Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’




5 September 2012

At noon Silver, Andre and  Rodent were sitting together on the curb near the park. Andre was soberer than I have ever seen him. He had also recently shaved. “Andre,” I said, “I see cheeks and a chin that I’ve never seen before.”

“I’ve got an appointment with my worker, she’s meeting me here at 1:00. She’s going to check on my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) and my O.W. (Ontario Welfare). Every time I go there, they tell me it’s in the works, but I never get a check. Then I need my drug card and my Social Insurance card. I’ll just leave it on file with the pharmacy. that way I don’t have to worry about losing it or having it get wet in my backpack.

“You should have seen the bullshit I had to put up with this morning. I went to the pharmacy to get some emergency medication. They wouldn’t give it to me without a prescription. I said to the pharmacist, ‘You mean I have to walk a quarter of a mile to pick up a prescription, then walk a quarter of a mile back here to get it filled? Can’t you see it’s an emergency! Isn’t it obvious! Look at me!’

“I got lucky this morning. I was talking to a guy who had to go to court. He said, ‘I need a cap to go to court. If you can get me a cap, I’ll split a joint and a cigarette with you.’ I walked into the restaurant, looked around and saw these two guys sitting at a booth. There were three caps in front of them. I asked, ‘Does this cap belong to anyone?’ They said, “No, but it’s yours now.’ So, I give the cap to the guy outside, we split the joint and the cigarette and I got the edge off. No more shakes. I hardly had to do anything.

“Do you smell Listerine? Is Serge nearby? I stay away from that stuff now. I hate the headaches, the throwing up, the stomach pains and the smell that comes right through your skin.

“It really pisses me off when I share a bottle or a couple of beer with a guy; he says he’s going to get the next bottle and he brings back Listerine or rubby. That’s not right! You don’t replace a bottle of sherry or a couple of beer with Listerine or rubby. Mind you, if that’s all you got, then that’s what you drink.

“I’ve been staying at the Mission the last two nights. I have my breakfast there and then come down here for about nine o’clock. When I get hungry I head down Bank Street to 507 to get something to eat. Around supper time, I do the same thing.

“I met this guy on the weekend who I haven’t seen for, must be, fifteen years. We grew up together in Cornwall. I was at this apartment building on Cedarview near the Herongate Mall. I have no idea how I got there. I missed my appointment with my worker yesterday because I had no bus tickets and no way to get downtown. Even if I had bus tickets, I wouldn’t have known which bus to catch.

“Anyway, Timmy says to me, ‘Andre, I want you to meet a good friend of mine. We looked at each other. I said, ‘Steve?’ He said, ‘Andre?’ Timmy said, to me, ‘Andre, you know everybody.’ It seems I knew everybody in the apartment building as well, but I don’t remember meeting them.

“I’m glad that Rodent left. I was about ready to punch him. He thinks he’s being funny, just like my uncle Roscoe; but then the comments get personal and it’s not funny anymore. I was getting really pissed off. I think he could sense it.”

I said, “I’m going to the park to see who else is up there.”

Silver said, “I’m staying away from there because Shaggy is barking her head off.”

Andre said, “I’ll just wait here with Silver until my worker comes.”

“I’ll see you on my way back then,” I said.

Nine of my friends were sitting in a circle. Chasing each other around and through the circle, back and forth, were Wolf’s dog Shaggy and Hawk’s dog Dillinger. It was all Anastasia could do to sit upright as she ducked the dogs, or watched them tear around. As she was trying to light a cigarette, she kept tipping backward. “I’m an otter,” she said, “swimming on my back, looking at the clouds.” I was closest, so I offered my arm to pull her upright — all eighty pounds of her.

As Wolf sat down on the blanket, beside Shaggy’s cart he said, “I’ve got a stiff back. All I’ve done for the past week is take Shaggy for her walks, lay on the couch, read, watch TV, get up for a beer and lay back down again. It’s good to make the effort to come down here and socialize a bit. Shaggy’s having fun with Dillinger. Did you see that she actually gave up her spot so Dillinger could lay down?”

I asked Wolf, “What are you reading now?”

“I just started this book. It was given to me by a lady who gives me books all the time. I was reading the back cover and it seemed to be some kind of romance novel, so I put it at the back of my pile. When I started reading it, I found that it was all about spies and espionage. Four of them get shot in the first few pages — a real shoot-em-up, just the kind I like to read. If I had known what it was about I would have started it a month ago. It was nothing like the Harlequin romances my mother used to read.”

It was time for me to head back to work. Irene asked, “Dennis, would you walk me to the bus stop?”

I said, “Sure, Irene, are you ready to go now?”

“Where?” she asked.

I said, “Don’t you want me to walk you to the bus stop?”

“No,” she said, “I don’t want to take the bus anywhere.”

With that, I said good-bye to everyone, until tomorrow.


