Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

They Call Me Red

……

25 June 2013

As I approached Joy, she smiled and said, “Another day in the neighborhood. It’s going to be a hot one… Oh no, here comes Chester.”

“Hi Chester, have you finished your run?”

He held up a long cigarette butt, and said, “No, I’m just starting.” He wandered off in search of the next ashtray.

“Did I miss anything in the park yesterday?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t stay long; it was just too hot. Bearded Bruce was there. He complained the whole time about the heat. I said, ‘Hey dude, if you’d lose a few pounds it wouldn’t bother you so much. Just push yourself away from the dinner table’… He doesn’t listen…

“Even I’ve gained a few pounds. Now, I’m between one twenty-five and one-thirty.”

I said, “I remember last winter after you got out of hospital you were a hundred and five.”

“Yeah, I’m comfortable staying at my present weight. Debbie and Little Jake seem to be living together now. He wasn’t out yesterday. Maybe he’ll stay home and she’ll do the boosting.”

“She was showing off the haircut that Jake gave her.”

“Yeah, that was a laugh. I didn’t say anything, but the best thing she could do now is to shave her whole head. There’s no way I’d let any of those guys near me with a pair of scissors.”

“I guess they were both stoned at the time.”

“It shows.” Joy took a scrap of bread and threw it to a sparrow that had landed just a few feet from her. He contentedly nibbled. “He’s my little friend. I spit at the pigeons who come near. I feed this little guy and a squirrel that comes by every so often. Sometimes he’ll climb right up on my shoulder and scratch to let me know he’s hungry. People love it, but it kind of freaks me out. I’m never quite sure whether or not he’s going to bite me.

“Yesterday, I just wanted to go home and lie in my bathtub. That’s the only place I could stay cool. I guess I’ll have to invest in one of those little fans. The apartment wasn’t too hot early on, but with the sun shining on the windows, it got hotter throughout the day.

“This morning I put black garbage bags over all the windows to try to keep the heat out. I hope it makes a difference. At least today there’s more of a breeze.

“Shakes missed his delivery of Ensure yesterday. His workers arrange it because he doesn’t eat properly. If he had his way he’d just drink. He asked me to phone and ask when they would be coming by. They said, ‘We’ll be there in a few minutes,’ so, there’s no way he could have made it home. He’ll have to reschedule.

“Chester went to the Welfare office on Yonge Street yesterday; because his hydro had been turned off. He told them that he’d lost all the food in his refrigerator —  which was a lie — but they cut him a check for a hundred and thirty-seven dollars. That should keep him going until his pension checks come in. He shouldn’t have any trouble paying his rent, hydro and food. Even when I was there, I was always buying groceries and helping with bills. He just spends too much on women. They hang around him on check day;  when his money runs out they leave.”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

24 June 2013

I wasn’t expecting to see Joy this morning;  she’s told me previously, ‘I don’t do Mondays,’ but there she was

I said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”

“I should have stayed home, for all the good it’s done me.”

“How was your weekend.”

“It was quiet. I didn’t go out.”

“Did you see anybody?”

“No, on Saturday I bought a foot-long sub from Subway. I ate half and put the rest in the fridge. I wasn’t feeling well after that. When I ate the other half on Sunday, I really got sick; puking, the shits, everything. I’m still not feeling too well this morning, but I’ve just had the dry heaves. I must be getting over whatever it was I had.”

I said, “You must be enjoying your new furniture, especially your sofa.

“Yeah, the sofa sure beats sitting on the one chair I had. I spent all weekend there.”

“What else did you say you got?”

“A couple of end tables, a shelf that goes on one of the tables I had already, some nice sheets, bedding, towels, oven mitts, that kind of stuff. Oh, and a thing for the kitchen that holds salt and pepper.

“See that guy in the shorts, stopping people by Tim Horton’s. He was standing right in front of me a while ago telling people that I’m a fake, that I’m not really homeless. I’ve never told anybody I was homeless.  I don’t say anything.  All my regulars know I’m not homeless;  I’m doing this so I don’t starve. I think he’s pissed off because nobody’s giving him any money.

