Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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group3

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13 September 2012

This morning the sun was shining and Joy seemed in good spirits.

“How did you sleep? Were you outside on the balcony?” I asked.

“No, it was a bit too cool for that, but I slept okay. I took the sheet off my air mattress and made sure that none of me touched the carpet. The bed bugs didn’t seem to have been able to climb up the shiny plastic. I didn’t get any bites during the night. I have a chalk line of powder around where I sleep.

“When I was in the bathroom I saw something move. I squished it. Sure enough, it was a bed bug. I could tell by the rotting wood smell. I’ve never known of bed bugs to crawl across tile.”

I said, “I’m still pissed off with Chester.”

“Why is that? What’s he done now?”

“I just think it’s very selfish of him to turn the exterminator away. He knows how much the bed bugs bother you. Just because they aren’t bothering him, that’s no reason not to have them exterminated. It’s not a safe, healthy environment for you.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off about that, alright. I stayed out until 9:00 last evening. He was upset that I came home so late. I said, ‘I’m forty-six years old. Are you saying I have a curfew? I wasn’t planning to come back at all.’ I told him, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll phone the Health Department and have them come another day.’ I said, ‘They’re not going to drop everything and come here, when they’ve already been turned away once. They may charge you for the visit.’

“I do the cooking, the cleaning. Before I moved in he said he kept his place very clean. It was a mess. It took me an entire day to wash the floors, the fridge. There was some kind of dairy product that had gone bad in the sink. That nearly made me sick. I bought groceries. He was supposed to buy some, but he hasn’t. We’re down to our last slice of bread.

“He doesn’t do anything, but make messes after I’ve cleaned up, and piss on the toilet seat. He said that if I’m concerned with the bed bugs he’ll share his bed with me. ‘No, thanks!’ I said. ‘I have no interest in sleeping with any man.’

He said, ‘Oh, Joy, I would never touch you. You don’t have to worry about that.’ I said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’

“I wish Chester would bathe more often. I have a shower every morning. He has one a week. All the guys are smelling a bit ripe now.

“I’ve heard from Rodent that Jake wants me to write to him. Why would I do that? I still love him, but I don’t have a death wish.

“I heard that Silver is at the Mission Hospice recovering.”

I said, “I know that he had an appointment with his doctor, last Thursday, to see about the swelling in his ankle. I haven’t seen him since.”

Joy said, “Chili may have to have both of her legs amputated. I’m so angry with her. I told her months ago to have the swelling in her knee taken care of. She’s been smashing cocaine into her arm and it’s become infected. The infection has spread to both legs as high as her hips.”

At noon I met my friendsat the curb near the park. Joy was waiting for her worker. We saw a Salvation Army van pass by and stop near the park. Joy walked over, but the van left before she arrived. Shortly after, her worker arrived. They were gone for about twenty minutes.

While Joy was away I talked to Jacques. He said, “I’m looking for a new apartment also. They raised my rent in June by three percent. It was $685., now it’s $710. I can’t afford that. I’ve had to cancel my cable. I tried to fix up an antenna using wire, but now I only get a few channels and they aren’t very clear. I saw an ad in this newspaper — on Donald Street I can get an antenna for $6.99. That’s not too bad if it works. I’m going to go there this afternoon to talk to them about it.”

“You’re going to miss living by Dow’s Lake.” I said.

“Yes, it’s a great bachelor apartment, but it has bed bugs. I’ve told the landlord about them, I suggested that he remove the carpet. It doesn’t matter what kind of floor is underneath. He isn’t interested in having it removed. I’m not paying $710. for a place with bed bugs. I hear that Chester has them too. They’re everywhere.

“I talked to Serge yesterday about us sharing a two bedroom apartment somewhere. He seemed interested, but today he isn’t here. I think he’s staying at his friend William’s place, while he is away. He has his own key.”

