Posts Tagged ‘alcoholism’

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14 June 2012

Hobophobia 

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

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

“Behind the dumpsters in back of Starbucks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey!” said Hippo, “what about me!”

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

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

“Hobos?” asked Mo, “People like me?”

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

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

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

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

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

telephone: (613) 351-8000

fax: (613) 351-8136

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why would he breach you?”

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

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

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

“What are the tokens for?”

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

“Do you enjoy the meetings?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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13 June 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loretta asked, “Am I invited too?”

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

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

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

“Sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy asked me, “Are you cold?”

“No,” I said, “I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Really, I’m fine.”

“Liar!”

“Okay, I’m a bit chilly.”

“Here, put my sweatshirt on.”

“No, I couldn’t do that.”

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

“Thanks Andre, I appreciate that.”

~~~

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11 June 2012

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

“How are you doing, Serge?”

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

“I’ll see you later, Serge.”

“See you.”

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

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

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

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

“Well, could I have a smoke?”

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

“Sure I’ll get it.”

“How be I throw you over the railing?”

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

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

“How old are you, Chester?”

“I’m sixty-four.”

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

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

“Have you seen Joy today?” asked Loretta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s a big family,

“How was your weekend, Silver?”

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

“Not yet,” he replied and chuckled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Andre.”

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

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

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

“Thanks, anyway, Silver,” I said.

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

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

“He gave you a carton of smokes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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7 June 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Here comes Andre,” said Outcast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is it?” I asked.

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

~~~

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6 June 2012

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

“Sure, I can help you, Stan.”

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

“Rocky and Hippo are having the same problem.”

“I know. Thanks again, brother.”

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

“I’m feeling a little better.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Toronto can be a tough place to live.”

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

“Take care, Chester.”

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

“Hi Joy, did you finish your shopping?”

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

“Are you going to be having a barbecue?”

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

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

“Yeah, I lived in the pink house.”

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

“It’s still pink.”

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

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

“Do you live in Toronto?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did they want to operate on your hand?”

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

~~~

 

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5 June 2012

 

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

“Hi Irene, Rosie, are you leaving?”

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

“I’ll see you then.”

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

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

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

Gene said, “Andre and I were throwing a hardball around. I was pitching to him. I used to be pretty fast in my younger days. I’d throw at around eighty, ninety miles an 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 percent of the time. I had really quick reflexes; but not anymore. I remember my uncle throwing a bit wide one time. The ball missed my glove and went right through the backboard, left a neat circular hole.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bye, Joy.”

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

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

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

“Take care, Chester.”

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

“Do you know why they call me that?

“Because your parents named you Charles?”

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

~~~

 

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4 June 2012

 

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

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

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

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

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

“You have a good day.”

“You too, Metro.”

The sidewalk was free of panhandlers, except for Hippo.

“Good morning, Dennis.”

“Hi Hippo, how does your head feel?”

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

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

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

“Was Shakes down there with you?”

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

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

“Yeah, that’s Shakes.”

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

“Yeah, he looks a lot older.”

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

“I know, just look at me.”

“How old are you?”

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

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

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

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

“That’s great.

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

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

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

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

“How is your hand?”

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

“Did you work on the weekend?”

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

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

“Okay, thanks,” we said.

“I’ll see you later, Hippo.”

“I’ll see you, Dennis.”

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

“I’m okay.”

“Are you staying at The Shepherd now?”

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

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

“Okay, I’ll see you then.”

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

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

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

“I was in the hospital for alcohol poisoning.”

“Was there anything they could do for you?”

“Not really.”

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

“That’s great, Hippo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You did well.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks for walking with me.”

