Posts Tagged ‘bikers’

 

womanbox

 

24 May 2013

A light rain was falling,  it was see-your-breath cold. Metro said to me, “You won’t believe it, but Joy is at her spot.”

As I approached I could see her huddled over, rocking slightly. “Joy,” I said, “you look cold.”

“I am. I forgot my heavy coat. By the time I realized how cold it was I was half way to the bus stop. I’m wearing Jake’s sweater, two layers of long underwear under my jeans, but I’m still freezing.

I said, “I didn’t go to the park yesterday because of the rain.”

“We just huddled together inside the glassed in bus shelter: Outcast, Jacques, Little Jake. Finally I said, ‘Why don’t we just go to my place? I’ll cook something.’

As I was getting on the bus I slipped and landed on the front step of the bus. I didn’t notice at first but there was a deep gash in my shin. Outcast said, ‘You should go to the hospital.’ I’ll show you.”

“Don’t take the bandage off.” I said.

“It’s okay, unless this kind of stuff really freaks you out.”

“No, I don’t have a problem with that.” Joy removed the bandage and revealed a one inch gash on the front of her shin. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood came out of there, some is still on my shoe.”

I asked, “Has Jake tried to get in contact with you?”

“No, but I’m tempted to park myself in front of the Salvation Army and watch for him. Jacques has seen him. Chester has seen him. He’s still wearing my Leafs Sweatshirt, number sixty-four. I’ll never peel that off him. He’s wearing shorts too. I said to Chester, ‘I bet they’re tan color, cargo shorts.’ Chester said, ‘Yes, that’s what he was wearing.’

“That’s what he was wearing when he went in. They’re supposed to launder them for you before you’re released. I was in for three years. I couldn’t get into the jeans I came in with. They were too tight.”

I asked, “Did you gain weight in prison?”

“Yeah, that and I had my son, Nicholas.”

I said, “I remember you telling me that you had been raped by a jail guard.”

“Yeah, he isn’t with the prison system any more. I saw to that. When Nicholas was old enough, I told him that his father died in the war. One day he came home from school and said to me, ‘My dad didn’t die in the war, if he had that would make you about eighty years old. What really happened? Where did I come from? So I had to tell him the full story.”

“One day, at my mom’s place where we were staying, I heard a banging at the front door. Nicholas was crying upstairs. I was yelling at my mom to answer the door. She was yelling at me to answer it. I could hear a Harley revving up in the driveway. My uncle and some of his friends were there with the jail guard spread-eagled on the driveway. ‘What do you want us to do with him?’ he asked. Fuck, I figured that costing him his job was enough, but my uncle didn’t see it that way. With the back wheel of the bike spinning they forced his hand in, again and again. He ended up with two fingers and a thumb on one hand, the other was just a stump. I still remember the screams.”

 
 

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womanbox

17 April 2013

This morning was interesting, as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Joy was on her box as usual, standing behind her was a powerful looking man and a small woman. I recognized them, but hadn’t seen them for about a year.

Joy said, “Dennis, you remember Nick and Lucy in the Sky”.

“Yes,” I said, “I haven’t seen you two for a long time.”

Joy whispered to me, “This is scary.”

Nick pulled out a bottle of sherry, took a swig and passed it to Joy. She hesitated, but Nick insisted.

Joy said to Nick, “I really appreciate you guys coming by, but I don’t want any of my regulars seeing me drinking. I’ve been out here since six o’clock and I’ve only made about two dollars. Have a look in my cap”

Nick said, “No problem, Joy, I’ll help you.”

A man walked past and Nick said, “Hey, don’t forget about the hat!”

Lucy laughed and said, “That’s what he does when we’re panning.”

Joy whispered to me, “Do you know what time it is?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t have my watch.”

“You hid it when you saw Nick and Lucy. Am I right?”

“No, I just forgot it at home

Joy said to Nick, “Have you been in any fights lately?”

“No, not for about a year.”