“I got something on my chin that’s really bugging me. See these spots. Mariah has the same thing. My feet are really dry and cracking as well.”

I said, “It could be some form of eczema. You should check with your doctor. Do you have your health papers?”

“No, not yet. They gave me some creme in the hospital. I had the same thing then, but it’s so greasy, I hate to use it.

“See that parking control guy. He’s given out more tickets than anybody else who comes along here.”

I said, “I bet this car here gets a ticket. It’s stupid blocking a lane at this time of the morning.”

“Yeah, I told him, I said, ‘If you park there you’re going to get a ticket.’  He said, ‘No, I won’t. I’ll just be a few minutes.’ I said, ‘You’re going to get a ticket,  see that sign there.’ “

I said, “Some people think they’re too important to obey signs.”

“Yeah, that was this guy alright.” The traffic control officer arrived and wrote a ticket for the car we’d been talking about. “That’s going to be eighty bucks.”

People walked by, some waved at Joy. She smiled. “Humans,” she said, “go figure.”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

21 June 2020

I sat on the sidewalk beside Shakes and in front of Joy, Little Jake and  Debbie. Wolf had gone for a piss. I gave a used copy of the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, to Joy. It seemed appropriate since, on the front of her  sweatshirt, there was an image of a wolf.” She thanked me and said, “Sorry I have to run, but I have an appointment with my landlady, to fix my toilet.”

I pulled out another book, Mob Rule, that I intended to give to Wolf. Shakes looked at it and asked, “Are you going to give this to Wolf?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “I like to read too, you know, especially since I don’t have television.”

I said, “You take it then, Shakes.”

Shortly after Wolf returned. He saw the book Shakes was holding. “That looks interesting. Mind if I read that after you’re finished?”

“Sure,” said Shakes.

I said,  “It’s about Paul Volpe, the boss of the Toronto Mafia from the early 1960’s up to his death in 1983. It mentions his bootlegging days as a young man, to his initiation into the Mob, his stints in jail, and then the details of his death. Maybe you’ll recognize some of the names.”

Little Jake said, “We don’t remember names, we remember faces.”

I said, “There are pictures, too.”

Wolf reached into Shaggy’s cart and pulled out three books. One was by Danielle Steele, ‘We all know what this one’s about. This one’s by Catherine Cookson, I don’t know her. This last one is a murder mystery. It doesn’t look like there’s much shooting, but it’s more my style.  Anyway, I got lots to read for the weekend. I’m going  to Tim Horton’s, have a coffee, a couple of donuts and read my books.”

Debbie asked, “Dennis, how do you like my new summer haircut?”

“It looks very nice. It suits you.”

“Little Jake cut it. We were both stoned, but it came out alright, didn’t it.?”

I said, “It looks professional. Nobody would ever know that it wasn’t done at a salon.”

Little Jake said, “Yeah, it’s a lot better than the haircut that Jacques gave me.”

Wolf, whose white hair is almost to his shoulders said, “There’s no way that any of you guys are going to cut my hair.”

Matches asked me, “Dennis, are you going to the Rib Fest?”

“No, ” I said, “are you?”

“I’ve been two times already and I’m going again tonight. I should do pretty well I always go to the Blues Fest, the Jazz Fest and the Folk Fest. My favorite is Blues Fest. I can’t get past the gate, but people always give me booze and get me stoned.”

Shakes was wearing a pair of shorts. Debbie asked, “What’s that scar on your leg?

“Which one?”

“The one that runs from your knee to your hip?”

“That’s where I got shot. The bullet went in here.” pointing to a circular scar, “It broke my femur and came out here.” He lifted his leg to show the scar from the exit wound. They had to cut me open to put the rod in.

“I didn’t mean to be nosey,” said Debbie, “I was just wondering.”

