Chicken Man

Posted: October 24, 2018 in Prose

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11 June 2012

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

“How are you doing, Serge?”

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

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

At the park were four of my friends.

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 Courthouse. 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 52. 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 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.”

Outcast said, “Debbie’s computer crashed today. I had some savings put away, so I bought her this laptop. It was regularly $400.00, I got it for $200.00.”

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.”

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

“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 firefighter 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,” I commented.

“How was your weekend, Silver?”

“I panned in my usual place on Saturday. On Sunday, I was at the two churches downtown in four shifts from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. 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 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 $5.00 bills.”

Little Jake Charged

Posted: October 23, 2018 in Prose

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8 June 2012

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

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

“Not yet,” he replied and chuckled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know. I’m going through the system, so however long it takes. I really need my meds. I’m psychotic, schizophrenic and I have all these voices going around in my mind. I can never get a good night’s 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 $27,000 commercial fishing boat. I don’t own it anymore. I kick myself for that. My sons will inherit it when they turn eighteen. It’s working now. It brings in about $700,000 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 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.’ ”

War Memorial 

Posted: October 21, 2018 in Prose

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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, “The cop 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.”

Daimon Out of Prison 

Posted: October 20, 2018 in Prose

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5 June 2012

As I was approaching the corner 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 the street, playing his harmonica. The police were expected, so people spread out, hiding any open liquor bottles. Large groups are illegal without a permit so we split into three. 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-In-the-Sky 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 the pharmacy 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, Jake’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 penitentiary. 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’d touched.

“I went to the doctor. He gave me antibiotics and some ointment 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 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. 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.”

Shaggy’s Christmas

Posted: October 15, 2018 in Prose

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5 June 2013

It was a wonderful day in the park today as, I suppose, it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. In attendance were four of my friends and Shaggy who’s borderline. Wolf said, “Id get up, Dennis, but you know me. It’s one of those days.”

I was about to sit down between Wolf and Gaston when Yves handed me a folded Metro newspaper. “Sit on this, it’ll keep your pants clean.” I said, “Thanks Yves.”

Gaston said, “Now, isn’t that a lot softer?”

“Yes, it is.”

Wolf said, “I’ve got something even better. I’ll  go over to Shaggy’s cart.” He brought back a thick folded blanket. “Try this. I just got it this morning, rather Shaggy just got it this morning. A lady — maybe it was the Christmas lady for dogs — she brought a big bag filled with the blanket, a toy rubber boot, a stuffed dog and dog food, lots of dog food. Shaggy really  hit the jackpot. She gave me something too. I think I spent it.”

“This blanket is really soft and comfortable. Thanks Wolf.”

Wolf said, “This morning when I woke up the first thing I saw was a six-pack of beer, so that’s when I started. If I hadn’t seen it I would have been alright, but if I see it I drink it. That’s why I’m the way I am now. You understand?

“Dennis,  tell those fucking Frenchmen to shut the fuck up! I’m having trouble concentrating. Let them go ahead and mumble to themselves.

In unison Gaston and Yves said, “Ta Gueule!, colis, tabarnac.”

Jacques said, “Wolf speaks  prefect French, he just doesn’t like to use it.”

Wolf said, “I’m German not French!  Don’t make me get up!”  He laughed, then continued conversing with them in fluent French.

I said to Wolf, “You couldn’t get up if you tried.”

“I know,” he said, “I just like to stir the shit sometimes.”

I asked Jacques, “How are you liking your new apartment?”

“I love it. Did you know I have a balcony? Yesterday I bought a mattress, a futon. I think that is the good one. I don’t buy the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I bought the next one up.  Me, I don’t like the coil mattress, because after a year, you get one coil sticking through into your back. I don’t want that.  In my other place I had been sleeping on the floor for the last four months, and I had no window.  This place is nice, and I can brew my wine again.