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10 August 2012

Today is garbage day. As I was waiting for my bus, it started to rain. A cyclist with a makeshift wagon rode past me, carrying a clear plastic bag full of crushed cans. He stopped at a recycling bin on the curb, beside a driveway not far from the bus stop. He rooted through and found more cans he could get a cash refund for, from ten to twenty cents a can, depending on size.

Because of the rain I wasn’t expecting to see any panhandlers. As I looked towards Joy’s usual spot, I recognized Shakes. He was standing, talking to a man seated on the sidewalk.

“Hi, Shakes! How are you doing?”

“Fine, Dennis, I was just checking to see who was sitting here.”

“Is this Walter?” I asked. Walter had been panning across the street from Shakes last week.

“No, This is Al.”

“Hi, Al. My name is Dennis.” I reached into my pocket for a Tim Horton’s card and handed it to him. “There’s enough credit on here to buy yourself breakfast.”

“Thanks, Dennis.”

“What about me, Dennis? Do you have one for me?” asked Shakes.

“I didn’t think you ate at this time of day, Shakes. Of course, I have one for you.”

Shakes said, “I slept at my daughter Fran’s last night. She woke me up at 7:00 and said, ‘Dad, I made some scrambled eggs and bacon for you. You have to eat something.’ ”

“How is Fran doing? Does she know if there is any permanent damage to her back?”

“She doesn’t know. She’s waiting to hear from her doctor.”

“How is Bettie?”

“She doesn’t know. Again, she’s waiting to hear from her doctor.”

“Her boyfriend should be charged,” I said.

Shakes said, “I can’t wait to see him, myself.”

“A lot of people can’t wait to see him. I’m sure that Joy will lay a beating on him if he crosses her path.”

“Yes, I know.”

I said, “Yesterday, I saw Daimon and Lucie for the first time since his ankle was broken. Andre and Hippo were going to Quebec to buy beer.”

“Yeah, I saw Daimon and Lucie. I found Andre asleep, so he didn’t get to where he was going.”

“Where are you going now, Shakes?”

“To my office.”

I walked Shakes to the next corner, then we parted ways. It was raining at noon so I didn’t bother going out. My friends would have stayed inside at home, or at one of the homeless shelters.

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6 June 2014

“Hi Chuck.”

“Hi! What a day I’ve had already. You already know how bad my week was. I did something really stupid yesterday. When I got home I set up my chair for charging,  positioned it next to an electrical outlet. I turned off the controller power and put the chair in drive. Then the phone rang. It was my friend, telling me that she didn’t have to work today, so we could meet at noon.

“I forgot all about  plugging the chair into the electrical outlet. I only noticed it this morning at five o’clock. I charged it for an hour before coming down here. I had a lot of things planned for today —  going to the bank to pay a few bills. I keep forgetting when the due dates are. If I’m a couple of days late they charge me a penalty. I also wanted to be able to stop for a pizza, but that would take me too far out of my way. I might run out of power.

“What I’m going to do is drive down two blocks where I’ll meet my friend. Then I’m going to wait for the bus that takes me closest to my apartment. It doesn’t come as often as some of the others, but it brings me right to the top of the hill, near my place. They’re doing all kinds of construction around there, which might mean closing off my street entirely. I don’t know what I’m going to do then. Anyway, I’ll go home, put some frozen chicken in the microwave to defrost. Then I’ll do a stir fry with some vegetables. I’d prefer the pizza or a hamburger from Harvey’s.

“I wish I could get a job handing out that free newspaper. The only problem is rain. I can’t allow my hand controls to get wet. I was hoping that they’d let me set up in the mall, between the main doors, near Sears. I asked Sears and they wouldn’t give me permission. There are other malls, but that one is the most convenient for me.”

I asked, “Have you ever thought about being a greeter at Walmart? From watching what they do, it seems to me that you’d be able to handle that.”

“That’s something I hadn’t thought of. There is one on my bus route. That would be perfect.

“I got so mad on the bus this morning. There was this bozo standing beside me, blocking my view of the driver. I asked him to please move, because I had to let the driver know to lower the ramp. I was polite about it. The guy said, ‘You can’t tell me where I can stand. I’ll stand anywhere I want.’  That got me boiling mad. I asked the guy, “Were you born ignorant, or did you have to practice being stupid.’ I don’t know if people just don’t think, or what their problem is, but if you see a wheelchair waiting at the bus stop, you don’t try to jump on as the ramp is coming down.

“I was thinking back ten years ago. That’s when I left my wife. I moved to an apartment building where a lot of natives lived. I was still drinking then. I met three of them down near the river, two women and a man. They were enjoying a beer. I’d gone there for the same reason. We got to talking, it started getting cold, so I said, “Let’s continue this party at my place. Well, the one woman never left. It was no problem moving her things from one floor to another. We were together about three years. She was Inuit. Her name was Kunik which means kiss. How could I resist a name like that? She was waiting for the bus in front of the mall. I’m not sure how it happened, whether she slipped on the ice, or if someone bumped her, but she fell in the path of a bus and was killed instantly. I tell you, I cried when I heard the news. She was such a gentle person.