“I got it at a house party. I knew there was going to be trouble, so I went to my street sister and asked for my nine millimeter. She didn’t want to give it to me. She said, ‘If I give you this gun, you’re going to get into trouble. I just know it.’ I said, ‘That’s why I need my gun.’ I was at the party, there was lots of booze, drugs, but I decided to leave. My bro asked for my gun. I took it out of my pocket, took the clip out, but forgot there was still a shell in the chamber. It had a hair-trigger, much too sensitive. When my bro took my gun, he accidentally shot me in the leg.

I asked, “Why did your friend want your gun?”

“ ‘Cause he wanted to shoot the guy.

“The last time I was in prison was in 1995. I was in Collins Bay for nearly five years.”

I asked, “What were you in for?”

“Bank robbery. I was just seventeen, selling drugs, robbing banks, boxing. That’s when I was sparring with George Chuvallo and Shawn O’Sullivan. I still got it.”

I said, “I guess it’s just like riding a bicycle. You never forget it.”

“I don’t get into fights anymore, but if I’m backed against a wall, watch out, the fists are going to fly.”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

21 June 2013

Joy was all smiles this morning.  She was seated on her plastic crate, but any minute I expected her to break into dance.

“How did it go with getting your furniture?”

“Great, The place is huge.  I got a new sofa, a shelf that will go on one of the tables I already have. I took the legs off my bed because of the seizure I had, but I wanted to get a wicker headboard that I saw there. I didn’t get it. I also wanted a silver frame in the shape of three hearts. I didn’t get that either. My worker was so impatient. I wanted to look around, to make sure I got things I wanted to live with, but she kept checking her watch. I think we were only there for half an hour.

“When I got home and we got everything set up I did a little dance. I’ve waited seven months for this stuff, now I’m going to enjoy it.

“I haven’t seen many of the guys lately, not even dickhead.”

I asked, “Who would dickhead be?”

“Big Jake, he’s been over a couple of times. He wanted me to push him from the Salvation Army to the park. I said, “No way!”

“Has he apologized for beating you?”

“Yeah, he has, he was even crying. He said, ‘Joy, I’ll never hurt you again. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want to go to prison again.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I bet you learned a lot in prison. I don’t want to hear about it. Instead of being sorry now, you should have thought before you broke my ribs, especially since you’d broken them just two weeks before.

“‘You’re whining like Antonio.’  He asked, ‘Who’s Antonio? Is that someone you’ve had living over here? I said. ‘No, you dumbass, it’s Mariah’s boyfriend!  She kicked him out six months ago.  For the last twenty-two months, I’ve enjoyed living by myself and sleeping by myself.  Jake said, ‘I could help you with that.’  I said, ‘For now just consider us friends. We’ll see how it goes.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had to have a piss test as a requirement of his parole. How did that go?”

“It was funny. There was a new parole officer there, who didn’t know Jake’s, medical history. After the test, he came back and said, ‘You’re in trouble, Jake. The test came back positive.’ Jake said, ‘Positive for morphine, right?’ The guy says, ‘Yeah.” Jake pulls out of his pocket a piece of paper and waves it at the guy. ‘Prescription!’ he says.

“His regular parole officer is a really hard case. He can pounce on Jake anytime and have him tested.  If  Jake has any advanced warning, all he has to do is drink a cup of vinegar. That’ll get any trace of drugs or booze out of his system.  My brother was in prison. He had the same booze and drug prohibition on his parole. He used to carry a bottle of vinegar with him all the time.

“What time is it now?”

”Eight-thirty.”

“That means I’ve been here two and a half hours. I even made sure I got the early bus. So far, I’ve made four dollars and twenty-six cents.”

I said, “On Wednesday, two cruisers pulled up on the sidewalk. The male cop demanded that Debbie give them her last beer. She was pissed off and shoved it into his chest. She was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the cruiser.”

“Was she arrested?”

“No, they let her go with just a ticket.”

“That’s assault, and she’s been in and out of jail a dozen times. If that had been me, I would have gone straight to prison.

“I’ve got no use for that stupid, loud-mouthed bitch. When we were up at the bridge one time, she was going on and on about something.  I was ready to throw her off the side. I had her back to the railing.  She was whimpering, ‘Please, Joy, please don’t push me over.’  Sometimes I think I should have.”

“Magdalene just got out of jail.”