“It was my pleasure.”

~~~

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

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

“My head hurts.”

“How is your hand?”

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

“Hi Jake, How are you?”

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

“I guess that’s a good thing.”

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

“Do you know why they jumped Rocky?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“Hi Donald, how are you?”

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

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

“I appreciate you being my friend.”

“Hi Shark, how is Irene feeling today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I bought beer at the Beer Store.”

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

“No.”

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

“No.”

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

“Hello Wolf,” I said.

“Have a look at my dog.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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23 May 2012

I caught an early bus to work, so I had lots of time to talk to Joy. “How’s it going today?’

“This morning has been slow. Yesterday, I made nineteen dollars. So far today, I’ve only made five and I’ve been here since six o’clock. Come on people!”

Chantal stopped by to talk with Joy. She squatted, put some change in Joy’s cap, then put her hand on Joy’s shoulder. “How are you doing, Joy?”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you eating well?

“Yes, I’m eating well.”

“You mentioned that you were looking at a new apartment tomorrow. Is that still on?”

“Yeah, Chuck and I are going over tomorrow to have a look at it. It’s a one bedroom for seven hundred a month. It’s just down a block from the one we’re in now.”

“You take care, Joy”

When she left Joy said to me. “She’s really beautiful. That’s the religious lady. Last fall when I was beaten by Jake, and I had the broken nose, and broken ribs, she prayed with me. I felt a warm glow spreading through my body. For the first time in a week, I could take a full breath without chest pain. I’m not a religious person — well, I used to be a Catholic, but I haven’t been to church for a long time. It really spooked me. I felt better all day.

“There’s something about the number five. I have five boys. The marriage to my first husband lasted five years. Jake and I broke up after five years.

“I don’t want to live with Chuck. He want’s me to go over and see about the apartment, but I’m going to let him go by himself. I’ll phone back later in the week, talk to the lady, and maybe take it myself. Chuck and I are always arguing. He feeds so many people, I just can’t afford that.

“Hippo found a bicycle, that’s it over there.” She pointed to a blue bike in the bicycle rack. “I told him it looks like one of those bait bicycles. The police put them out every so often. If you’re caught riding one you’re charged with theft.”

“Is it locked?” I asked.

“It has a lock on it, but the lock isn’t fastened. It only looks locked. I can just imagine Hippo riding that. One good thing about having a bicycle is that it will help him lose weight.

“I brought him some soap and some shampoo. He said at The Shepherd they only give them a tiny bit to last for a week. That’s why his hair looks greasy. People sometimes drop some off hotel soap and shampoo for me. I don’t know why. Do they think I’m dirty?”

Hippo walked across the street. “Hi Hippo,” I said. “How are you feeling?”

“Not so good. I was out drinking with Andre and we got into some bad stuff. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“What were you drinking, Hippo? If you were with Andre, it could have been Listerine or rubby (rubbing alcohol). Which was it?”

“Rubby.”

“Hippo, you know that stuff will kill you.”

“Rubbing alcohol is used to disinfect, to bring down fever and to soothe skin. Most rubbing alcohol is made of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol in water. Isopropyl isn’t the same type of alcohol that is in alcoholic beverages—ethanol— although sometimes ethanol is an ingredient in rubbing alcohol. When ethanol is an ingredient it will have been denatured. Denaturing is adding poisonous and bad-tasting ingredients, and it is done specifically to prevent people from drinking the alcohol. Often the poisonous ingredient added is methanol, which can cause blindness. Isopropyl is also found in mouthwashes and skin lotions. Isopropyl is very intoxicating. Because it is easily available and has no purchasing restrictions, it is sometimes used as a substitute for ethanol alcohol.

Drinking rubbing alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning are vomiting, confusion, slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute), seizures, low body temperature, pale or blueish skin and unconsciousness. In cases of isopropyl ingestion, because of its strong effect on the central nervous system, a person may experience lethargy or ataxia, or may go into a coma. Because isopropyl also affects the GI tract, a person who has drunk it can have stomach pain, cramps and hemorrhagic gastritis. Someone who has ingested rubbing alcohol will also have a fruity smell to his or her breath.” (http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5200289_effects-consuming-rubbing-alcohol.html)