“Of course, you had your leg in a cast for most of that time.”

“No, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have the need to fight anybody.”

Joy asked, “How about you, Lucy.”

“No, I haven’t been fighting. I robbed a guy yesterday. It was his stupidness. He didn’t see Nick standing in the background. He asked if he could have anal sex with me. I said, ‘Sure, let’s go into the alley.’ Nick followed us in there. He said to the guy, ‘Give this woman all your cash, then fuck off.’ The guy ran. What was he going to do? Call the cops?

Joy said, “Something similar happened to me last week. A guy propositioned me. I said to him, ‘It’ll cost you eighty bucks and cab fare to my place. Cash up front, now.’ We hailed a cab, when we got to my building the guy was busy paying the driver, I hopped out the door — I can be pretty nimble when I have to. I ran across the parking lot, into my apartment and locked the door. The guy didn’t know where I went. Served him right.”

Nick and Lucy moved on toward the library. Joy said, ‘They told me they were feeling drug sick. Nick said he has a check coming, so they didn’t hassle me. When Jake was around, I got in a fight with Lucy. Nick punched me in the side of the head. Jake picked him up by the front of his coat and threw him right on his ass. He said ‘This is girl stuff. Let them fight it out themselves. If It’s man stuff you want, you can take me on.’ Nick just sat there in the middle of the street.”

Joy whispered to me, “Do you know what time it is?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t have my watch.”

“You hid it when you saw Nick and Lucy. Am I right?”

“No, I just forgot it at home.

“I’ll let you get back to work. Will you be at ‘the point’ later?”

“Yeah, the whole gang should be there.”

10:00 am, at ‘the point’ (the traffic island)

I sat between Joy and Chester. Chester said, The busses are free for seniors today, but do you have any spare bus tickets for tomorrow?”

“Sure, Chester. How are your legs feeling?”

“They’re okay. They hurt a bit. I’ve been sober for the last three days. I can do that. It gives my body a chance to recover.”

Joy asked Chester, “Can I borrow your phone? I want to call Buck to see if he can bring me some weed and some cigarettes.”

On the phone, Joy said, “Hi Sweetie, where are you? In bed? I’m sorry did I wake you. I was going to ask, Were you whacking off? But, you beat me to the punch. So, are you coming down? Okay, we’ll see you then.”

To me she said, “Poor guy, he walks all the time and he wonders why he gets tired.”

I asked, “How did the meeting with your worker go? Do you have furniture yet?”

“It was a joke. They took me to the Salvation Army Thrift store and gave me a voucher for sixty dollars. I was supposed to get a hundred. Anyway, I bought a comfy office chair and a foot stool that opens up at the top for storage. I also got two black fluffy mats. One I’m going to put under my air mattress. The other I’ll put in the hall. What I really wanted was a love seat they had, but the price was a hundred dollars, so I’ll have to make do with what I got. They will be scheduling a visit to the giant warehouse, that’ll be in about two weeks or so. I guess they’ll bump me to the top of the list. I’m not quite sure how that works.

“When this furniture deal gets settled I’m going to have a showdown with my worker. I want to find out why she treats me the way she does. I know she’s a dyke and I’ve got no problem with that. What people do in their private lives is up to them. What they do when they’re working for me is what I’m concerned about. I’m not the only one having trouble with her.

“By the way, when I went back to the library again, to use the washroom, I saw Nick and Lucy again. They were sitting on one of the top benches. Nick said, ‘We’re up here looking down on everyone.’ When I came back they were both asleep.”

I asked Chester if he knew the time. He pulled out his phone and said, “Can you read the numbers? They’re pretty small.” He shaded the phone inside his jacket. “It’s 10:45.”

“I should be going,” I said. To Joy I asked, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Maybe, It depends on how much it’s raining.”

I walked across the street to talk to Uncle Peter and Shaggy. “Hi Peter. I’ve got a book put aside for you. Do you like Ian Flemming?”