“Yeah, that was because she had three no shows at court. She’s been charged with assault. There again, if that was me I’d be in prison.”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

20 June 2013

The park was empty today except for Little Jake and Debbie.  “Are you going for beer?” Jake asked Debbie.

“Yeah, I’m going. I’ll leave my jacket here.”

Jake commented, “You’re going the wrong way.”

“I can’t go to the liquor store, they won’t let me in. I have to go to the Beer Store. Is there anything else you want?”

“No, just beer.

“I don’t know where everybody is today. Wolf and Shaggy were here this morning, but Wolf got too drunk. He had to go home. I think they got scared by the cops.  After you left yesterday two cruisers pulled right up on the sidewalk.”

Debbie said, “Yeah, they had me in handcuffs. This cop wanted my last beer, so I shoved it in his chest. That’s when they grabbed me and put me in the back of  the cruiser.”

“Did they let you go?” I asked.

“Yeah, after a while they gave me a ticket and let me go.”

Jake said, “They were going through our bags and everything. They aren’t allowed to do that —  are they? I said, ‘Get the fuck out of my bag. You got no business going through my things like that.’ I get mouthy when I’m pissed off.  That’s just me.  I walked away after that. A cop chased me. He gave me a ticket. This is going to be a bad summer, man. They’re really down on us.”

An attractive woman, looking slightly lost, came over to us and asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Yeah, it’s twelve, twenty.”

“Oh, thanks.” She started to walk away, Frank asked, “Can you spare some change?”

“No, sorry.”

“Well be that way, then.” To me, Frank asked, “What time did you say it was?”

“Twelve, twenty”

“Are you serious? I thought it was about five o’clock. What day is it?”

“The twentieth, summer starts tomorrow.”

“No, I meant the day of the week. Is it Wednesday or Thursday?

“Thursday.”

“I wonder why nobody’s around. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about.

“I’m glad that Deaf Donald isn’t around today. I can only take him in small doses. I guess that because he’s deaf he doesn’t realize how fucking loud he is. His trick is to ask people for money so he can replace the batteries in his hearing aid. One time the cops came up to me and said they’d had complaints about somebody yelling. It was a couple of the regular guys. I said, ‘You guys know me. I don’t yell.’ After they left, I heard Donald, down the stairs in the park. Then I figured it out. He was cutting my grass.”

“So how are you doing today?”

“I made sixteen dollars,  so far, but  I spent some of it.”

“Did you ever get your furniture?”

“No, I was talking to my worker yesterday. You saw her. She’s always good to me; but still no furniture. I got a bed, a table and a TV that doesn’t work. I got a radio and one lamp. The only thing for me to do is read. Bearded Bruce lent me a book, it’s part of a series of six. It’s called The Clan of the Cave Bear. He said I had to start with that one, but I’ve already read The Mammoth Hunters. It’s the third book, so I already know what’s going to happen. Now, I’m reading what went before.

“It takes place about thirty-five thousand years ago. There’s this five-year-old girl, Ayla, who gets lost because of an earthquake. She comes across another tribe called the Clan of the Cave Bear. The medicine woman feels sorry for her and takes care of her. When the clan gets a new leader he throws her out — she’s considered one of the ‘Others’, the tall ones who have blond hair and blue eyes.

“She changes the course of history. The Clan of the Cave Bear hunted horses for food, but Ayla traps a foal, raises it and learns to ride him. She befriends a wolf and a saber-toothed tiger. Ayla also discovers how to make fire. That’s as far as I’ve got,  so far…

“I got to tell you —  I always tell the truth; that’s something my mother taught me…”

I said, “I’m the same way. I don’t have a good enough memory to lie. I’d never remember what I said before.  When Joy got busted for jumping the bus, they wanted her name. She asked, ‘What name did I give last time?’ ”

“Anyway,  I went to Metro last night and stole two pork chops. I took them over to Bruce’s place, cooked them with lemon  juice,  garlic, oregano and pepper. They were delicious.  Sometimes, Bruce and I try to outdo each other with our cooking… I’m a good cook. I grew up in a restaurant… I got to be maitre d at a five-star hotel.   We served Austrian and Canadian food… I wore a tux and everything.

