It shouldn’t matter to him whether it’s his child or not.”

“I agree, a baby needs love. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

It was time for me to leave. “It’ll all work out, Joy. I see good things in your future. Have a good weekend.”

I said goodbye to Nick. He hugged me and said, “I love you, brother.”

I said, “I love you, Nick. We’re on the same path.”

.

Weasel in Hospital

25 June 2012

This morning Joy was seated on her box. Andre was standing next to her. I pulled up an extra box and sat beside Joy.

“Hi Andre!” I said, “how was your weekend?”

“My weekends are always good. Every day is good. I’m just a carefree, happy guy. I’ve already made my price and enough for another (bottle).I don’t know why the Sally let me in last night — I was so drunk. I made my price, downed it, made my price again, downed that too. I was staggering from one side of the walk to the other.”

Joy said, “I saw you last night. I said to you, “Where’s the real Andre? I don’t think you knew your own name.”

It’s good that you left Hippo and Little Jake on their own. It’ll show them how much they depend on you to get drops.”

“Yeah, Jake works hard, but he’s got to open up more. Hippo does nothing. He has his legs straight out and his cup between them. People have to step over his legs to make a drop. Some people resent panhandlers taking up so much room on the sidewalk, especially when the walking traffic is heavy.

“I also try not to let people see me smoke. I’ll hide the cigarette behind a column or behind my back. If they think I can afford to smoke, they think I can afford to eat. I was panning with a guy one time. He kept checking his ipad. A woman was ready to drop him a five when she heard the guy’s iphone ring. He pulled it out to answer it and the woman stuffed the bill back in her purse. She said, ‘I can’t afford an ipad or an iphone. You’re better off than I am.’ ”

Joy said, “I keep telling Roy not to phone me here. He’ll ask, ‘What are you doing?’ I’ll say, ‘What do you think I’m doing? You’re spoiling my business, phone me back after nine.’ It’s not that he has anything to say, maybe ‘If you see Buck, pick me up some cigarettes.’

Andre said, “Well, I have to go.”

“Are you going to work?” I asked.

“No, I’m going on a run for Joy. Then I’ll go to the park. After that, I’ll go to work on Queen in front of the grocery store.

“I’ll see you later at the park.” I said. “Take care, Andre.”

I asked Joy, “Did you work things out with Nick, for a place to stay?”

“No, I’m going to stay with Chester. I spent the weekend there. He’s still upset about Mary leaving him. He’s kind of let things go. I spent most of Saturday cleaning. He has a beautiful place. I sleep on a pull out couch in the living room.

“Sunday we just took it easy. I had some money, so I bought chicken. We had it with Kraft Dinner. Chester’s quiet. I like that. We just had a few drinks, a few joints. It was nice.

“When I got to Chuck’s place this morning all I could smell was V. There’s nothing worse than the smell of a wet dog.

“Chuck had a bunch of people over for the weekend: Nicholas and Corrine, Catherine and Nick, Chili. All the food I bought last week was gone, and the place was a mess. I told him I was leaving. He said, ‘You’ll be sorry.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be sorry alright. Sorry to have extra food in the fridge.  Sorry to have extra money and cigarettes.’ ”

This afternoon was cool and windy. Near the park, I saw a police cruiser and an ambulance. I thought the worst. Chili was walking down the sidewalk, so I asked her, “Is the ambulance for anyone we know?”

“No,“ she replied, “I don’t know who it’s for. None of us.”

On the lawn were the usual people and Shaggy.

Loretta  approached and asked, “Dennis, can you spare me some bus tickets. I have to go to the hospital. It’s because of the car accident I was in a few months ago. I’m going to see a plastic surgeon. He’s going to do more work on my face and my knee. As soon as my gums finish healing, I’ll be getting a pair of dentures.”

“Sure Loretta,” I said, “Here are some bus tickets.”

“Thank you so much.”

Wolf came over to me. I tentatively reached out to shake his bruised hand. “It’s okay now, we can shake hands, the swelling has mostly gone. You can still see Bear’s teeth marks on my wrist.

“Dennis, would you do me a big favor. I’ve been looking after Bear since the police took Weasel to the hospital. The thing is, I just don’t know what to do with her. I haven’t heard from Weasel. I’ve asked people here, with phones, to check on him at the East General. He hasn’t any friends. Nobody will make the call. Will you phone the hospital and see if he’s still in there. If he is, try to find out if, or when, he’s getting out. If he’s been moved, try to find out where he is. Will you do that for me?”