When Joy came back she said, “That was a waste of time. I still can’t see a doctor until they get my identification sorted out. They’ve moved the viewing of the apartment to two o’clock tomorrow. At least that’s something to look forward to.”

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bench

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11 September 2012

Today on the curb, by the park, were six of my friends. I sat on the sidewalk in front of Joy. Shortly after, Andre came staggering up the walk, followed by Sharron. The sides of his track pants were unsnapped, his shirt was off. He had a four-foot length of gold chain with two-inch links, a padlock attached to the end, wrapped twice around his neck.

“What do you mean I’m acting like an asshole?” asked Andre? He started swinging the chain. Joy said, “Andre, if you hit Jake in the back of the head with that padlock, I’m going to kill you. You know I mean it.”

Andre sat down, “I’m sorry for being an asshole. I’m just waking up. I passed out in a park last night. You all know what that’s like.”

Joy said, “Been there, done that, couldn’t afford the tee-shirt.”

Shakes, who was surprisingly sober, said, “I think Andre’s still upset about being rolled last night.”

I asked, “Is that right Andre? How much did they take? Was it a gang?”

“No,” said Andre, “It was just two guys. They got a hundred and forty bucks, but I did quite a bit of damage to one guy. I had him in a head lock and was punching him in the face, when the other guy kicked me in the side of the head. Things are a bit confused after that.”

Shakes asked, “Do you have my radio? I lost it twice yesterday.”

I said, “That means you must have found it once.”

“Yes, I did.”

Debbie said, “Have you seen Jake’s new apartment? I was there last night. It’s gorgeous. The walls are freshly painted, the floors have been varnished. Jake’s bedroom is as big as his living room.”

Jake said, “They even gave me fifty bucks for groceries. Tomorrow they’re going to see about getting me some furniture, even a television.”

Joy said, “I’ve got an appointment to see an apartment in Vanier. It’s six hundred a month.”

I said, “You saw one on Beechwood didn’t you?”

“I had an appointment, but my worker cancelled at the last-minute. They wanted seven ninety-five for that one. I’d only have fifty dollars left, after I cashing my check.”

Two workers from the Housing Outreach Program of the Salvation Army came by. One said, “Shakes, can we meet with you tomorrow around 10:30.”

“Sure.”

Joy said, “I’ll make sure he’s here, because I have an appointment with my worker tomorrow at the same time.”

After they left Joy said, “I got four dollars. Has anybody got any change? Andre, in the mesh pocket of your backpack I can see some change.” Andre threw over two quarters and a dime.

Joy said, “Okay, I’ve got $4.60. I still need forty-five cents.” Everyone checked their pockets and came up with the needed change.

To Chester, Joy said, “Honey, would you mind going to the World Exchange and picking me up a bottle?”

“Sure,” said Albert, “and if they don’t have Imperial? I’ve been there sometimes when they’ve been out.”

“If they don’t have it, don’t bother getting anything. It would only make me sick.”

“Jake,” I asked, “Are you moving into the apartment that Irene moved out of?”

“No, it’s the next building on Moriset — different apartment, different building. I’m really going to make it work this time.”

Joy said, “Every Fall the workers try to get us off the street and into apartments, that way they don’t have to bury so many of us.”

Shakes pulled a new bottle of sherry out of his backpack. He cracked the seal, poured some into the cap and threw it over his shoulder. Then he handed the bottle to Joy, who poured some into her coke bottle, then passed it back to Shakes who took a sip from the bottle. Joy then reached into her backpack for a large Sprite bottle of partly frozen water. She added water to the sherry then took a drink.

Jake said, “I’m going to get some sweet grass to smudge my apartment.”

Joy said, “Sweet grass has a beautiful smell, especially when it’s mixed with sage, burnt properly and wafted with an eagle feather. It’s so relaxing and peaceful.”

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group3

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10 September 2012

I wore my Autumn windbreaker today. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing. The congregation was at the far end of the park. Joy walked toward me and we met at the sidewalk.