“For some reason, I ended up at Steve’s place with half a bucket of ribs. I think some girl gave them to us.

“You heard that Shakes got robbed, eh? Yeah, he passed out… They took his pack, his three grams, his bottle, his change and his hat. Anybody who knows him would recognize that hat… I think I know who did it. His name is right on the tip of my tongue… What is it?… I hate when this happens… Anyway, the guy just got out of jail.”

I asked, “Would I know him?”

“No, he did about two years for something… I can’t remember… It’ll come to me…”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

19 June 2013

It was crowded in the park and tempers were short.  Alphonse yelled, “Dennis, aren’t you going to say hello to us?”

I replied, “I’m working my way in that direction, just be patient.”  I made my rounds, shaking hands, asking how people were feeling, what had happened since I’d seen them last.”

I came to Alphonse and Magdalene. I said, “I hear that you have a new apartment now. How do you like it?” Alphonse said, “We like it there. It’s far from downtown, but it’s nice. Dennis, I’d like you to meet my friend Manisee.”

We shook hands. He said, “Do you want to know an easy way to remember my name. Just think of Man I See, Manisee.”

“I’ll remember that, Manisee.” I sat down near Little Jake, Wolf and Jacques. “I see you have a new hat, Jacques. It looks good on you.”

“Thank you. It keeps the sun off.”

“How are you doing, Jake?”

“Not so good. Those people over there. They’re drinking straight vodka. They’re getting too loud, especially Magdalene.  Her screeching in my ear is driving me nuts. I’m about ready to swat her.”

Alphonse yelled over, “Jake, what’s that boo-boo on your lip? It looks pretty bad.”

“It’s just a cold sore. I’ve been smoking too many butts.” To me, he whispered, “See what I mean.”

Wolf said, “I woke up here at six, thirty, yesterday evening. Shakes woke me up. It took about two hours to walk home pushing Shaggy’s cart. When I got to my apartment building I saw Outcast and some others sitting on the curb so I gave them my drunk talk. I didn’t have my teeth, in so I don’t know if I made any sense.

“After I got unpacked I was ravenously hungry. I didn’t trust myself to use the stove, so I went to Subway.  I gave the guy my card and he said, ‘I know just what you want.  I gonna make you something special.’ He did. I don’t know how he knew what I wanted, I didn’t know what I wanted, but he did good. It was really delicious. I still got half in the fridge.

“Yesterday I wanted to tell you about the new book I got. I was too drunk last night to do any reading. I didn’t even crack it open. I don’t even remember the title. I guess I must have read the back cover, but I don’t know. I don’t remember very much,  just little bits and pieces,  of last night.

“Jake, have you got a dollar twenty-five?”

“Sure,”

“If I give you ten bucks will you do a run for me and get a case of beer? I don’t want to move. I’ll give you one.”

“Will you give me two?”

“Sure, Jake. You look like you could use them.”

Wolf said to me,  “I can see that Jake is getting grumpy. That’s why I don’t mind giving him two beer.”

Magdalene sat next to Wolf and put her hand on his shoulder. He said, “Hey, watch the fingerprints!”

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“Saying hello is one thing; touching is another. Just keep your hands off me.”

Someone in white pants and a white jacket came along and called to Magdalene. She went over to talk to him. He said, “You ran out on me yesterday. I gave you money to buy a bottle of vodka and you never came back.”

“Yeah, I got delayed. I was talking to someone. See, I just got out of jail and this person was looking after my stuff. I was worried about my stuff, but don’t worry I’ll pay you back for the vodka as soon as I get some money.”

“Alphonse entered the conversation, “You don’t have to worry about your money, my friend. We’re good for it. Just give us a few days. You’ll see us around.”

I asked Hippo, “Have you gone to court yet?”

“Yeah, they remanded it to sometime in July. I was told that they’re going to drop the charges. I have to go back to be fingerprinted.”

“Don’t they have your fingerprints?”