“If she got riled though, she could be vicious. I remember she had a run in with an Apache guy in the building, originally from New Mexico. The names she called him. I couldn’t believe that she even knew some of the words she used to describe him. I’ve noticed that with some other groups. Blacks from the Caribbean often don’t get along with blacks from Africa. I guess there’s a lot of history that we don’t know.

“Well, they’re forecasting a nice weekend. Hot on Saturday and Sunday with rain on Monday. So, I don’t know when I’ll be here.”

I said, “It’s time for me to go to work. Enjoy your weekend, Chuck.”

“See you sometime next week, bud. Take care. “






25 April 2014

The park was awash with sunshine. Little Chester was the first to approach me as I neared the group. He said,

” Hi, Dennis. I just spent time with an old friend of mine from Gander, Newfoundland.”

I asked, “Was it the same guy I saw you with on Wednesday? He was from Newfoundland.”

“No, a different guy. This was a guy I grew up with.”

Loretta was standing near the group. “Dennis, can I have a few bus tickets. Thanks. I’ve got some good news; it’s been fourteen months now, since I’ve had a drink. Anyway, it was nice seeing you. I’ve got to go.”

Wolf stood up to greet me, “Dennis, I haven’t seen you for…  How long is it?”

“It must be six months,” I said.

“You must be high. It couldn’t be six months…  Can it? It was before Christmas. How many months is that? I guess you’re right it is close to six months. You see how much I respect you. I stood up, it’s not that easy at my age. Before you sit,  you can have Shaggy’s pillow.” He pulled it from under Little Jake. “You’ll be covered with her fur… everywhere but on your leather jacket. I don’t think her fur sticks to leather.

“Well, fuck you too,” said Jake. “If that’s the way you’re going to be about it.”

“Now, Jake, you know I love you. There I said it.  I got it out. Now it’s done with. Where was I? Yeah, I was talking to Dennis. Finally, someone who will listen. I got seven books today, so I’m all set.  I also got a bag of razors from Jacques. See the mess I made trying to shave today. The handle broke right off my razor.

“Shaggy got some dog food and biscuits from my ladies on the corner, near where I live. I’ve hardly been out all winter. Shaggy and I, we just stayed inside where it was cozy. One thing I noticed was I actually had to buy dog food. I had to put out twenty bucks.

I said, “I’ve seen Chuck Senior, most mornings.”

“Who’s he?”

“Chuck Junior’s father.”

“Oh, I know who you mean. We don’t get along so well. His dog Sandy and Shaggy don’t like each other. I was coming around the corner. I didn’t see Chuck there in his wheelchair. Shaggy jumped up. Carl said, ‘Get your dog away from my service dog.’ I said, ‘Well, Shaggy’s a service dog too.’ We haven’t seen eye to eye since then. I didn’t even know he was Chuck’s dad, until somebody told me.

“I had a new phone, paid a hundred bucks for it. Do you know how long I had it? Two weeks. A woman came over.  I was watching the hockey game with a friend of mine from downstairs. I hadn’t seen this woman for about three months — Yeah, she was good-looking. We had a few beer. She asked to use my phone. A couple of hours passed… she left. I was drunk; you know me.  A while later my friend asked, ‘Where’s your phone?’ I’d only had it two weeks. Now, what am I going to do?

“I know who she is. She’ll never come to my place again. She has no conscience, that’s what I’m getting at. You don’t steal from a friend. You know me, I help people. Maybe you don’t know that, but if somebody needs something; I give it to them. If they need a place to crash for the night; they sleep on my sofa — sometimes with Shaggy.

“So, anyway, what do you think about the streak the Habs have going for them? A 4-3 victory against the Lightning on Tuesday night. I’ve got my Montreal hat on. I should have my jersey, my scarf, all kinds of colors on, but they’re in the wash. I come down here and get dirty.That’s the way it goes.”

“Sorry, Wolf, I haven’t been following hockey.”

“Okay, enough of that. We got that out of the way. Let’s talk about something else… Monday, I have to go to court at seven, in courtroom nine, or is it at nine in courtroom seven. I don’t know. I’ll have to check. It’s been remanded so many times. I fell asleep last time. I can be charged if I don’t show up, but not if I’m there asleep. They called my name and I woke up. I knew they’d wake me up. It’s for this charge about Shaggy. I have it taped to my kitchen wall. I read it last night, ATTEMPTING TO INJURE OR KILL AN ANIMAL. It made me cry, can you imagine that. Four cop cars pulled up in front of my beer store. MY BEER STORE, mind you. Somebody objected to the way I put Shaggy into her caboose — as if I’d ever hurt her. Sure, she’s drawn blood from me enough times. She’s old, I’m old. What are you going to do? Enough of that!

“Jacques, those are nice shoes you got on. Did Stella bring them for you?”