“It used to be that they would give you a start-up allowance when you moved and every three years,  but not anymore. I had to pay for the mattress myself. I don’t mind.”

Sean and Judy from  Innercity Outreach approached. They were wearing red vests with the crest of their organization embroidered in yellow. They had brought sandwiches, socks and a variety of other things to hand out.

“Wolf, what kind of sandwich would you like? We have egg, minced ham and tuna.”

“This is my drinking day, not my eating day,” said Wolf. ” I’m a shaving guy. Do you have any razors?”

“No, sorry , Wolf.”

Jacques said, “I’ll take an egg, and leave me a minced ham for Wolf.  He’ll eat it later. Can I have some socks?” Judy handed socks to Jacques, Matches and Wolf

Sean said to me, “Dennis it looks like you’re holding court.”

I said, “It may look that way, but Jacques is King”

Jacques said, “Shakes is King.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll go along with that.”

Judy asked, “Has anybody seen Serge? We haven’t seen him for a long time. I know he was in hospital, but then he was out.”

I said, “I visited him a couple of times in hospital, but he escaped, in his hospital gown. He was too sick and was taken back to hospital.”

Jacques said, “I was talking to Greg from 507. He got a message saying that Serge passed away April 7th. Nobody knew, otherwise we would have gone to the funeral.”

Judy asked, “He had cancer, didn’t he.”

I said, “I’m not sure. He didn’t talk much and when he talked it was in French.”

Judy said, “I hear that Outcast is in remission. Is that right?”

I said, “I knew that he had lung cancer. I didn’t hear that he was in remission.”

Jacques said, “I saw him a few days ago. He seems fine. He doesn’t come here any more.”

“How about Joy? How is she?”

I said, “I saw her Thursday, she seemed fine then.”

After they left Jacques said, “They gave me all these bars that I can’t eat. I don’t have enough teeth for things with nuts.”

Shakes said, “You, know, Dennis, I’ve known Wolf since ’95. I’ve always called him Pudding, because he looks like a pudding. I’m the one that got Bowser for him. He looks like Shaggy, but he’s stuffed. I remember bringing him home on the bus. I barked and pretended that he was going to bite people. Now, he sits on Pudding’s balcony.”

“Yeah,” said  Wolf, “People will say they passed my place, I must have been home because the dog was there, but he wasn’t barking.

“Shaggy loves Bowser, they lay beside each other all the time. One time when it was raining Shaggy went out on the balcony, grabbed Bowser with her teeth and brought her inside the living room. Isn’t that something?”

Wolf said, “Dennis, we should pick on you for a while.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

“I was going to get Shaggy to bite Jacques, but you’ve got some meat on your arms.  Shaggy, bite Dennis! She won’t bite you, she likes you.”

Shaggy wandered around and lay next to me, her warm side pressing against mine. I petted her. After being freshly clipped she felt like velvet.

It was time to leave, so I returned the blanket to Wolf,  and shook hands all around. I said, “bye, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Rocky Jumped and Robbed

Posted: October 13, 2018 in Prose

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1 June 2012

The weather today was uncertain. It was overcast, but not quite raining. At the park were eleven of my friends including Wolf and his dog Shaggy.Image result for image watermelon vodka

“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 7.1 % alcohol. I bought myself a 26 ounce bottle of watermelon vodka. It’s 37% 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 Elaine 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 61, her mother is in her 90’s.

“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 Gatineau. Did you go to Gatineau?”

“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 $200., $300. 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 4:30 this morning and I can stagger straighter than that. I get up at 4:30, 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.

Methadone

Posted: October 12, 2018 in Prose

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18 May 2012

This morning was cool and windy. Joy had her hood pulled up and her legs were wrapped in a blanket. She said, “My tooth is really bothering me. I was eating sunflower seeds, with the shells on, and something got imbedded between my tooth and my gum. I’ve tried brushing, flossing, but it’s below the gum line and anything I do just makes it hurt more. I had a microwave heating pack on it last night. It helped me get to sleep.