“No, I guess I was too intoxicated. I’m not allowed to drink, smoke pot or carry any weapons, especially hammers. If I get caught it’s straight to jail. I don’t mind, it’s just until my court date.”

I asked, “Have you been home to see your family lately?”

“My mom came by yesterday, bought me some groceries, gave me some money. She’s going down to Kitchener this weekend to visit her brother, my aunt, my nephews, my nieces.”

“Do you ever get down there to visit your relatives?”

“No, I don’t get along with her brothers.

“Jerry here just got back from B.C. where I’d eventually like to go. He operates a feller buncher (a motorized vehicle with an attachment that can rapidly cut and gather several trees before felling them.”

Jerry said, “Hippo, you could operate one of those. It’s no more complicated than the skidders you’ve operated. I was working at a dry camp. The only liquor was what you brought in, otherwise nothing. After two months I came into a bar in the city and was mixing, vodka, whiskey, rum; anything I could get my hands on.  The waitress said to me, ‘Man, it looks like you haven’t had alcohol for months.’ I said, ‘That’s exactly it.’ ”

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They Call Me Red

……

 

 

18 June 2013

As I was approaching the park, Danny came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to where I was going to visit a friend, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakess said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the mall and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 10:30.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got $3.60.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”

“Sure!”

Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at 4:30. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, “Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at 10:30. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kind of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the mall?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheelchair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheelchair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”

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……

 

18 June 2013

This morning after getting off the bus, greeting Metro, I noticed Joy’s feet sticking out from behind a pillar. I fished in my wallet for bus tickets,  Joy always needs them, or else she’ll try to hop the bus from the back door. I didn’t notice Chester approaching. He asked ,” Are those for me?” I asked, “Do you need some?” He answered,  “Yes, please. Thank you very much. Do you want coffee? I have coupons for Tim Horton’s.”  I declined, “No thanks, Chester, you hang on to them.”

When I approached Joy she was huddled over, her sweater pulled over her knees. “I’m definitely underdressed for this weather.”

“How have you been feeling?”

“Not so good, I’ve got a pain like something I swallowed didn’t go down right; but I get that pain if I swallow spit. It’s because of this cage I’ve got in my chest. It deems to be going away now. I’ve still been having dizzy spells like I get before I’m going to have a seizure. It happened yesterday at home. I was watching television, then this wave of dizziness came over me. I looked around my apartment for my medication. I usually keep a stash somewhere, but couldn’t find it. I lay down on the bed. I  must have passed out because I woke up on the floor.

“The torn rotator cuff I have had turned purple. I can’t lift my arm. Have a look at this.” She lifted her bandana to reveal a split in her eyebrow. “I took the legs off my bed, so next time I won’t have as far to fall.

“This afternoon I have an appointment with my women to see furniture. I hope I don’t have to pay for delivery because I’m strapped. These people are supposed to help people without money. They aren’t offering much help.”

I commented, “You moved into your apartment seven months ago? And you still don’t have furniture?”

“I moved in November ninth.”

“How has it been going with Big Jake? You mentioned that he would be coming over.”

“Yeah,  he was over on the weekend. I fixed him supper. He was over again last night. He’s really fat. He’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t know how to use it very well —  I used to be able to do wheelies in mine. He says he’s two hundred and thirty, but he’s way more than that. He’s really getting it at the Sally. Guys will just come up to him and give him a shot in the back of the head, or a one, two, three combination. I said to him, ‘Well, in the past, you shouldn’t have been such an asshole to so many people.’

“He noticed the condoms in my drawer. He asked, ‘Who are these for?’ I said, ‘For you if I ever decide to fuck you.’ There’s no way I’d let him do it without a condom. Who knows what diseases he’s carrying. He asked, ‘Have there been any other guys you’ve been with?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting for you.’ There’s no spark though. Nothing at all. He asked if he could come over today, but I said, ‘I’ve got an appointment with my women. I don’t know how long that’s going to take.’ He said, ‘Well, I can’t come Wednesday, because I’ve got my piss test.’ It seems crazy. He’s got a condition on his parole that he doesn’t drink, but they warn him before he’s tested. He has plenty of time to get it out of his system.”