“Yeah, she gave them me last year. Soon it’s going to be time to wear my Crocs. I’m going to buy two pair, that’ll last me the whole season. With them I don’t wear socks all summer.”

Wolf said, “I saw a guy wearing them in winter.”

“Yeah, but with socks on!”

“Yeah, with socks on. He was a bit crazy.”

Wolf said, “Here comes Paul. Dennis, you know Paul don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ve met him before. Hi, Paul.”

“Hi, Dennis.”

Wolf said, “Paul’s a bit slow. His chipmunks don’t run so fast. Paul, don’t just sit there. Say hello to Shaggy. That’s what she came over to you for. Pat her. What did you think she wanted? Stupid fart.  How often do you come down here?”

Paul said, “About four days a week.”

“Four days a week, did you hear that, Dennis? He comes down four days a week. He’s an independent businessman, just like myself. How many days do you work?”

I said, “Five —  Monday to Friday.”

“You hear that, five days a week… But you’ve got the cottage. Right?”


Frank was trying to flip a cigarette into his mouth.”

Wolf said, “You did it, first try!”

Jake said, “No, actually it was my fourth try.”

“Now I suppose you want a light?”

“Yeah, that would be nice.

Chester, will you stop waving that bottle around. Pour it into a paper cup or something.

Wolf said, “Here comes Big Chester. He must be on a butt run.”

I said, “Hi, Chester.”

Getting up was difficult. Mariah asked, “Do you want a hand?”

“No, I said, I’ll be okay. It’ll just take a while. I don’t want to step on Shaggy. Maybe I’ll see you all next week.

“See you next week, Dennis.”





23 April 2014

I ventured outdoors at noon, not knowing what the weather would be like.  We’re well into Spring, but the temperature, in the mornings, still hovers around the freezing point.  A cold north wind added to the misery. I didn’t see anybody at the bench, but as I walked further down Queen Street I saw somebody waving to me.

“Am I ever glad to see you,” said Little Chester, standing on the curb. “I can look you straight in the eye. If I was on the sidewalk I’d be looking up at you.”

“I’m glad to see you too, Chester. I also have to look up at most people.  You must be cold standing here.”

“I got something to keep me warm,” from an inside pocket he pulled a half full bottle of sherry and took a long swallow. “I’m also wearing two coats.”

I asked, “Have you seen anybody else this morning?”

“Yeah, I saw a couple of faces that I didn’t recognize.”

A man walked up from behind, put his hand on Chester’s shoulder and said, “You’re under arrest!”

Chester turned around and laughed, “Hi Jack, it’s good to see another Newfoundlander. Jack, this is Dennis. Dennis, this is Jack.”

Jack and I shook hands. I said, “Chester tells me that the women in Newfoundland are all ugly. Is that right?”

“He should know. Do you know why there aren’t any whores in Newfoundland? Because Chester married them all.

“So, Chester, I’m going back to Newfoundland. Do you want to come with me?”

“No, I’ve had enough of that place and it’s had enough of me.

“I tried my key in the lock to my apartment and it wouldn’t work. The landlord changed the locks. I thought to myself,  I’m drunk, should I knock on his door? No, I’d better leave that until I’m sober.  They had a room for me at the Shepherd so that’s where I stayed last night. I came out here early and it’s taken me all morning to make the price of a bottle.” He took another long swig.

He offered some to Jack, “No, I don’t touch that stuff.”

Chester asked, “Do you have any money?”

“Sure, I got lots of money.” He reached deep into his pants pocket and pulled out two dimes.

“Thanks, that’s a start.”

Little Jake rode up on his bicycle, lay it on the grass, sat on the curb and set his cap out. “Hi Dennis, I haven’t seen you since last week.  I woke up this morning at seven-thirty at Shakes’ place. We really tied one on last night. Shakes was counting his empties. I said to him, ‘It’s seven-thirty, we’d better hurry to the store.’ He said, ‘It’s seven thirty in the morning, we got lots of time.’ Here I thought it was seven thirty at night. That’s pretty fucked up, getting my mornings and evenings turned around.

“Chester, give me a drink. That’s the least you can do since you’ve taken my spot. Now you can fuck off across the street. I gotta work.” To me he said, “I need a drink.  All I got is a dime for start-up. It was cold riding here on my bicycle. My eyes got all teared up. Look, my sunglasses are all streaked.

“Shakes has something awful on his neck. I don’t know what it is. He has to wear a scarf when he goes out.”

I asked, “Is it some kind of rash? I don’t suppose he’d consider going to a doctor to have it checked?”

“Getting him to a doctor is like pulling teeth. He’s at his usual spot now.

I asked, “Do you have another appointment to get your furniture?”

“No, I think I’m going to find a new place; something closer to downtown. This is crazy riding here on my bike. If I ride the bus, it takes me an hour.