“The guy that wrote the James Bond books? Yeah, I like him.”

“I’ll try to bring it tomorrow. I’ll see you then.”
 
 

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bench

 

7 July 2015

I walked towards the park and to my surprise, a group of my friends were sitting on the curb. I gave a wave and they waved back. I shook hands with Shark, Little Jake and Outcast. Mariah stood and gave me a hug.

Outcast said, “It must be a year since I saw you last.”

“It could be,” I said, “I don’t remember.  How did you make out through the winter?”

“I had double pneumonia. Mind you, I get that every winter, it’s from working with asbestos when I was younger. Now I have a double hernia.  It sounds like ordering a coffee, ‘I’ll have a double, double please, to go.’ Thursday go to the doctor for the operations. The idea scares the shit out of me. I’ve never had an operation before. That’s why I’ve been putting it off. One I should have had done last year. Now the pain is so bad, I can’t put it off any longer.

“Did you hear what happened to Shark? I’ll let him tell you.”

Shark said, Irene and I had a home invasion last week by a motorcycle gang. They had the idea that I was cutting into some of their drug business. I’m a little fish, what you might call the bottom rung of the ladder, if I’m even on the ladder. I’m a junkie, I sell enough to get me through to the end of the month. I’m not any competition for them, in I don’t even sell near where I live. My customers are all from the suburbs.”

I said, “Someone must have ratted on you.”

“Yeah, that’s what happened. This woman said I was stealing some of her customers. That was bullshit. They asked me, ‘Where is your safe? Where’s your stash?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a safe. I got a few pills that’s all.’  I got a flashlight and showed them around the place, back to front, top to bottom. I asked them ‘Do you see any safe?’ It was Irene that gave up the money, four hundred bucks. The same thing happened the next night, another four hundred bucks.’

I asked, “Did either of you get hurt?’

“No, I guess we didn’t look like we were any kind of threat. They kicked the door down. Irene was shitting bricks. I asked them, ‘What are you going to do, kill us? I’m dying of AIDS, Irene has cancer, that’s how we get the marijuana and the Oxycontin, we have medical prescriptions for them.  Do what you want. I don’t care.’

 

 

 

 

 

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wheel

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8 June 2015

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

“It was quiet. I met my friends at the mall. I couldn’t stay too long because they had the elevators shut down and one of the bathrooms. I had to go all the way to the far end of the mall. With the water pills I’m taking I have to pee often, that meant a lot of trips.

“I just got down here. It was raining when I woke up. I couldn’t even take Goldie for her walk. She needs about an hour outside but, like most animals, she won’t piss in the rain. She won’t even piss on the bridge She waits until we’ve crossed the bridge and reach a small patch of grass on the other side. It’s nearly stopped now, so maybe I can take her to the park.

“My friend from Cornwall went to some bake sale on the weekend. She phoned and said that she bought me a plate of brownies and  some date squares. I don’t know why people do this. My friend Sam does the same thing. He’ll say, “Have a cream puff, they’re really good.” I know he means well and I know they taste good,  but I have to say to him, “Sam, it doesn’t matter how good they taste. I’m on doctor’s orders to keep my weight down. If my weight goes up I die. Are you trying to kill me?”

“There are so many near accidents on this corner. The damn bicycles should be banned from downtown and the highways. My son rides a bicycle and he’s as bad as the rest of them. He rides on the sidewalk, stops short when nearing pedestrians, scaring the shit out of them, then laughing about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some car driver, with road rage, mowed down a whole bunch of them. It’s happened before.”

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womanbox

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29 April 2015

Bearded Bruce was using the pay phone. I waited for him to finish. He said, “Hey bud, it’s good to see you. It’s been a couple of months now. It was a brutal winter.”

I said, “I’ve been looking for some of my friends. Markus, I talked with yesterday. I’ve met with Magdalene and Native Nance. I’ve seen Greg and Luther. Little Jake I’ve talked to on the bus.”