“Sure, Wolf.”

“I’ve cleaned my balcony and Bear’s staying out there. She really made a stinking mess, but I cleaned that. She has a big pail of water to drink and she’s used to living outdoors. Of course, when it is really hot I bring her inside. Stella likes Bear and she’ll take her to the farm, if that’s what Weasel wants. I’ve taken good care of her, but when I tried to attach her leash, to take her for a walk, she bit my hand. I’m only starting to gain use of it again. I can’t leave her alone with Shaggy, because they don’t get along. Shaggy is eleven years old. Bear could kill her. I don’t want that to happen.”

“I understand, Wolf. I’ll phone the hospital and see what I can find out. I’ll let you know any news tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Dennis. I really appreciate that.”

“How’ve you been Norman?”

“It’s Gaston, but that’s okay.”

“I probably called you Norman last Friday. I’m sorry, my memory for names isn’t very reliable.”

“I understand. I’m the same way. Often, I’ll be in the middle of a conversation before the person’s name comes to me. The message is more important than the name. That’s been my experience. I study communication with people. I teach communication with people. If I could, I’d study at the university all my life. I’d love that.

“I also like working with people – sometimes at the Mission, sometimes at the HIV Clinic, sometimes here. What I’ve learned about homeless people, alcoholics and drug addicts is that they’re not always connected to their true selves. They put up barriers. They lose control. A few beer or a few glasses of wine will give you a small buzz, but you’re still in control. Drinking more than that — it’s the alcohol controlling you, not you controlling the alcohol. It’s used to get away from memories that are painful. Memories of abuse and neglect. I’ve suffered from abuse and neglect.

“I went through years of university on heroin. I used very small quantities to give me a lift; just a pinch here, a pinch there. I’ve never come close to overdosing on drugs. Are you familiar with what an 8-ball is? It’s an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. I’ve seen people do an entire 8-ball.

”There is an article in the paper about homelessness. They’re going about it all wrong. Instead of dealing with the problem they spend more and more money to inconvenience the homeless. This is a public park. The police have no right to ask us to move. Look how much time and money they put into that. What we need is more support for addiction facilities, better sleeping accommodations for the homeless, more access to food. I analyse all these things and try to come to some sort of resolution. Then I write about it.”

On my way back to work I saw Serge sitting in the bus shelter. “How are you doing, Serge? I see your eyes are black, did someone beat you?”

“It happened right over there, where that man or woman is sitting. My shoelace was too long. I fell on the sidewalk.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you feeling better now?”

“I’m fine. I’ve fallen before.”

I phoned the East General Hospital. By telling them I was Weasel’s brother, Wolf, they put me through to him. I said, “Hi Weasel, Wolf asked me to give you a call. He was wondering how you were doing, when you are getting out and what to do with Bear.”

“Tell Wolf I’m getting out right now. I’ll be home in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll tell him that. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well, Weasel. It was good speaking with you.”

 .

 Silver and Starbucks

26 June 2012

This morning I pulled up a box and sat beside Silver, in front of Starbucks. He’d told me previously about going to reform school when he was young. I asked him about the details.

“I first went to reform school because I stole some money. I stole sixty dollars from a lady friend of my mom’s. I didn’t spend any of the money. I hid it in my sock drawer. The lady called the police. She told them, ‘I’m missing some money and I know who took it.’

“I was coming home from school. I saw the police car and my sister was crying. The police said that if I returned the money the lady wouldn’t press charges. I said to my sister, ‘Don’t worry, I have the money. I can return it. Everything will be okay.’ I went to my sock drawer and the money was gone. Somebody in my family found the money and took it. So, that’s why I went to reform school. I did some other things, nothing very bad — kid things. They seemed like good ideas at the time.

“Sunday I went to my church on Queen Street. Lately there have been a lot of new people panning there. They had every door covered. I said to one of them, ‘You’re in my spot.’ He said, ‘I’ve been coming here a long time. Do you know what time the service starts?’ I said, ‘You’ve been coming here a long time and you don’t know what time the service starts? Yeah, sure!’ It was a bunch of crack heads. There was no point in getting into a fist fight about it. I’ll see if they’re there next Sunday.”