“Look at that asshole, Chester. He’s making money over there. I saw someone drop him a bill… After one bottle, he’s wasted… I know he’s only had one bottle, I can tell. “

I said, “I should be getting back to work, Jake,  and I know you have to work. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, thanks Dennis. See you tomorrow. I hope the weather is better. Have you heard the forecast?”

“It’s supposed to be warmer.”

“I hope so. I wore the wrong jacket.”





23 April 2014

“Good morning Chuck, how was your Easter weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’d planned to attend the big meal at the Mission. They have one every Easter, really good food. First, I went to the mall to have coffee with a few friends, as usual. Then I went across to McDonald’s to have coffee with a few other friends, as usual. I went to Metro to buy some chicken and veggies and a few other things I needed. I took that home, turned on the TV and they were showing people at the Mission having their Easter dinner. I missed it!  I’d forgotten all about it!”

“How about going to the Shepherd or the Salvation Army?”

“I wouldn’t go to those places — too rough. The Shepherd has  the rejects from the other places. The people who are kicked out of the Mission, go to the Salvation Army. When they get kicked out of there, they go to the Shepherd.  Even at the mall I have to be really careful. Just the other day, at the front door,  there was a swarm of drugged up kids attacking people with knives, stealing purses, whatever they could get. This was ten o’clock in the morning.

“It reminds me of a long time ago when I worked at the Rex. I did all kinds of things:  slung beer; when the elevator operator was off, I covered his shift; when the cleaner was off, I did his job. Anyway, one night there was a scuffle in the front lobby. I stepped in; it was my job, I worked there. The fight was broken up, people were sent on their way. One of the guys involved was the son of one of our cooks. She was so pleased with me. She said, ‘You come back tomorrow at six. I’ll cook you the best meal you’ve ever had.’ She was right too, she was our best cook. I cant’t tell you how good that was. You know, when the meat is so tender that you don’t chew it; it just melts in your mouth.  Everything else was done to perfection.

“Her son, the one I saved went on to rape two women. I was ready to kill him. Another regular was a huge guy. As long as he was sober he was a good customer; gentle as they come. This one night he’d had too much to drink and was asked to leave. He complained about it, but he left. About an hour later he came back. This time he was raging. Three of us from the hotel grabbed him. The police were called and about six of them were also trying to take him down. Do you remember those big marble pedestal ashtrays, the ones they’d have near the elevators? They weighed about three hundred pounds. He picked one up and with it he pushed two cops against the wall. Eventually he was hauled off to jail.

“When he got out, I heard that he’d stabbed his landlord. Rushing out of the building, he ran towards a cab, slashed a woman getting out of the back door, held the knife to the throat of the driver and they took off. He was eventually caught. When he went to trial the judge sentenced him to life in prison, which is twenty-five years. Do you know what he did when he heard his sentence? He laughed. The judge asked him, ‘What about this do you think  is funny?’ The guy said, ‘My doctor gave me ten years to live. How are you going to collect the other fifteen?’ He stabbed a guy in jail; ended his days in a rubber room.

“I’m going to have to leave here soon; I’m keeping an eye out for security. It reminds me of one time I was panning in front of the church, down the street.  A cop came along and really started giving me shit. I said to him, ‘I’m not bothering anybody. I’m just trying to get some money for food.’ He walked up the church steps, waited for a while, then a guy came along. I saw the cop give the guy two clear packets of white powder. The guy gave the cop a couple of bills. It probably would have been two twenties. Then another couple of guys came along. The cop gave them each a packet.  So, in a matter of minutes, he’s made eighty bucks, and he was trying to run me off for trying to collect a bit of change.

“I tell you, when you’re on the street you see a lot of things. Usually, I just turn my head. I don’t want anybody coming after me — not the cops, nobody. There was one lady around here… I haven’t seen her for ages. I’d hear this hollering and screaming from a way off.  I’d think that somebody was fighting, but she was alone. She’d talk to her hand, just like you would to a sock puppet, but there was no sock. She’d argue, swear, carry on a real conversation.  At times her hand would smack her in the head. At other times she would be sweet as could be. She had a beautiful singing voice, it was like hearing an angel.





10 April 2014

Good Morning, Chuck, did you meet with your lady friend yesterday?

“Hi Dennis,  yes, I met her in the afternoon, but not in the morning. You’re late, I didn’t know if you’d be here this morning or not.”

“I  missed my bus;  as I was stepping out my front door I could see it going past. It was a twenty-minute wait for the next one.”

“Buses are a pain. I had planned to meet my lady friend at the bus stop in the morning. She was there but my bus came right away. The other buses take a long, round about route and don’t take me as near to where I live. We agreed to meet in the afternoon, after she finished work. I went home, charged my wheelchair. I also have one of those little three-wheel scooters that I’ll be using soon. I went to a place where one of my friends works. He oiled and greased it; didn’t charge me labor. There is a place close to me that services wheel chairs, but your wouldn’t believe their hourly rate. I guess they figure, we don’t have a choice.