“You won’t see Jake for a while. Three days ago was check day.

“We’re still around. I pan on this corner then move on to the next block later on. I’m just waiting to hear about some work”

I asked, “What kind of work will you be doing?”

“Landscaping, the same as last year.”

I remembered that Weasel and Bruce shared that job last year. I didn’t want to mention that sad topic.

“Yeah, I’ll be doing some word for Stella, as soon as the ground is dry enough.”

I asked, “Have you seen Joy lately. Nancy was at her place for Easter dinner. Joy seemed to be doing fine then.”

“Well,” said Bruce, “she wasn’t inclined to listen to the advice of her doctor.”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m well aware of that.”

Bruce said, “I talked to Mariah yesterday, she hasn’t seen Joy for three days and she’s holding her check for her. She’s knocked on Joy’s door, but there’s no answer. It’s not like Joy to miss collecting her check. I’m going to drop by her place tomorrow.”

I said, “It was great seeing you, Bruce. Take care.”

“Take care, bud.”

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wheel

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30 April 2015

“Good morning, Chuck, How’s your day going for you.”

“Dennis, I hate to be the bearer of sad news, but Joy passed away. When they discovered the body they figured that she had been dead about three days. I almost wish it was me instead of her. I’ll miss her giving me a kiss on the cheek. Asking, ‘How’s it going you old fart?’ “

I said, “She’ll be missed by a lot of people. I’ve often told her my troubles. She was sympathetic, or at least acted that way. Have you heard any news about funeral arrangements.”

“They may have a small service at the Mission. I don’t know if she had any family.”

“She has five sons and two sisters who live out of town. She also has an uncle who would regularly ride in on his motorcycle.”

Chuck said, “I didn’t know that. When I die I don’t want any fuss. I’ve arranged for a woman to have me cremated then spread my ashes on the St Lawrence. I’ve enjoyed myself out there.

“As far as the rest of my family is concerned, they can all go to hell. I don’t want a service, no notice in the paper, nothing written about me. I don’t even want them informed. If there were a service they’d go there to be seen. They’d hang around saying  ‘Oh, Daddy this and oh, Daddy that.’ Now they don’t give a shit. I like  the native point of view, ‘Today is a good day to die’. Even in the bible they say let the dead bury their dead (Luke 9:60:  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

“There was a drunk guy who came around yesterday who said, ‘Chuck, it’s so good to see you. Remember this and remember that.’ I didn’t remember the guy. Later it came to me, I’d thrown him out of a bar where I’d worked as a beer jockey. He gave me a dollar, but I don’t want to see him again.”

I said, I have to go now Chuck, but take care. I’m sorry about Joy, we’ll miss her.”

“Yes, we all have to die.”

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wheel

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28 April 2015

“Good morning, Chuck. We have some warm weather for a change and they say it will last a few days.”

“I don’t believe that. I’ll take what we got now, but as far as forecasts are concerned, they’ve been wrong all winter, why would they change now?

“You heard about that big earthquake in Nepal, that killed so many people. We’re overdue for one of those — way overdue. There is a major fault line running right through the middle of the city. I could be sitting here comfortably one minute, the next minute I could be crushed by falling bricks.

“When I first moved to the city, this building was the YMCA. The YWCA was across the street. I tried to stay there but they wouldn’t let me, so I stayed here.

Car horns honked, a driver failed to give right-of-way to a bicycle. Chuck said, “If there was a major car accident at this intersection, I could be killed sitting right here. I could be killed by one of those damned cyclists. They cut across the sidewalk, ride on the wrong side of the street. As far as I’m concerned the priority should be pedestrians first, then cars, then bicycles.

“We have what people are starting to call ‘bicycle trails’. They’re not bicycle trails, they’re nature trails. Cyclists use them as if they own them, tearing around with no respect for other people. My son is just as bad. Several times I was on one of those trails in my wheelchair when he swooped by, nearly hitting me. I told him, ‘The next time you do that I’m going to clothesline you right across the neck, and I will.’