I said, “Gaston was at the park Friday. He seems like a decent person. Does he come by often?”

“Yeah, he and his friend are both quiet. They don’t cause any trouble. They call him Bird. I dont know why.”

“When I talked to him Friday he was telling me about rescuing a skunk who had fallen into a ditch and couldn’t get out. I know he has cats and a dog. I think he mentioned that birds come right up to him. I guess he likes birds.”

“That would make sense.”

I said, “Have you seen anything of Daimon and Lucy lately?”

“No, not since Friday.”

“I don’t get it,” I said, “They want to beat up Alphonse and Magdalene. Alphonse is small and Magdalene is five months pregnant. They have no money, no anything, they’re panhandlers. What do Daimon and Lucy hope to gain from that?”

“They’re both psychopaths. What we should do is, get a group of us together, jump them and beat the shit out of them. Then they’ll get the message that they’re not welcome.”

“That was Joy’s idea,” I said. “How long have you been panning here, Silver?”

“I’ve been here about eleven years. I used to be where Joy is now. After she got out of prison, she said it was her spot. She gave me a couple of cigarettes for it. That was okay. I didn’t like that spot anyway. I got a few tickets there for panhandling. For some reason they don’t seem to bother Joy. When I was still with my ex I used to pan on the other side of this column. It’s a government building. They said that I was blocking their fire exit and asked me to move. If there had been a fire I wouldn’t have stayed around to be in anybodys way. I’d have been long gone. Just to annoy them, I moved a few feet over. Now I’m in front of Starbucks. I’ve talked to the owner. He doesn’t mind me being here, he just asked that I don’t open the door for the ladies. I said, ‘That’s no problem.’ Now the ladies open their own doors.

“Before I came to Toronto, I lived in Osgoode. I worked for a retired cop. I’d mow his lawn, dig his garden — anything that needed doing around the yard. He watched every move I made, as if I was going to steal something from his garden. Finally, I got fed up. I told him, ‘With you watching me all the time it’s as bad as being in prison.’ I guess it gets in their blood.

“Hey Dora!” Silver yelled, “where’s my treat?” She came back a few minutes later with a toasted Danish. “Dora, I was just kidding.”

“A customer left it on the counter. Don’t you want it?”

“Of course I want it. Thanks, Dora!”

A man dropped a folded ten dollar bill in Silver’s cap. “I’ve made forty dollars so far. It’s just about time to quit for the day.”

At noon it was cool and windy. The first person I saw was Serge. “Hi Serge, I said, “How are your eyes today. Do you have any headaches? You didn’t fall again did you?”

“No, I didn’t fall again. Last night I slept in a park, nearby. It was nice.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“Take care.”

Seated on the curb by the sidewalk was a group of a half dozen regulars.

Andre gestured to a camp stool and said, “Have a seat. Gene gave this to me. Look down below.” I looked, there were two zippered pockets. One held a plate, plastic glass and cutlery. The second was a cooler.

“That cooler will hold ten beer or four bottles of sherry. The cops won’t even know I have any liquor. Yesterday I must have drunk, let me think… nine bottles of sherry. I’ve got a hangover now, so I haven’t been drinking. See my hand shaking?”

I asked, “What’s this carved wooden animal in your hat? Is this for good luck?”

“You don’t recognize it?”

“It looks like a bear.”

“It’s a kitty cat. I call it my pocket pussy.”

Gene commented on a german shepherd that was being led on a leash by its owner. “That’s a beautiful dog. It’s well-groomed too.”

“Yes, it’s had a lot of brushing.”

“I used to have a dog just like that, a King German Shepherd named Chinook. She was a really smart dog. There are a lot of tests that you can put a dog through to determine its intelligence; putting food under an upside down cup, putting a blanket over the dog’s head. He passed all the tests. She knocked the cup over to get the food, shook her head to get out from under the blanket. Some dogs would just sit there. Like when you put a cover over a bird-cage.

“We had a four-foot fence around our yard. I had a problem with some neighbourhood kids who were teasing and throwing stones at Chinook. I told their parents what was happening and asked if I could teach the kids a lesson. They said, ‘Okay.’ When the kids came over again I went out and talked to them. I said, ‘This dog is almost as big as you are. It has a gentle nature unless it’s provoked. This dog could kill you. You think you’re safe behind this fence. Watch this.’ I gave the command, ‘Chinook, over!’ She easily jumped the fence and came to my side. She used to jump into the back of my pickup. You should have seen the expression on those kids’ faces. Their eyes were like saucers when they saw the dog up close.