“I didn’t know whether or not you’d be coming,” she said. “I was about ready to leave when I saw your head above the bushes. I’m feeling sick. I cooked some chicken from Loblaws and I’ve been throwing up all night. It didn’t affect Chester, but it’s the second time I’ve gotten sick after eating their chicken. I’m always careful to cook it thoroughly, same with pork, I know how sick it can make you. I’m going to leave now. I just want to lie down and take it easy today. I can’t even drink.

”You wouldn’t happen to have some extra bus tickets for Chester would you?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m all out. I’ll have to get more at the convenience store.”

“I just thought I’d ask. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, Joy. Get lots of rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Hey,” said Andre, “Don’t I get a hug?”

“If I bend over, I might puke all over you.”

Andre put his wide-brimmed hat upside down on his head and said, “Okay, I’m ready. How about my hug?”

The grass was still wet from the overnight rain. Sitting on the curb, near the railing, were Timmy, Clint and Chester. On the lawn were Andre and Shakes. I sat between Timmy and Shakes who, as usual, was lying on his side, resting on one elbow.

“Shakes,” I said. “I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”

“I just got back into town from Kingston. I spent the last week there. A friend took me. He wanted to get out of Ottawa for a while, just to have a change of scenery.”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“The first day was awful. A dog died, some women were fighting and one guy tried to commit suicide; but that was just the first day.”

“Were these friends of yours? Did the dog belong to one of your friends?”

“No, I didn’t know them.”

“I spent seventy dollars on food, but mostly I had meals, home cooked by friends I met.

“Since I got back, I lost my wallet. Could you give me another of those Tim Horton’s cards? The one you gave me before was in the wallet I lost.”

“Sure, Shakes.”

Timmy put some Kleenex in Andre’s wide brimmed hat. “That’s for Shakes, he’s drooling.”

“He’s just drunk, that’s all.“

“Andre,” I said, “you’ve got a couple of fancy hats, since I saw you last.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get a collection. This one has feathers around the brim. If I ever get lost in the woods, I can use them to tie flies for fishing. I lost most of my clothes at the Salvation Army. A friend, who’d been sleeping at the hut with us, was leaving town. He made a pile of all the stuff he couldn’t carry with him. There was a pair of size twelve work boots. I was going to bring them to Clint. There was also a pair of size ten, Gortex winter boots with Kevlar toes, heels and shanks. They were insulated and Thinsulated — do you know what I mean? — two layers of insulation. They came up to my knees. I’m guessing they were worth about $400.00. I stayed at the Sally Ann one night. The next day, I left my things in storage. They were locked and were supposed to be secure. I stayed at Katrina’s for two nights.

“When I came back to the Sally, I went to bed 245, where I thought I had slept; but the locker was empty. It looked like my bed, same color blanket, made up like mine. I always make my bed after I get up in the morning. I went to the desk and asked the guy, ‘What bed was I sleeping in? I thought it was 245.’ He checked and said, ‘You were in 295.’ I checked that bed and again, an empty locker. I was really pissed off. I figure the guys at the desk cut the lock and took my stuff.

“I went down and yelled at them, ‘I had two brand new pairs of boots in there, and a bottle and a half of sherry.’ One guy said, ‘Andre, are you ratting yourself out, telling us you brought liquor on the premises?’ I said, ‘I’m just being truthful.’ They said, ‘It shows on our record, that the contents of that locker were signed out.’ I said, ‘Well, I didn’t sign anything out. I don’t believe that. You guys cut the lock and took my new boots. They were so new they didn’t even have dirt on the treads. You don’t want to see any of us building up a stock of anything.’ I stormed out.” I was living outside for four months and after one night at the Sheps and one night at the Mission I’ve lost everything.