“Remember last year a cyclist on one of those trails hit two little kids, one five years old and the other two. The younger one suffered severe cuts and bruises.  The older one was taken to hospital with blood pouring out of his shoulder. Doctors were so concerned about the swelling on his brain they ordered a CT-scan. The cyclist apologized profusely, but admitted his bike had no brakes. He wasn’t even charged.

“This is a busy week for me. Goldie goes to the vet for her shots and a week Thursday I’ll be going to hospital to have my pacemaker replaced. The doctor explained it all to me. I won’t feel any pain because the whole area will be frozen. He’ll make a new incision over the old one and then remove the old heart device. The new device is then inserted.

“It sounds simple, but he informed me that there may be complications such as infection. This can cause weakened immune system, kidney failure, especially since I’m already taking blood thinners. In rare cases, the new battery is faulty, in which case I die.

I said, “I’m sure everything will work out. You’ll be back out here in no time. I’ll see you tomorrow, Chuck.”

“Bye”

 

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0805-indian-motorcycle-630x420

2014  Indian Chieftain, modeled on a 1930s locomotive
with hard bags, a power windshield, and Bluetooth-enabled audio.

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7 May 2014

This is the first warm noon hour we’ve had so far.  As soon as I got to the park, Jacques handed me a cushion, I removed my leather jacket, then I sat down. Everyone was  in shirt sleeves.

Big Frank had a plastic bag on his lap. Mariah said, “Frank, show Dennis what they taught you how to do in Joyceville. This is what our hard-earned tax dollars go to.”

Frank replied, “They didn’t teach me this. I taught myself.” Out of the bag he carefully pulled a model of a Harley Davidson motorcycle made completely from paper. Thread was used for the cables. The handlebars and the wheels turned. It was painted purple with a gold design on the gas tank.

I was amazed, “This is beautiful, Frank. I’ve never seen anything like it. How long did it take?

“That one took sixty-one hours. I’ve got about nine of them at home.”

Jacques said, “Look, on the street. Is that a panhead?”

Frank said, “It’s either a panhead or an Indian. That’s a nice looking bike.

Joy said, “That guy that walked by just now looked exactly like Rocky; even had that, ‘Do I know you?’ goofy look on his face.”

I said, “That’s somebody I haven’t seen for a long time.”

Frank said, “He’s dead. I think Wolf found him on the street. He’d been beaten up. They took him to hospital, but he didn’t make it.”

Loretta said, “He had a woman staying at his place. Her boyfriend got jealous and beat him up. Rocky would go crazy when he fought.”

I said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I really liked him.”

Loretta said, “Yes, he was sweet.”

Frank said, I’ve seen somebody that looks like Crash, also; has the same moustache, ponytail and everything.”

Joy said, I’ve seen somebody that looks like Digger, and Wobbly Knees. It nearly freaked me out.”

Frank said, “Speaking of Wolf, did he make it home last night? He was in bad shape when he left here. He could barely walk.”

Jacques said, “Not only that, look what he left behind;  his Montreal cap. You know how much he like this cap. He got mad at me yesterday. You know that Montreal cushion that he has, the one that looks like a toilet seat. Somebody had to go to the bathroom, I lifted up the cushion and said, ‘You can go here.’ Wolf got so mad at me.”

I said, “Remember the newspaper that said, ‘Wolf is dead.’  He showed it to me and I said, ‘Are we sure that’s not true?’ He got really upset. He asked, ‘Just what are you insinuating? I don’t think I like it.”

Jacques said, “He’s in a bad mood because Shaggy’s legs are getting weak. She can barely walk. He pushes her everywhere in her caboose.

“Today I got my Trillium check. It was for fifty bucks. I paid thirty for my phone plan, that just leaves me with twenty.”

Mariah said, I’m with WIND, I get a five dollar rebate every month. That brings my monthly cost down to twenty-five. Are you still with CHATTER?”