“I was on my way to the dentist this morning, then I realized that I didn’t have my dental card. I went back to the house, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I went to the dentist. They wouldn’t see me without my card. I said, ‘This is an emergency! Will you see me now?’ She said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t see you without your card.’ I said, ‘Can’t you check my records. You must have my number on file.’ She said, ‘Only Joyce has access to the records and she’s not here today.’ I said, ‘You mean I have to wait until after the long weekend to get this looked at? If I threw up blood all over your computer, would someone see me then?’

‘I’m sorry, ma’am,’ she replied. I was so pissed off.

“Hippo’s there across the street. I don’t think he’s doing very well. I saw him get a few drops (people dropping change into his cap), but I’m going to have to give him some pointers. He sleeps at the Sally (Salvation Army). They have access to showers, soap and razors, but his hair is so greasy that I’m sure he hasn’t washed it in a week. He couldn’t even get a comb through it this morning. It was disgusting.

“He’s one of the few men who don’t try to touch me. He knows it wouldn’t get him anywhere. Even Weasel, dying of AIDS, kissed me on the cheek the other day. He did it just to bug me. He still has that open sore on his arm. He was letting his dog lick it. He said, ‘It’s okay, a dog’s saliva is clean.’ I said, ‘But dude, think of what you’re doing to the dog.’ His answer was, ‘We all die sometime.’ He’s wasting away to nothing. He doesn’t have much time left (Weasel died 9 May 2013).

“I’m really careful about who I share drinks with up there. Did I ever tell you how Little Jake got AIDS? He had a fight with his girlfriend. She may have been seeing someone else — I don’t know. Anyway, he was drunk, they had a big argument and she threw him out in the snow. He crawled into the alley and fell asleep. Sometime in the night he rolled over onto some used ‘fits’ (hypodermic needles). They were contaminated with HIV.

‘I’m not sure about the details of how Shark got AIDS. He was pretty messed up on crack, and he was into some anal shit. When I asked him about the AIDS he said to me, ‘That’s what I get from fucking a pig, in the ass, without a condom.’

“I’ve got Hep C. I think I got it when I had my tattoos done. I’m a carrier, but I’m not infectious. It’ll kill me, but nobody else.”

Hippo walked across the street. We shook hands. He said, “Joy, can I buy two cigarettes for a quarter?”

“No, but I’ll give you one.” Hippo threw a quarter into her hat.

“Well,” said Joy, “it’s 8:20 and that hotel lady hasn’t asked you to move.”

“I don’t think she’s in today. The guy was out sweeping the sidewalk.”

“You’re in luck then.” Hippo shrugged his shoulders and walked back across the street.

Blair walked by and said, “Hi Joy, I’m short fifty cents. Can you help me out?”

“I’ll give you a quarter. Now, you’re only short twenty-five cents.”

“Thanks Joy.”

To the world in general Joy said, “Yes, a panhandler did give him money.

“I’m really losing it. I wanted my mom to come here before she died. I want my kids to come here. My oldest son has a job as a cast fitter. I don’t know what that is, but he gets paid $27.00 and hour. I miss them.

“I’ve got to get away from Toothless. He was on my case about groceries. Yesterday, I bought two loaves of bread, some of those frozen hamburger patties and some other stuff. He bought sausages. Last night he told me he’s invited Tony and Dora, Chris and his girlfriend and a bunch of other people over for a barbecue. I can’t afford to be feeding all those people. He tells me that I’m not paying my share. I said to him, ‘Stop inviting so many people over.’ I haven’t talked to him since. I pushed his dog V out of the way, so I could get out the door and he knocked over Chuck’s table. I just left it. It’s his dog, he can clean up the mess.