“I’m going off to do some things on my own,” said Hippo.

Joy said, “I don’t even want to think about what that is.”

After Hippo left Joy said, “I’ve sunk pretty low, but I’ve never drunk Listerine or rubbing alcohol. Now they sell Listerine without alcohol. I don’t know where Serge gets his. I can’t stand to be near him. He reeks of the stuff. Lately, he’s been acting funny. All he seems do is sleep. (a side effect of drinking rubbing alcohol or alcohol based mouthwash).”

“Yesterday,” I said, “Irene was complaining about leg pain. Does that have to do with her cancer?”

“I don’t know what the leg pain is about. Yesterday, because she was wearing capris, I noticed how skinny her legs are. She had breast cancer and cancer of the uterus. She also has cirrhosis of the liver. It’s because of the uterine cancer that she doesn’t have sex with Shark. It’s too painful for her. He goes off somewhere and pays for it. She’s cool with that. Shark and Irene have been together eleven years. I think they had sex once.”

“You mentioned that you lost a lot of weight. How did you do that?”

“When I came back from Winnipeg I weighed about three hundred and sixty-five pounds. My doctor told me it was unhealthy to be carrying that much weight, so I decided to eat only on Sundays. I didn’t eat anything during the week. I drank lots of water. On Sunday, I’d go to the Mission and pig out all day, until I was stuffed.”

I noticed Clint, a man I work with, approaching. I said to Joy that Clint was going to Disneyland.

“Do you know what I love from Disney land? It’s the soap that’s shaped like a urinal puck. On one side there is a picture of Mickey Mouse. They have them in all the rooms. I love the smell and it’s so good for my skin.”

I called Clint over and introduced him to Joy. I said, “Clint, when you go to Disneyland, will you bring Joy some of the soap that is in the hotel rooms?”

“Why?” asked Clint.

Joy replied, “It’s not because I’m dirty; it’s just that I love the smell of that soap. So, will you bring me some?”

“Okay.”

I said, “Bye, Clint. I’ll see you at work.”

Toothless Chuck arrived with V. Joy attached V’s leash to the meter on the wall behind her. They had domestic matters to discuss, so I left.

At noon I went to the park, as usual. The usual crowd was there.

Wolf called me over. “I want to show you my Tilley hat. It’s considered the Rolls Royce of hats. A friend gave it to me. Can you read without your glasses? I want you to read what’s printed inside the hat.”

“It says, that it floats, it’s waterproof, and it’s made for persnickety customers. It also gives washing instructions. There’s a four page owner’s manual, in the secret pocket, inside the crown of the hat.”

“What does persnickety mean?”

“Picky,” I said.

“Isn’t that the darndest thing?”

Joy and Butcher  were talking about V. I asked, “How long did you have to look after V, this morning?”

“Chuck came back after about half an hour. He has him now. He’s panning. I don’t like that dog; but he respects me. If he bites, I snap my fingers on his nose and he’ll obey. Chuck kicks him.”

Butcher said, “I don’t like the way Chuck treats V. He jerked the dog right off his feet, for not obeying some command. If a man treats a dog that way, he’s sure to beat a woman.”

Joy said, “I can say one thing in Chuck’s defense. He’s never hit me and I’m not aware of him hitting any other woman. Trudy went out with him before, I’ll ask her.

“Trudy, when you were going out with Chuck, did he ever hit you?”

Trudy said, “No, Chuck never hit me. Is Butcher starting a rumor that Chuck hit me. Don’t believe a word he says. He’s the one that started the rumor about Nick being dead.”

“Okay,” said Butcher, “This needs an explanation. Trudy has been going on about this for ten years. I don’t know why she holds on to it. Why can’t she move on! I have!

“She’d been going out with Nick for about three years. I’d known him for forty years. We grew up together. I hadn’t seen Nick around for a while and my friend, Steve, said to me, “Did you hear about Nick? The funeral is on Tuesday in Oshawa.

“I’m not good at funerals. I went to the service, but at the wake I didn’t go near the body. Why would I? My own daughter died and I still haven’t visited the grave site. I’d rather remember the good times we had together.

“Back to the wake. I expressed my condolences to Nick’s parents and family, then I left. Later on someone asked me if I’d heard from Nick and I said, ‘He died. I attended his funeral.’ This person said, ‘Nick didn’t die, he was arrested and is serving two years. It was his brother Roger who died.’ I didn’t know.

“Getting back to Trudy, it was Steve who told her that Nick had died, not me.”

As I was leaving I stopped to talk to Shark and Irene. Shark said, “My friend Wayne phoned me. He wants us to come to New Brunswick to help him finish a log cabin he’s building. The trees he cut were on his own property. The logs are stacked and have been drying since last year. They’ll have to be peeled then he’ll start building. He wants us to come up to help with the chinking, shellacking, and all the finishing stuff. It’ll be a paid vacation. I’m thinking of going.”

“I’m going for sure,” said Irene, “whether you come or not.”

“It sounds like a great trip, ” I said. “I love New Brunswick.”

.

New Shoes for Shakes

24 May 2012

~~~

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