“We had kids in the house at the time, so we didn’t smoke or drink very much. It’s a funny thing, but Chinook didn’t like people smoking or drinking. It was alright if I was sitting at the table and had a few beer or a smoke, but it someone came to the door with the smell of alcohol or cigarettes on them she’d get upset. She even growled at my mother-in-law. I asked her if she’d been drinking . She said she had. If I was sitting on the lawn with a beer beside me Chinook would knock it over. She was great with kids. They’d pile on top of her, pull her ears.  She wouldn’t react at all.

Gene’s cell phone began to ring. “I’m going to have to take this,” he said. “I’m supposed to be working today. I’m a carpenter. My boss has my belt and all my tools. I can’t contact him. I think he’s at his cottage. If he didn’t have any work for me, I could have found work with someone else —  if I had my tools.

“I talked to Luther the other day. He’s living in Orleans.”

I said, “I talked to him too. No, I’m thinking of Weasel. He’s been in the East General since last Tuesday. He got out around four yesterday. I bet Wolf will be happy. He won’t have to look after Bear anymore.”

Joy said, “Wolf’s hand still hasn’t fully healed from where Bear bit him. I was thinking that maybe Weasel had died. If he had, I wonder how many people would attend his funeral.”

Silver said, “That’s a morbid thing to say, Joy.”

“I’m not wishing he was dead, I was just thinking that it wouldn’t be like the funeral we attended for Hobo. That was packed.”

Steve said, “It looks like Bear has already started digging a grave for him here in the lawn.”

“It’s a pretty shallow grave,” said Silver.

Joy said, “A shallow grave would be good enough. He’s skinny. I’d be glad to throw in the first shovel of dirt.”

Hippo said,”I’m getting pissed off with Little Jake. We’ve been panning together and he keeps saying stupid things like, ‘This is my bridge.’ It scares people away. If that’s his bridge then this is my park.”

Pierre said, “I have to go home to feed my kid and me.”

Andre said, “What’s that?”

Joy said, “Pierre has a son. He has to go home and make his lunch.”

“Oh,” said Andre, “I thought he said, I have to go home to feed my kidney. That just sounded wrong.”

Pierre said to Joy, “Do you want me to cut the ribs.”

“Separate them, don’t cut through the bone.”

“That’s what I meant.”

Rocky arrived and said hello to me. “Hi, Rocky, how are you feeling?”

“I’m good.”

“Is your stomach okay? Have you been eating?”

“I’ve been eating.”

“Have you received any more information about housing?”

“I move July fifteenth.”

“Do you know the location yet?”

“It’s Downsview. To get here, I’d take a bus,  a subway, then a streetcar. That takes about forty-five minutes. It’s about half an hour to downtown.”

“How did it go with your probation officer? You were worried about being breached.”

“No, he didn’t breach me. I’ve been going to my A.A. meetings.”

“That sounds great, Rocky. It sounds a lot better that when you were throwing up blood in the bushes.”

Andre said, “You know, I got five tickets the other day. I was sitting on the sidewalk with a couple of guys, actually it was Little Jake and Hippo. There was an open bottle in front of me. The cop said, ‘Whose bottle is that?’ I said, ‘I might as well own up to it.’ He wrote me up. I said, ‘Since I’m being charged can I keep the bottle?’ He said, ‘I’ll ask my partner.’ His partner was my cousin. Of course he said I could keep it.

“He said, ‘We’re going to come back. If you’re still here, you’ll be charged again.’ We stayed and we were charged again. I even got a charge for smoking within twenty feet of a doorway.”

Outcast said, “Something similar happened to me. I was drinking a big bottle of beer. The cop charged me and I said, “Can I at least drink the rest of this beer instead of dumping it?’ He said, ‘If you can drink it before I finish writing up your friend, you can drink it.’
Well, It went down in two seconds.”

Wolf said, “I was talking to Francois the other day. Remember he and I got tickets? I said to the cop, ‘It’s my fault that he’s here. Can you go a bit easy on him. The cop wrote him up. I only found out today that he only got a warning. I got two tickets, a hundred and twenty-five bucks each. He has a driver’s licence so he would have had to pay the fine before he could renew his licence. For me it doesn’t matter.”