“I don’t know if I’ll be visiting the guys at noon. Maybe I will, but I’m not sure. Most of those people are getting on my nerves. I see that Lucy-in-the-sky is hanging around with Buck. That will stop once her old man gets of jail in a few weeks. He’s the one that robbed Shark, then beat him up because he had no bills. Then Lucy went after Irene. You’ve seen how small Irene is. Jake and I were still together then. When Jake heard about it he took the plastic handle off a bathroom plunger, sawed the bottom off it, then filled the hollow part with dimes. It must have been a couple of hundred dimes. He used duct tape to seal the sawed off end, then unwrapped a metal coat hanger and wound it around the duct tape. That made quite a jailhouse club. The next time he saw Nick, Lucy’s boyfriend, he hit him three times with it. Rick didn’t get up.

“I’ve talked to Lucy recently, she’s so excited about Nick getting out. I said to her, “We’ve gone toe to toe together before, but if you ever try anything with Irene again I’m going to smash your skull to pieces, and you know I’ll do it.”

At noon, as I was walking to the park, I met Joy and her friend ‘Sausage Fingers’ waiting near the bus stop. Joy introduced him to me as one of her best friends in the world. I remembered having met him during the winter, but he’s shaved his beard and looks completely different.

Joy said, “I’ve had it! I snapped at Silver. I snapped at Hippo. I’m going home before I end up in jail. Chuck is panning, so I’ll have the house all to myself until about 4:30. I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

Sitting in his usual place was Claude. “Hi Claude, are you still at the Shepherd’s or have you moved to the Salvation Army?” He said, “I’m still at the Shepherd’s. I have to go there between four and six o’clock to sign the card that says I’ll be staying another week.”

“Has it been noisy? You mentioned that a man kept opening and closing the door. Is he still doing that?”

“Yes, he starts at six o’clock in the morning, opening and closing, opening and closing.”

“I’ll talk to you later, Claude. Take care.”

At the park were ten of my friends and Shaggy. Sometimes she’s a friend at other times she’ll bite or just bark. There’s no pleasing her except with food. Hippo wasn’t looking very well. He said, “I’ve been puking up blood. I’ve also been shitting blood. I’ve got ulcers, two of them.”

“You should go to the hospital,” said Deaf Donald.

“I can’t. They won’t take me. I don’t have my health card. First I’d have to get my Birth Certificate, then my Social Insurance card, then I could apply for my health card.”

“Why do you drink, then?” asked Donald.

“Welfare asks me the same question. I don’t know why I drink. If I didn’t drink I wouldn’t be me. If I didn’t drink I’d die.”

“You should think of your mother and father. They love you, don’t they?”

“They’re my parents, of course they love me.”

“You should quit drinking for them. Think of how they’d feel if you died.”

“Everyone is going to die, but I hear you, man. Can I stay at your place this weekend? I’m feeling really rough. I couldn’t take another night at the Sally right now.”

“Sure, man. I have to go for my methadone treatment at one o’clock, but I’ll come back, and I’ll bring some beer.”

Wolf said to me, “I haven’t been here for the past few days. I had my fifty-seventh birthday Friday. I had a forty ounce bottle, of 12-year-old scotch, that I started at five thirty Saturday morning. I finished it by twelve thirty that night. I also had some sherry. The next morning I had the hangover from Hell. I’m too old to do that sort of thing any more. I was here drinking beer, on Monday, but I haven’t had anything else between then and now.

“I just wanted to tell you why I hadn’t been around. When somebody hasn’t been around for a while, the first thing people think is that they’re dead. I came here today to tell everyone that I’m not dead.”

Donald said to me, “I have to go for my methadone treatment at one o’clock. When you go back to work, I’ll walk with you. As we were walking I asked, “Why are you having methadone treatment?”