“See that woman across the street; the one waving. That’s the mother of my granddaughter, the wife of my oldest son. I don’t get to see them very often. They don’t have an elevator in their building. We see each other at family gatherings, like Christmas. It takes four of them to carry me up the stairs. They don’t often  have that many people around. They have to carry my wife up as well. She doesn’t walk so well either. She had to go down the steps on her bum. I said to her, “At least you’re making some use of that.”

I asked, “You’re not still with your wife are you?”

“No, I walked out on her  twenty years ago. We had a big blow up one day. I got up, had my shower, put the coffee on. I poured us each a cup then sat down in the living room, as I always did, to watch the news. Muriel started cooking breakfast; bacon and eggs. I don’t know what got into her, but, all of a sudden she was shouting, throwing things at me, including the frying pan full of hot grease.”

“I was dumbfounded. I walked over to her, grabbed her by the throat and saw red. It was just like in the movies. I was thinking,  I could kill her, with my bare hands, now!  I came to my senses, walked into the bathroom and shaved. I  threw some clothes into a knapsack, along with a couple of cans of dog food. I had D4 (dog) back then. I could only carry so much. I was on disability, but it came as a family benefit addressed to both of us. I said to Muriel, ‘Get down to the pension office and apply for your own  disability. I’m going there now to change my status to single.’ She was okay for money; I saw to that.

“I’d two dollars and fifty cents in my pocket and no place to go. I slept on somebody’s lawn that night. The next night, I went prowling around the alleys near our place. I found a car unlocked, so I slept there for the night. I did that for a few nights. One morning, I hadn’t been out of the car for two minutes when the owner came out. That’s when I started panhandling. With what I was able to collect on the street, and after my check came in, I rented a room — It was in a rooming house. One of the places I stayed was a house of ill repute. I didn’t get any discounts for living there. It was a lively place.

“One time, I was walking to the liquor store. A pretty young woman asked if I could spare some change. I said I only had enough money for a bottle, but If she’d wait there, I’d share a drink with her. We were outside, standing between two parked cars. She said, ‘I like you,’ then went down on her knees and gave me a blow job. I hadn’t made any suggestive remarks to her. There were guys across the street giving me the ‘thumbs up’. I still get plenty of offers.

“Back then, a lot of my money went on cigarettes, booze and, every so often, pot. I had my first heart attack and had to cut all of that stuff out. Just stopped cold turkey.





11 September 2013

Joy was smiling and waving as I approached this morning.

I asked, “How are you feeling today?”

“My ear is still bothering me. I was using one of those plastic gel packs, that you put in the microwave. That helped at first, then the pain spread down  to my teeth and throat.  I was coughing and could hardly swallow. It’s a bit better today. I just had to get out of the apartment.”

“Has there been any news about your health card?”

“No I haven’t seen Greg, for a long time.”

“How about talking to your worker at the Salvation Army?”

“I can try that again, but he was to take me to the food bank. That never happened. He’s also supposed to take me to their big warehouse, on the outskirts of town, to get some different furniture. What I have takes up too much space in my apartment.  I’d like to get a futon that I could fold up during the day. Now, I usually fall asleep on my two-seater sofa. I awake all scrunched in a ball.”

“If I get to talk to my worker, I’m going to ask if he can find me a new place. My lease is up in November. The ass hole that lives above me is really driving me nuts, stomping around all hours of the night, and at seven Saturday morning.  I know he’s trying to get a rise out of me, so I’ll get kicked out.  I’m not going to give him the satisfaction. I get along well with my landlady. She was out with the weed whacker yesterday.  She didn’t know how to replace the nylon cord, so I showed her. Later, I helped her weed her garden. I had nothing else to do. I should phone her and tell her what’s going on.

“He thinks that the reason the cops have been coming to my door is because they’ve got something on me, or suspect something, but it’s McCain and Sarrazin. I get along well with them. They’re still trying to nail Andre with assaulting me. They said they’ve tried several times at his apartment, but he doesn’t answer. I wouldn’t either. Cops have a distinctive knock.”

“What did Big Jake think about you being beat up by Andre?”

“He asked, ‘Do I know the guy?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said,  ‘you’ve met him, a short little ass wipe, bow-legged, no front teeth, deep voice like a frog.’ Jake asked, ‘How did he manage to beat you up?’ I said, ‘He’d bought me some drinks. We were drunk.’ He said, ‘I paid out, now you put out, or I’ll knock you out.’ ‘That’s what he did. He sucker punched me in the side of the head.’

“I filled out all the paper work.  The cops asked me, ‘Do you want him arrested?’ ‘You’re damn right, I want him arrested! Throw his sorry ass in jail. My old man beat me; he’s doing two years. I never did nothin’ with this guy. I wasn’t his girl friend.  I wasn’t sleeping with him. I didn’t kiss him, nada.’

“He’s the only one that cut me or gave me a concussion. Jake never did that.  The inside of my mouth was all torn up from getting shots in the face.