“Yes, but maybe I should change, but I don’t want to give anybody my name. I pay in cash. If I miss a payment they cut my phone off right away. When I pay them they turn it on again.

Joy asked Chester, “Are those antibiotics you’re taking?”

“Yes, I went to my doctor this morning. I have an ear infection. He also gave me a script for ear drops. They’re not covered under our plan. They cost seventy-one dollars; it’s not Viagra, I’m not paying that much.”

To Me Joy said, “Chester gets a lot of ear infections. It’s because he has a perforated ear drum, from all the falls he’s taken. Ear wax leaks through onto his pillow.”

Joy said to Frank, “You know the pork chops I bought? I unwrapped them and they don’t look so good. There is only about two bites of meat on each one. Mariah, do you want some pork chops?”

Mariah said, “I’ve been staying away from pork chops, unless they’ve been barbecued. There is just too much fat. I like it, but I pay for it later. The same with bacon, I have to fry it until it’s really crisp, then I press it with paper towel to eliminate as much grease as possible. Because of this irritable bowel, I swell up and it causes a lot of pain.”

Jacques said, “Today is so beautiful, not too cold, not too hot. I see they put a Canadian flag on that building over there. They’re starting early for Canada Day. It’s not until July first. Why do they start so early?

Chester said, “Dennis, can you give me a hand and pull me up.”

Mariah looked at her watch and said, “It’s nearly time for my bus. I’d better leave.”

I said, “I’m going the same way. I’ll walk with you.”

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shovelhead

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23 August 2013

When walking up the sidewalk to the park the only person I saw was Richard, shirt off sunning himself. I thought he was alone, but when I rounded the curve I saw Mariah, Shakes and Chester.

Joy was the first to speak, “Dennis, I’m hammered, man. I’m not even sure I can stand up. I was just thinking about how I can fuck my neighbor’s weekend. He said he knows cops that can put me in prison. He’s just a fucking gardener, for Christ’s sake. I’ve been in prison before, for some really nasty shit, but that’s all behind me. Who does this guy think he is? Cops have checked my record, there’s no way they’re going to bring me back to Toronto for things I did there twenty years ago.

“I even talked to my family. They were glad to hear from me and glad to help. The only thing is, I’ll have to put up with my uncle’s crazy, witch, girlfriend. She spends a hundred bucks a month on black hair dye and she still ends up with a white stripe down the middle.

“Are you with me on this , Mariah? I wish we had your Harley right now. I had a Sportster in Toronto that my uncle rebuilt specially for me. Then I lent it to my sister. You know what happens when you’re going up a steep driveway and you gun the engine?”

“I know, ” I said, “you go right over backwards. I’ve done it myself.”

“Ass over tea kettle!” agreed Mariah.

Joy said, “My uncle was really pissed off. He said, ‘I built that bike for you. Now you’re barred.’ That gave me the opportunity to beat the shit out of my sister. I enjoyed that, but I missed the bike.”

I said, “I used to ride a 650 Suzuki GL, but I always wanted a Harley.”

Mariah said, “I usually rode a Shadow, I had a Harley for a while, but that was way back. What you need to do is get someone to rebuild you a bike. They’re a lot better.”

“Like a knucklehead or shovelhead? I asked.

“Yeah, they have great vibrations. Every woman loves a Harley!”

Loretta, Scarface and his dog Dillinger came by. Dillinger licked my face as I sat on the sidewalk. Joy said, “I’ve fed that dog, given him treats, looked after him; he doesn’t give me kisses.”

I said to Loretta, “I see that you’re drinking coffee, or at least it looks like coffee.”

“It’s coffee. I’ve just passed my anniversary, eight months sober.”

“Congratulations, that is a great accomplishment. I’m so  proud of you.”

“Well, you saw me while I was drinking. I was a real mess.”

“I’ve been the same. Now is what counts.”