“My father used to beat my mother when she was pregnant. I was born three months premature. I was deaf and had to have an operation removing nine feet of my intestines.” He lifted his shirt to show me his scar. “When I was older, I had a lot of pain. They prescribed Oxycontin. I was on it for seven years. The methadone helps with the cravings. I also got into other drugs and became an alcoholic. I had been living with my mother, but because I was into drugs and alcohol so much she put me on the street. I’m thirty-five years old. I shouldn’t have been living with my mother. Now, I have my own apartment and have more control over the drugs and alcohol.

“By the way, can you spare some change.”

“I’m sorry, man. If I had it I’d give it to you, but I didn’t bring my wallet with me. I don’t have anything with me at all, not even bus tickets.”

“That’s okay. I’ll see you next week.”

Old Spice… on the rocks

Posted: October 11, 2018 in Prose

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17 May 2012

This morning was sunny, but cool and windy. Joy’s plastic storage crate was there, but Joy wasn’t. I checked with Metro to ask if she had been at her spot this morning.

“Hi, Dennis,  Joy was here earlier. I don’t know if  she’s gone to the bathroom, or if she’s left for the day. There she is! She’s coming now!”

“Thanks, Metro, have a good day.”

“Hi, Joy, how’s everything this morning?”

“I don’t know why I have to pee so often. Hippo’s across the street shrugging his shoulders, Again! It’s girl stuff.”

“Does it have to do with your kidneys?”

“Yes, but I’m okay as long as I keep peeing.”

“You mentioned before that it was a dark color. Are you concerned about that?”

“No, it seems fine. I think I just needed to drink more water.”

“I saw Alphonse and Magdalen last night, after work. I couldn’t tell if she’d had an abortion or not, but it was good to see them so happy together. Alphonse seems like such a good man.”

“Yes he is. I don’t know what it is about Inuit women. Inuk went out with another guy the night before Bearded Bruce went to prison. An hour and a half after he signed himself in. She came down and expected us to be friends with her. Magdalen acts the same way.”

Joy and I were discussing various bars that we both had frequented in the past. I said, “My friends and I would often meet at the Prescott for beer and spaghetti.”

Joy said, “The last time I was at the Prescott was with Jake. There was a woman there playing pool. She was wearing a low-cut blouse and every time she bent over to take a shot, her boobs nearly fell out on the table. I walked over to her and said, ‘I’m going to ask you nicely, to stop flashing my old man here. It’s very rude.’ People don’t need to see that when they’re eating. She kept doing it, so I picked up the cue ball and threw it at her; caught her right in the middle of her forehead. She was out cold. The bartender came over and said, ‘Joy, this is probably a good time to leave.’ I said, ‘Cool, dude. We’re on our way.'”

“I’m going to go over and talk to Hippo,” I said, “He looks lonely.”

“I told him to use that spot. That’s where Crash used to pan. As long as he’s in that alcove they shouldn’t be able to touch him.”

“Hi Hippo!”

“Hi Dennis, how’s it going?”

“I’m doing fine. Have you found any more lawn mowers?”

“No, I found that last one in the garbage. It was a Craftsman 650 with a 170 c.c. motor. All I had to do was add oil and gas and away she went.”

“Have you heard anything more about your inheritance?”

“No, I signed the papers last August. That’s eight months ago. I don’t know why it’s taking so long.”

A woman wearing a gray suit came over to us and said, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to move. You’re sitting in front of hotel property. “Okay,” we said and left.

At noon it was still chilly, with the wind blowing. Tonight there is a frost warning. On Sunday Environment Canada is forecasting 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Go figure!

Sitting on the curb of the sidewalk were a dozen of my friends including Buck with his dog, Dillinger.

“Hi Shakes, how are you doing?”

“I’m getting there, slowly but surely. Last night we were up until two in the morning playing Risk. I finally asked, ‘Aren’t you guys getting sleepy?'”

Hippo said, “We used to play that game, my mother, sister and me. My dad never wanted to play. He’s go out to the garage. Another game we used to play was Clue.”

“It’s nice to wake up in the morning,” said Shakes. “If you don’t, you know that something’s wrong.”