“I told the cops, “You guys see him on the street, he’s always up to some scam or another. He must have warrants against him. Keep an eye out, you should be able to get him on something.’ It happened so long ago I don’t even care any more. He’s lost all his friends. The crackheads he’s hanging around with now are as likely to kill him as anything.

“See that woman across the street, the one with the grey suit jacket and the striped hair? That’s Deaf Donald’s mother. She doesn’t talk to me much any more, except to ask if I’ve seen Donald. Whether I have, or not, she tells me to say to him that I haven’t seen her. So, when he comes along and asks, ‘Has my mother been by?’ I say, Nope.’ I should get paid for passing on these lies.”

I asked, “Did Mariah tell you that the cops were by on Friday?”

“Yeah, she said it happened just before she arrived.”

“Donald was the only one they hassled. They saw the methadone in his pack, along with an open beer. He’d thrown an empty can behind him.”

“When you’re taking methadone you’re not supposed to mix it with alcohol, or anything else. it’s easy to tell when Donald has been drinking. He gets that dopey look on his face. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

“See that patrol car on the corner, with its flashers on. He’s been here all morning. It sure doesn’t help my business, makes people nervous. I’ve only made three eighty-six, so far.

At the park I met Jacques, Chester, Yves, Donald, Sylvain, Joy,  Mariah and her boy friend Charlie. I went to shake hands with Yves, he said, “Not that hand, it’s broken.”

I asked, “How did that happen?”

He said, “Don’t ask, I won’t tell.”

Chester said, “I saw Andre yesterday, He was with that big black guy, Teddy, and Marissa.”

Joy said, “Marissa is a psycho bitch from hell. I nearly went toe to toe with her one time, but she was wearing boots with steel caps. She’s a big girl; one you’ve got to get in,  stab fast, or your done. She stabbed Kip seven times in the gut.”

I said, “He’s in a nursing home now, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, Stella’s the only one who knows where he is. She can’t tell anyone or she’ll lose her visiting privileges.”

“One time me and Jake were down by the river when Teddy came along. He started shouting at me about stuff that happened in Toronto fifteen years ago. As soon as he got close, Jake stood up and clotheslined him, right across the throat. Teddy didn’t get up.

A patrol car pulled up to the curb. Donald walked away, Chester dumped his beer, crushed the can and put it in his back pack.

“Does anyone have any open alcohol?” the cop asked.

Joy said, “I got a bottle, but it’s sealed.”

“That’s okay.” He asked Chester, ” How about you? I saw you put something in your pack.”

Chester opened his pack and said, “I’ve got four closed beer, and two cans. I return them for refund.”

“It sure smells like beer.”

Joy said, “His pack always smells like beer.”

“You weren’t planning to drink those other four here, were you?”

“No, I’m heading straight home.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you alone,” said the cop.”

The patrol car left and parked across the street. Later, it circled the block.

Joy pulled out of her back pack a half bottle of sherry, poured some in her drinking bottle, filled the rest with water. Her hands were shaking,  “Shark helped me pour the last one. I saw him earlier. He lent me four bucks. Can you imagine? We’ve been fighting for thirty years. Now, he helps me get a bottle.”

Jacques and Mariah were having an animated conversation in French. Jacques kept pointing at an article in the newspaper.  Joy said, “I have no idea what they’re saying, but it sure as hell sounds interesting.”

English: Giant Tiger Discount store, Cannon St...

English: Giant Tiger Discount store, Cannon Street, Hamilton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I approached Joy she was doubled over, holding her knees. When she lifted her head her face looked pale and gaunt.

“You don’t look very good,”  I said.

“I don’t feel very good. I’ve been this way for five or six days now. Can you spare some change so I can get some Gravol. I can’t seem to keep anything down. I even tried my grandmother’s remedy of burnt toast scraped into water. It’s supposed to have the same effect as the charcoal they give you when you o.d.

“One time I got picked up by the police and I had a bunch of prescription drugs on me. They didn’t check, they just threw me in the back of the cruiser. I wolfed down these pills, I nearly gagged. When they got me to the station I was kind of dazed. They said to me, ‘You weren’t like this when we picked you up. What did you take?’ They found the empty pill bottles on the floor of the cruiser. The Desk Sargent asked the cops, ‘You didn’t check her for drugs?’ They didn’t know how many pills I’d taken so they sent for the ambulance. I went to hospital and had my stomach pumped.

“Even granny’s remedy didn’t work. I couldn’t hold that down. Since last Tuesday I’ve been going from the sofa to the garbage pail. Half the time I don’t make it. I’m tired of mopping my floor. At least I don’t have the runs, but since I don’t have any food in my system there’s nothing to come out.”

A lady stopped by and handed Joy a blister pack of Gravol and two slices of dry toast. ‘Bless you,’ said Joy.   To me she said, ‘ I didn’t think she was going to come back. I’m going to save the toast for later. I can’t face the idea of eating right now. I  think I’ll just stop for a cup of tea.