A plump, middle-aged woman stopped by. She asked, “Does anybody here know where I can buy some pot.”

Joy, nervously said “Yeah.”

“I’ve asked kids on the market, but they just laugh at me. I’m from the seventies, I just want something to mellow me out.”

Joy said, “You’d only get shit from them anyway.”

“How much can you sell me?”

“A gram.”

“What do you charge?”

“Ten.”

“If I want more can you hook me up with somebody.”

“Yeah.”

“Where can I meet you. Are you around here every day.”

“Most mornings until about one o’clock.”

“Okay, I’ll see you again.” She took her gram then walked away.

Mariah said, “I hate having to deal with strangers.”

Joy said, “Don’t worry, It’s my pot. You’re safe.”

Shakes said, “One time, in Toronto, a guy came by my place and asked to buy a gram. That was fine. Then he came again and wanted to buy forty grams. The third time he arrested me for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. I got ten years.”

Daimon Realeased from Prison 

5 June 2012

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

“Hi Irene, Rosie, are you leaving?”

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

“I’ll see you then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bye, Joy.”

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

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

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

“Take care, Chester.”

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

“Do you know why they call me that?

“Because your parents named you Charles?”

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

 

A light rain was falling,  it was see-your-breath cold. Metro said to me, “You won’t believe it, but Joy is at her spot.”

As I approached I could see her huddled over, rocking slightly. “Joy,” I said, “you look cold.”

“I am. I forgot my heavy coat. By the time I realized how cold it was I was half way to the bus stop. I’m wearing Jake’s sweater, two layers of long underwear under my jeans, but I’m still freezing.

I said, “I didn’t go to the park yesterday because of the rain.”

“We just huddled together inside the glassed in bus shelter: Heartless, Jacques, Little Jake. Finally I said, ‘Why don’t we just go to my place? I’ll cook something.’

As I was getting on the bus I slipped and landed on the front step of the bus. I didn’t notice at first but there was a deep gash in my shin. Heartless said, ‘You should go to the hospital.’ I’ll show you.”

“Don’t take the bandage off.” I said.

“It’s okay, unless this kind of stuff really freaks you out.”

“No, I don’t have a problem with that.” Joy removed the bandage and revealed a one inch gash on the front of her shin. “You wouldn’t believe how much blood came out of there, some is still on my shoe.”

I asked, “Has Jake tried to get in contact with you?”

“No, but I’m tempted to park myself in front of the Salvation Army and watch for him. Jacques has seen him. Chester has seen him. He’s still wearing my GG’s Sweatshirt, number sixty-four. I’ll never peel that off him. He’s wearing shorts too. I said to Chester, ‘I bet they’re tan color, cargo shorts.’ Chester said, ‘Yes, that’s what he was wearing.’

“That’s what he was wearing when he went in. They’re supposed to launder them for you before you’re released. I was in for three years. I couldn’t get into the jeans I came in with. They were too tight.”

I asked, “Did you gain weight in prison?”

“Yeah, that and I had my son, Nicholas.”

I said, “I remember you telling me that you had been raped by a jail guard.”

“Yeah, Bob Cunningham. He isn’t with the prison system any more. I saw to that. When Nicholas was old enough, I told him that his father died in the war.  One day he came home from school and said to me, ‘My dad didn’t die in the war, if he had that would make you about eighty years old. What really happened? Where did I come from? So I had to tell him the full story.”

“One day, at my mom’s place where we were staying, I heard a banging at the front door. Nicholas was crying upstairs. I was yelling at my mom to answer the door. She was yelling at me to answer it. I could hear a Harley revving up in the driveway. My uncle and some of his friends were there with Bob Cunningham spread-eagled on the driveway. ‘What do you want us to do with him?’ he asked. Fuck, I figured that costing him his job was enough, but my uncle didn’t see it that way. With the back wheel of the bike spinning they forced his hand in, again and again. He ended up with two fingers and a thumb on one hand, the other was just a stump. I still remember the screams.”