.

Daimon Gets Stomped

27 June 2012

This morning Joy was sitting on her storage box, talking to Chester. They were finalizing the arrangements for Joy to move in. Chester shook my hand then said good-bye.

“I still haven’t told Chuck that I’m moving, but I won’t be giving him any rent money for July. I’ll give him a hundred towards the cable bill. He’s really been nasty to me lately. He phoned me at the park yesterday and asked, ‘Are you coming home tonight?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe I will, maybe I won’t.’ ‘If you do,’ he said, ‘bring me some pot.’

Andre came trudging up the sidewalk with his backpack, a raincoat and his folding stool. “I don’t know what happened last night but I found this in my cap.” He held up a business card from a ninety-nine dollar hooker.

I said, “That should give you some clue.”

“No, that’s not in my price range. What really scared me is finding this rock in my cap.” He held up a one pound rock. “This swung in my cap makes a mean weapon, just like a billy club. I vaguely remember saying to some guy, ‘You want my money? Try and take it from me.’ I don’t know what happened after that. I went a bit haywire yesterday. I nearly got in a fight with Daimon. I said, ‘Your brother is three times your size and I took him, so come and get it.’ His brother is huge — twenty-two inch arms, about six-foot seven. He’s a monster. He’d have to duck and go through a door sideways.

“I’m going to have to go to work. I need a drink.” With that he left.

I asked Joy, “If Daimon just got out of prison, would he still be an addict?”

“It’s much easier to get drugs on the inside than it is on the outside.”

“So,” I asked, “did I miss anything after I left yesterday?”

“No, It was pretty quiet. I waited for Pierre to come back. Then we watched a few videos. His son is twenty-four years old. He’s autistic and has a mental age of about twelve. We get along great. We were about to watch Paranormal 2. He said to me, ‘You’re going to be scared.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ There is a part where this guy is being dragged off the bed by a demon. I jumped off the couch and ran down the hall. Everyone got a good laugh out of that.”

On my way to the park I met Serge. “How are you doing, Serge?” I asked.

“I’m fine. I’m just going to the bench near the bank. I want to sit down before I fall down again.”

“Take care, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park the usual congregation was in attendance. There was lots of excitement in the neighbourhood. Emile was swearing. He dragged Ian by the ankles for about twenty feet. Then Ian and Shakes started fighting, rolling around on the lawn.

I sat next to Joy and asked, “What’s this about?”

“Ian is drunk and was being a dickhead to everyone. Andre had enough and went after him.”

Ian eventually slunk back to the circle. “I don’t know what I did wrong?”

Andre answered, “Your woman screwed you over, pressed charges against you. Now you’re drunk. You ask us for help. Sure we’re going to help you, we’re family, but don’t act like a dickhead and treat us like shit.”

I noticed that Shakes’ leg was bleeding and that he had a burn scar near his ankle. “How did that happen?” I asked Joy.

“I’m not sure of the details. I don’t think he remembers. Someone set him on fire. The same thing happened to another homeless guy sleeping on a park bench. Someone doused him with gasoline, then set him on fire. He was wearing a plastic raincoat and it melted into his skin. He was released from hospital and was staying at the Sally Ann, but after three days of pain he just gave up and died.”

Joy asked Andre and Jake, “Where’s your brother from another mother, Hippo?”

“He got money from his mother, now he doesn’t feel that he should associate with the likes of us.”

“He’s being a real asshole, considering all you’ve done to help him. If he comes back to your place (behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks) you should lock him out.”

“I’ll do more than lock him out, I’ll knock him out.”

“Did everyone hear the good news?” asked Joy, “Rocky just told me that Daimon and Lucy got beat up by some black dude named Buddy. Lucy was knocked out. Daimon was stomped and has a broken leg. It happened last night. Rocky was there, I wish he’d caught it on video.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Andre, “I was hoping to do that myself.”

Gene said, “Daimon’s not so tough. He kept bragging about his maximum security prison background, but I beat him one time. He sucker punched me on the side of the head. He was surprised that I came back with three punches. I knocked him into a closet. Then he ran away like somebody’s bitch.”

“When I was still with my Jake,” said Joy, “Daimon came after me. Jake pushed him and Daimon bounced twice on his ass. Jake said, ‘Don’t even think of getting up.’