“We were worried about Charles yesterday,” said Hippo. “He usually joins us, but he just sat on the curb and fell asleep. We thought he might be sick.”

“He’s back on the rubbing alcohol,” said Richard.

I said, “He also drinks Listerine.”

“Both of those really mess up your mind,” said Hippo. “I’ve tried them once, but never again.”

Richard said, “I’ve heard of people drinking Old Spice, Aqua Velva, Purell, shoe polish, melted and strained through bread. I’ve heard of people ‘huffing’ Lysol, Clorox bleach and gasoline. They’re all poisonous.

“I’ve been looking at the plants in the flower garden over there. One of them looks like marijuana. I know it isn’t, but it sure looks like it.

“If you grow marijuana in the woods, it’s best to pick a place where there are a lot of trails. People looking for it can get lost, and if someone surprises you, there are lots of escape routes.

“Where do you live, Hippo?” asked Deaf Donald.

“I’m staying at the Salvation Army now, but I’m hoping to get a place of my own.

“Where do you live?”

“Now I’m living in the suburbs. I have to take the bus in for my methadone (used to treat opiate dependency for drugs such as morphine, heroin and oxycontin). It takes me from an hour to an hour and a half to get downtown.”

I asked, “Why did you choose to live so far out?”

“My mother lives there. I have a bachelor apartment with a fireplace just a few blocks from her. I live right across from the Sacred Art Tattoo Parlour.

Track Marks

Posted: October 10, 2018 in Dialog, Prose

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16 May 2012

This morning was slightly overcast with light, scattered showers. Joy was in good spirits. Little Jake was panning on the corner where Silver usually sits. Silver was at the medical clinic having his blood tested. Hippo waved from across the street. A strange-looking man was seated directly across the street from Joy. He was holding a sign that neither of us could read.

Joy said, “I don’t know what that guy is all about. Earlier he motioned me to move on, but that’s not going to happen. I’ve been here too long, and fought too hard for this spot, to take shit from some newcomer who doesn’t know how things work. I may have to go over and talk to him.”

A light rain started. Joy said, “If it’s just small drops I don’t mind. If it’s those big ass drops, then I’m taking cover. There is an overhang so, depending on the wind, if I move back to the wall I can stay dry.”

“I asked, “Do you have any news about getting an apartment with Loretta?”

“I haven’t seen or talked to her since the other day at the park. I don’t know what’s going on with her.”

“Are you feeling better today?”

“I feel a lot better. I’ve been asking a few women, regulars of mine, if they have any spare tampons, because I started today. Apart from that I feel fine. Katy and I were at Outcast’s place yesterday afternoon. He made a stir fry. It was a bit too sweet, but really good. Later on, at Chuck’s place, I cooked spaghetti. Chili, Rocky and Raven came over. Rocky was really wasted on something. He had spaghetti sauce all over his shirt, his face and his hands. I said to him, ‘Rocky, go to the bathroom and clean yourself up.’ Before he got up, he wiped his sauce covered hand across Carl’s wall. Chuck hauled him outside and told him to get lost and never come back.

“Later, after supper, Raven said, ‘Okay, where’s the beer?’ Chuck said, ‘We don’t have any beer.’ She started swearing, so I grabbed her by the hair and threw her out the front door. She was swearing all down the block saying, ‘You fuckin’ bitch this, you fuckin’ bitch that.’ I just closed the door and let her rant.

“Chuck told me, ‘I’m glad you did that, because I couldn’t have.’

“Chili was looking better after being straight for the last month. I said to her, ‘I’ll bet your mom wasn’t too pleased to see all those track marks on your arm.’ She said, ‘No, she wasn’t pleased at all.’ Her family is taking her to Sudbury to visit relatives, and then back to Prince Edward Island, where her parents live. It’s such a shame to see someone her age so messed up. She’s only twenty-one years old.