I said, “You mentioned that he had been sober for a while.”

“All the time he’s been inside, but there’s the jailhouse hooch. Everybody drinks that. It’s easier to get drugs there than it is on the outside. He was drinking and smoking pot on the weekend.

“He’s acting really dependent like I should be catering to him or something. When I told him it was time for him to go home he asked, ‘Will you push my chair to the bus stop?’ all whiny like. I said, ‘There’s a slight hill from here to the bus stop, you can make it there yourself. Maybe when I can afford to get a cell phone, you can phone me from the bottom of the hill and I’ll come and push you.’

Chester came back with only one coffee. He said, “They aren’t taking the coupons anymore. They’d only give me one coffee.”

“Don’t worry about it, they’ll be having another roll up the rim to win soon. ” Joy showed me a clear plastic box with dozens of torn coffee rims. “A woman just dropped these in my hat. I guess she didn’t want to wait until the next promotion.”

“I’m going to leave soon.  I’m still not feeling well. I’m going to  the park to wait for my workers.”

I said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, and Chester, I’ll see you at the park this afternoon.”

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……

 

 

14 June 2013

I approached Shakes, sprawled as usual, on the sidewalk. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat, leather with a shell band. I asked, “How is your day going?”

“Terrible!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I was robbed. They took everything: my three grams, my bottle, my pack, my wallet, my house keys. They even took my hat.”

“How did it happen? Were you jumped?”

“No, I passed out. When I woke up everything was gone.”

“You mentioned that your wallet was missing. Did you have your health papers in there?”

“I don’t know what I had in there. You know how it is. I don’t look in there unless I need to.”

“Will you be able to get into your apartment?”

“I got an extra apartment key. I’d left it at the convenience store that gives me credit. What I don’t have is a key to the main door. They say they’re going to charge me fifty dollars to get a new one. Steve, over there lives in the same building that I do.”

“So, he’ll be able to let you in.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll  have to climb up the balcony.”

“Do you think you could do that?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Forty years ago I could shimmy up any tree there was.”

Jake said, “Dennis, I’ve got something funny to tell you. It was around Christmas time. I went over to Shakes’ place because he owed me something. I forget what it was. Anyway, it was three o’clock in the morning. I parked my self — my back against his door — and started pounding with my elbows and yelling, ’Shakes, let me in!’ He opened the door, grabbed my jacket by the hood, dragged me down the hall and threw me down the marble stairs. I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything. I found it so funny, I just lay at the bottom of the stairs laughing. Shakes said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ Then walked back to his apartment. The hood was ripped off my coat. I managed to crawl home, somehow. I don’t remember that part.

“Do you know what I wake up to every morning? A photo of Bear after Weasel died. Bearded Bruce had it framed and gave it to me. It’s just Bear, and part of Bruce. It makes me smile every time I look at it.”

Wolf said, “I’m having a great day. A lady came by — I may have seen her before. She gave me a bag with a bandanna for Shaggy. See, it has paw prints on it. She also gave me two Tim Horton’s cards worth five dollars each, some dog treats and this book, “Bird in the House” by Margaret Laurence. I don’t know who she is, but I started right in reading it. Some women came by and told me about the story. I like it.

“Margaret Laurence is a very good writer,” I said. “I’ve read, The Stone Angel and The Diviners by her. I’m sure you’ll like the book.”

“I liked the horse book you gave me. I didn’t think I would,  so, maybe I’ll like this too. I was just so impressed that the lady thought about me, and took the trouble to put this bag together.  She’s a good person. It really made my day. I’m still happy — but now I have to take a piss. When I get back we can talk more about books. There’s no point trying to talk to Shakes or Jake. They wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”

Deaf Donald came by and, pointing to an empty spot on the curb, asked, “Is anybody here?… Is anybody here?”

Little Jake said, “No, sit down.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, sit the fuck down.”

“What’s your problem? I just asked if anybody was sitting here. I’ll remember what you said. What did I do wrong? I don’t know what it is that I did.”