To me Joy said, “Chester says I can move in anytime, even if I haven’t got my check yet. I hope that Chuck doesn’t have a hissy fit when I tell him that I’m leaving. Maybe I should pack my clothes first. I don’t want him throwing my stuff out the door or anything.”

.

Okay, hire me!

29 June, 2012

It was hot at noon, with a pleasant breeze. A large crowd had gathered at the park. There was some concern that the size of the crowd may attract the police, so Jacques, Outcast, Silver, Joy and Pierre moved further down.

I sat beside Shark. I asked him, “This is the weekend that Irene moves, isn’t it?”

“No, a month from now, August first. She’s on her own now. She invited me over to her place for six o’clock last night. I brought pork chops, potatoes – two bags of groceries.

“She said, ‘Get out!’

” ‘You mean right now?’ I said

“ ‘Get out!’

“ ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’m going, but don’t expect me back!’ I packed up the groceries and left.”

“Had she been drinking?” I asked.

“Had she ever. She was into the lemonade coolers that are only seven per cent alcohol. Then she added regular vodka which is thirty-seven percent. These things taste so good that, on a hot day, you tend to drink them like water.

“She phoned me at midnight, one o’clock, two o’clock. She phoned Buck at three o’clock.”

I asked Gaston how his life was going. He said, “My daughter is in Cambodia now. She’s trained for eleven years to become what’s called a medical engineer. That’s an interdisciplinary degree applying principles of engineering, medicine and biology. Her husband is a lawyer. She’s been there a week and says she feels comfortable living there permanently.

“I told her, ‘Give it six months, before you decide to buy a house, or take on any other long-term commitments.’ ”

“The last time we talked, you mentioned that you do some writing. Have you published any books or articles?”

“No, I have some started, but recently I’ve been attending a class in psychology and kinesiology at the university. I’ve previously taken them separately, but now they’ve combined them.

“I’m working on a history of my family, but many of the records were destroyed in a fire. That will be a long-term project. My father’s family is from Sudbury, my mother’s is from Val d’Or. Our family was living in Toronto, but went to visit family in Sudbury where I was born, January first, 1950 – right on the dot of midnight.

“I have poor circulation. See the burst blood vessels in my ankles. I used to sleep with two pillows under my head and one under my feet. It’s easier on your heart if your feet are elevated. I raised the bottom of my bed, now I’m able to get rid of one pillow.”

Shark said, “I sleep with four pillows.”

“Is that so you don’t roll out of bed?”

“I still roll out of bed.”

“Gaston said, “I live on Elm Street. I can remember when there were trees on each side of the street arching over. It was like driving through a tunnel. The city decided to widen the street so they cut down all the trees. About five years later they came to the conclusion that there was too much traffic, so they narrowed the street again, but without the trees. It could have been done differently – circulating the traffic around the trees. We need the trees. They give off oxygen and take away carbon dioxide.”

Andre had been sitting in a cross-legged position, sound asleep. When he awoke he smiled and waved at me.

“So, Shark,“ I asked, “you’re not moving?”

“I’ve talked to my landlord. I’d like to get a two bedroom apartment. When one becomes available, he’ll move me free of charge. We get along well.”

Joy said, “No Gene, I’m not coming on to your girlfriend, although I did have a wife for a year and a half while I was in prison.”

Andre said, “That big cop does not like Little Jake.”

“It’s because he’s always mouthing off,” said Joy. “He’s like a dog gnawing on a bone, he never quits.

“They have to be really careful with Jake because of his HIV. He always has open sores on his lips, or scrapes where he’s fallen down.

“Do you remember when there was the big hep c scare. I spit at a cop and got eighteen months for assault with a deadly weapon. I didn’t spit anywhere near him. That could happen to Jake if he isn’t careful.”

Andre said, “I was panning on Sherbourne, yesterday. This suit passes me and says, ‘Get a job!’ I said, ‘Okay, hire me!’ He said, ‘Bathe first!’  I said, ‘You know, just because I don’t have access to a shower, doesn’t mean that I don’t wash – all over.”

Joy said, “That’s an image I don’t want in my head.”

“I’m just saying.”

Cruising up the lawn on his bicycle, tattooed from head to feet, is our friendly neighborhood crack dealer.

.

 

 

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