“I told you earlier that I was feeling fine. A wave of nausea just came over me. I’m going to have to go.” Joy stepped into the alley and threw up.

“I’m glad I just had water this morning, otherwise, it could have been messy. I think that came from eating so late at night.

“Ann is staying at Albert’s place now. He really likes her, but with Ann comes her daughter Trudy and her son Barry. That’s a lot of people to feed. Chester has a couple of pensions coming in. He does all right.

“If it’s not raining at noon, I’ll be up on the lawn with the guys. I’m not going under the bridge It’s like a wind tunnel there. Look out your window before you come, you’ll be able to see if any of us are around.”

Silver Concerned About Cure

Posted: October 4, 2018 in Prose

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15 May 2012

This morning was warm, sunny and pleasant. Joy was in her usual spot. All was as it should be.

“How are you feeling, Joy?”

“I’m a lot better than yesterday. I went home, lay down and drank a lot of water. I was able to sleep most of the afternoon, until Chuck came home at 4:30. This morning, I was able to keep my breakfast down.”

“How is it going with you and Marilyn, getting a place together?”

“She’s going to phone them today and, hopefully, we’ll be able to see it this afternoon. It’s furnished, that worries me a bit. I don’t want to be in a place with bed bugs. There are mattress covers, that have a very fine weave, that the bedbugs can’t get through. A friend of mine has one, but you can still see the bugs crawling around underneath. It creeps me out.

“Some people have told me that I shouldn’t move in with Marilyn. They say she can get wild when she’s drinking, but she’s cut back quite a bit. I think we’ll get along fine.”

“If she does get wild, I’m sure you can handle her.”

“No problem there.”

“Have you heard anything more about the funeral for Dennis ‘Fingers’?”

“That was a mistake. I talked to a friend of his and he’s doing fine. He just hasn’t been downtown for a while. He was in hospital and is still very weak. He prefers to pan on the other side of the river, since he’s been robbed several times near here. You’d think they’d pick on someone with more money. Panhandlers just make enough to get by. Whenever I get my check at the end of the month, you won’t we me on the street for a couple of days.

“Silver is down here almost every day. I asked him, ‘What are you hoarding your money for? Are you that greedy?’ He’s not here today, though. There was someone else sitting in his spot this morning, but it wasn’t very long before a gray-haired man chased him off. I don’t know what that was about.”

“I saw Nick yesterday, panning down the street.”

“He, Hippo and Little Jake were kicked off the street yesterday. The police don’t like you panning on busy streets. They’re patrolling it all the time. The same with the park. That’s why they’ve been by so often. It’s the same every summer.”

I said, “I was talking to Claude yesterday. He’s in the Wet Program at Shepherds, but he doesn’t like it.”

“On that program they give you a bit of home-made wine every hour, sometimes it’s watered down. Claude is used to drinking rubbing alcohol and Listerine. He wouldn’t like drinking wine. He doesn’t panhandle. I don’t know where he gets his money. He probably just has a small pension.

“He’s another one that won’t be around much longer; another one to add to the list.”

A man stopped and handed Mo a banana. She said to me, “Do you want this? Since my kidney failure my doctor said I’m not allowed to eat bananas. They have too much potassium.”

At noon I talked briefly with Claude. He was sitting in his usual shaded place, on the curb of the sidewalk leading across the bridge, adjacent to the lawn. “Hi Claude, how did you sleep last night?”

“I slept at the Shepherd’s.”

“Yesterday you mentioned that someone was opening and closing the door all night. Did that happen last night?”

“Yes, he did that for a while.”

“How about the other man who shit on the floor. Did he do that again?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I changed beds, so I’m near the kitchen. I like it better there. They have me on the Wet Program. I don’t like that.”

“I hear they give you wine every hour. Is that right? Do you like wine?”

“No, I don’t like it. They give me cheap wine, and the beer they give me has no alcohol. It’s awful.”