She took two of the tablets and waited a few minutes. “These are supposed to make me feel better, but I feel horrible. They have an orange taste, like the Tang we used to mix with vodka. Remember that orange powder stuff? Supposedly the astronauts drank that —  Yuck!  I think I’m going home.

“I have to stop at Giant Tiger on my way. They have those frozen burgers on sale. I can just fry them or nuke them. If I can’t eat them it’s not much to throw in the trash. I hate going to Giant Tiger this time of day. It’s when all the skids are there. They smell so bad. I don’t know if I’m going to be able take it.”

“I haven’t had a drink for six days. Jacques is the same way. We just can’t face it. I feel chilled, then I feel hot. Jacques gave me this purple hoodie. I put it on, then take it off.

“I was really pissed off last week. I told you the cable guy was supposed to come by Tuesday. I waited around all day, but he didn’t show. He came Thursday — that meant I missed my appointment with 507 to see about my health card. Greg was acting all pissy about that, but I couldn’t phone him to cancel or explain because the phone guy didn’t leave me a phone. He said, ‘We don’t do that any more. Too many phones were being stolen.’ I have to admit I’ve stolen a few in my time.

“At least I have television now. That makes a big difference. I don’t have to watch the same old shit all the time.”


09 July 2013

This morning when I neared Joy’s spot I saw a Paramedic Vehicle parked close to where she sits. I thought the worst, then I saw her feet sticking out from behind a concrete pillar. Joy said, “I feel so bad. That poor woman was one of my regulars. She was reaching in her purse for change when she tripped on that uneven sidewalk — I don’t know how many people have tripped there. Anyway, she fell face down with her arm across her chest.  Her knees were scraped, her hand was scraped and swollen. I jumped up and helped her, then I held her hand until the paramedics came.  She acted so surprised that I stayed with her.  I said,  ‘I’m human, I feel bad when somebody gets hurt.’ She said, ‘But you people…” I asked, ‘What do you mean, us people…street people… panhandlers? Just because people treat us like shit doesn’t mean we don’t  have feelings.’ At that point Joy’s eyes brimmed with tears.

“I think I freaked her out a bit. When I get nervous I start signing and scratching. I explained to her that I’m deaf in one ear and learned to sign when I was young. I don’t know what she thought of that.

“The paramedics arrived, checked her over and wanted to take her to hospital, but she refused to go. The van has been here for about an hour. I thought by now that the fat driver would have gotten out to get a donut at Timmy Ho’s, but he hasn’t moved. The woman is long gone. She’s gone to her office or somewhere.

I asked, “How are you feeling? It must have been upsetting for you.”

“I’m alright. They installed my land line and my cable. I still have to buy a phone. I didn’t know that Bell didn’t install their own phones, but the installer said that too many have been stolen. I guess I’ll try to get one at Giant Tiger, or someplace. I just want something really simple, but I want call display. I’m not sure I can get that at Giant Tiger. I want to know who’s calling. If I don’t know them I won’t answer. Having a television and a phone makes me feel scared for some reason. It makes me feel too human, most times I just want to hide away.”

I said, “You don’t have to answer the phone. Maybe, you can find a used answering machine somewhere.  I never answer the phone. You don’t have to watch the television. I watch very little. I never watch the news, it’s too depressing.”

“I guess it’s staying alone that I’m scared about.”

I asked, “Have you thought about Jake moving in with you?”

“No, not the way he smells. Even if he did clean himself up I’m not ready for a relationship.”

“How about having Loretta move in with you. She’s been sober for five months now. You seem to get along with her.”

“No, I’d kill her. I think I’m better off by myself. I’ve got my name down on a couple of different housing registries. I didn’t put down any restrictions as far as neighborhood is concerned. I just want someplace clean, with no bed bugs.

“I was over at Chester’s the other day. I checked his mattress. Beside the piping at the bottom, where that crease is, was black with bed bugs; big black ones. He said to me, ‘I don’t know where they come from.’ I said, ‘Did you ever think that they may come from the people who stay over. It just takes one bed bug to lay about a thousand eggs. I read up on them. I also had a friend whose husband was an exterminator. She told me all about them. They’re nasty.

“When I had them I put two in a sealed bottle and put it in the freezer. When my friend came over I showed her the bottle. They were still alive and crawling up the sides of the bottle. My friend said, ‘I’ve going to put these in my purse and show my husband.’ I said, ‘You’re going to put them in your purse just like that? I think you should double bag them. I gave her a couple of Ziploc bags to put the bottle in. When her husband saw them he said, ‘Get that bottle out of here! Put it outside somewhere! I don’t want it in the house!’ That’s from a guy who knows bed bugs.”

I said, “You can spray for them, can’t you?

“You spray the first time, wait two weeks, spray again, wait another two weeks then do a final spraying. If I was married to an exterminator I’d spray every week.

It was time for me to go to work.  I asked, “Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I don’t know. If nobody’s there when I go past, I think I’ll just go home.”