“Donald, come here and sit down.  You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Donald sat on the blanket where Wolf had been sitting. Wolf came back and said, “What the fuck are you doing on my blanket!  Did I give you permission to sit there? You don’t just sit down on someone’s blanket. Now, get the fuck away from here!”

Donald, with tears in his eyes, said to Frank, “You told me to sit there. Why did you do that?”

“I told you to sit down. I didn’t tell you to sit there.”

Donald said, “I’m having a really bad day. Last month my grandma died. I’ve just learned that my mom’s dying of cancer and she’s kicked me out of her house.”

“Donald, for Christ’s sake, I’m sorry, man!” said Wolf. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m just a cantankerous, grumpy old man. You know that.  Ask anybody.”

I said, “I agree with that. How about you Jake, do you agree? Matches? Is Wolf a cantankerous, grumpy old man?”

There was a resounding, “Yes!” Wolf and Donald shook hands and Wolf returned to where he was sitting.”

Gaston said to me, “I read that on some nights there are as many as six thousand, five hundred people using homeless shelters in Toronto. Seaton House is the largest, they can house seven hundred men, though, in the past, it’s exceeded capacity and housed as many as nine hundred.

“I’ve been working on the book I’m writing. It’s been twelve years since I started. It’s finally coming together.”

“Have you published any other books, in English?”

“Yes, in 1992. It didn’t do much. All my books have something to do with psychology. In this book there are four characters who live in the same apartment. They each have girlfriends. The conflict comes when someone hasn’t contributed to the rent. They don’t know who it is, but one character pleads his case to get the others on his side…”

It was time for me to get back to work. I shook hands all around and promised to come back on Monday, weather permitting.

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……

 

13 June 2013

At the park, I sat between Little Jake and Joy. I asked Joy, “How are you feeling today? Sick? Sore? Tired?”

“All of the above. Big Jake is coming over tonight.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Okay, I guess. He came over Monday. He’s quit drinking. He’s in a wheelchair.”

“Did you beat  the shit out of him?”

“No, maybe that will come tonight.”

“He phoned this morning, on Jacques’ phone. He asked to come over. I said, ‘I’m cooking chicken, will that be alright?’ What a stupid cow. I shouldn’t be feeding him after what he did to me.”

“I hope it goes okay.”

“I hope so too. This morning I got on the bus, put in my ticket, walked to the back and sat down. The driver yelled, ‘Hey lady!’ I didn’t know who he was talking to. ‘You, lady with the blue backpack, would you come to the front please?’ I looked to see what color my backpack is — blue. So I walk to the front. He asked, ‘What’s in the bottle that you’re drinking?’ I said, ‘It’s bubble tea with ginger ale. You know, bubble tea? Usually, it’s made with tea and sparkling water, but I use ginger ale.’ He said, ‘Okay, you can sit down.’

Little Jake said, “Didn’t he ask to smell it? The cops always ask to smell my bottle.”

“No, bus drivers don’t do that. They wouldn’t want their nose anywhere near my bottle.”

Jake said, “I’ll have to remember that one.”

Mariah said, “I went to the Food Bank today. I could only get a few things. They allowed me three cans: one of vegetables, one stew and one tuna. They also gave me a tiny plastic container of margarine and a few other items.”

“What kind of stew did you get? Is it the one that tastes like dog food — Gravy Train?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Which Food Bank did you go to Regent-Moss Park or South Parkdale?

“I never go to Parkdale. It means I’d have to get there three hours before they open, even then there’s a lineup. By the time I get in, there’s hardly anything left.”

“Didn’t you get any meat or eggs?”

“When I had kids, they used to give me meat and eggs, but not as a single.”

Shakes asked, “Mariah, would you help me to get my groceries someday.”

“I can’t do it Friday, but maybe Saturday.”

“Saturday is fine. The doctor has me on a special diet.”

“Dennis, ” said Shakes, “you know me?”

‘Yes, I know you.”

“I know when it’s coming and I know when it’s going — right?”

“That’s right Shakes, you’re The Man.”

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