“How is the pain in your hands and legs?”

“My hands are worse in the morning. If I try to move them, before I’ve soaked them under hot running water, the pain goes right down to the bone. I have pains in my legs, and I can’t walk fast, but apart from that I’m okay.”

“Can you talk to the doctor? Maybe he can give you pills for your pain.”

“I’ll just wait. I’m going to move to the Salvation Army.”

I said, “I’m going up to talk to the others. I’ll see you on my way back.”

A group of six people were standing in a circle on the lawn. Wolf and his dog Shaggy were sitting by the bridge railing.

As I approached, Outcast was giving advice to Silver, “For your blood test tomorrow, don’t eat after six tonight, and drink only water.”

“What do you mean, ‘drink only water?’ I can have juice and coffee in the morning — can’t I?”

“No, Silver, only water and lots of it. It’ll make your veins stick out, so they’ll have an easier time extracting your blood. They love to see addicts come in because they have such large veins.”

“Here, Silver,” said Joy, “have a swig from my water bottle so you’ll know, in advance, what it tastes like.”

Silver said, “My doctor wants to prescribe some pills for my alcoholism. If they make me better will I have my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cut off?”

“Silver, You’re too far gone,” said Joy. “You’re not going to get better.”

“’Outcast told me that they might cut off my O.D.S.P. if I get better. If that’s the case, I don’t want to get better.” (Died four months later from cirrhosis of the liver. He was a good friend. I attended his funeral.)

“Silver,“ said Outcast, “if I said that, I was only joking. Get the doctor to prescribe as many pills as possible, and while you’re at it, tell him that you have a bladder problem and you need a diaper allowance. Wet your pants right in his office if you have to.”

Joy said, “You can let a juicy, wet fart that stains your underwear. Wear white, so the stain shows. It would have worked great yesterday when you split your pants.”

“Dennis,” said Outcast, “how long have you been around this area?”

“I’ve worked around here for the past five years.”

“You wouldn’t remember it then. This whole area used to be covered with bushes. Now, they’ve cut them back. Hoover and Elaine lived here for nearly a year. They had a tarp stretched out to keep the rain off. We could all sit under there and keep dry. It wasn’t even visible from the sidewalk.

“There was a rumor going around, about a ‘tent city’ being erected; part of ‘Occupy Ottawa.’ It was supposed to start last Saturday. The city tore up all the grass, like they did last year. It’s not so pleasant camping in the mud. I haven’t heard what’s going to happen next.

“So, how did you come across this group? You don’t drink, you don’t smoke. Did you just stop by one day and start-up a conversation with someone?”

“It’s not that I don’t drink or smoke, I just don’t do it during working hours. I’ve known Joy for about a year and a half. She invited me here, in January, to meet some of her friends.”

Joy said, “Dennis asked me if he could buy me breakfast. He does that most mornings, when I’m panning.”

‘Wolf called me over, “Dennis, you’re really looking dapper today.”

“I’m wearing Value Village from top to bottom.” (Value Village is a used clothing store, similar to Goodwill or the Salvation Army Thrift Store.)

“I don’t care what you’re wearing. I just wanted to say something nice to you. I just celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday. I wanted you to know that. I’m more miserable and grumpy than ever. I’ve been really nasty to Katy. Half the people here I don’t talk to at all. I just like to come down some times to have a few beer, talk to my friends.”

“How is Shaggy doing under her trailer? I can’t see her.”

“She’s got her head out, watching what’s going on. Trying to decide who to bite next.”

“I won’t keep you, Dennis. I just wanted to shake your hand. I’m not sure I can get up.”

Silver was asking Joy, “What’s Katy’s problem? She hasn’t said more than three words since she’s been here.”

“She’s got the same problem I’ve had all week; she’s starting menopause. Since September, my period hasn’t been regular. It’s all over the place — four months off, one month on. It leaves me feeling miserable.”