“I’ve been getting these bites all around the waistband of my track pants.” He pulled his pants down to expose his hip and to show the red marks. “They’re some kind of mites, I think. I threw all the clothes I was wearing in the garbage, then took a shower. When I came out all I had to put on was a towel. The guy at the desk asked, ‘Why are you walking around like that, Andre?’ I said, ‘I need new clothes. My old ones were full of bugs.’ He said, ‘We can’t help you with that until 7:45.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I guess I’ll be walking around in this towel until 7:45.’ ”

I said, “I haven’t seen Hippo for a while.”

Andre said, “You’re not likely to, either. He’s probably in hiding. Jake was drunk and Hippo came up and punched him four times in the head for no reason. Then he was causing trouble at Starbucks. They called the police. The police knew we were staying out back. Bearded Bruce said the police ripped down our hut and threw all our stuff into the dumpster. Later, someone set fire to it.”

Shakes said, “I lost my brand new sleeping bag.”

Andre said, “Those women at Hope Recovery are really saints.”

Clint asked, “Do you mean at the Sheps?”

“Yeah” said Andre. “They all know me there. It’s funny though. I went downstairs and they said I was too drunk, so I went upstairs and they said I wasn’t drunk enough. One of them  even asked me, ‘Andre, do you have any more booze? Go out, have a few more drinks and we’ll let you in.’

“I went out back to, what we call, the pig pen. A sister came by and asked me, ‘Do you want to buy a twenty-six of rye for $13.00?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. That’s a pretty good price. I just happened to have $13.70. I’d already drunk two and a half bottles of sherry. A guy sat next to me, pulled out a fancy crack pipe and put a forty in it. His buddy, sitting next to him, said, ‘Be careful.’ The guy looked around for cops then lit his pipe. I drank more and more of the rye, straight up. Then I smacked the guy in the back of the head. The pipe flew out of his mouth, the forty went rolling across the parking lot. Some sisters picked the stuff up, but the pipe was fucked. The guy’s buddy said, ‘I told you to be careful. When Andre gets into the hard stuff, he gets crazy, especially around crack smokers.’

“I went back upstairs and they let me in.”

Timmy said, “That reminds me — we should have walkie-talkies. Then I could six you if I saw the cops coming from my direction, and you could six me if you saw them coming from where you were.”

Andre said, “They’ve got this new fangled invention now. It’s called a cell phone. That’s what people use them for.”

Clint said, “You know, one time a cop was really nice to me. I was up in North Bay. I asked him if there was any place I could set up a tent. He said, ‘Sure, get in.’ He let me sit in the front seat. He didn’t pat me down or anything. He took me behind this gas station, where some empty rigs were parked. He said, ‘You should be safe here.’ Then he left.”

Timmy said, “I’ve been given rides by the cops before, but they always frisked me. They even apologized, said it wasn’t anything personal, it was regulation. If a guy was in the back seat with a gun, he could shoot the cops and steal the car. They left the sliding window open so we could chat back and forth. I’ve never ridden in the front seat of a cop car. Sometimes, they even have shotguns mounted on the console, on a swivel.”

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bench

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7 September 2012

Today at the park the weather was pleasant, but the mood was tense. Sitting on the curb were six of my friends. Facing them on the sidewalk were Andre and Clint.

“Andre,” I said, “How did it go with your worker on Wednesday? Did you get your papers signed for housing?”

“I got a lot of things sorted. They set me up with a street allowance because I said, ‘Hey, I sleep behind a dumpster, or if I’m lucky I do some couch surfing.’ So, on Monday I’ll be able to pick up a check for $200.00.

“I’m forty-six years old, I can’t be on the street like Weasel and Jake. I’m going to get on the ball, go to my appointments — They’re giving me a monthly bus pass, otherwise I’d have to go there to pick up bus tickets every time I have to see somebody — With O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) alone, I have to go nine times a month. I have to go to the doctor twice a week, then there’ll be visits for housing.

“I’m staying at the Sally Ann right now. That’s good, because that’s where my workers are. If I need to contact them, after hours, I can just slip a message under their door. If they need to contact me they can come to my room, or leave a message for me. I know they’re going to work really hard to get me settled.”

Clint said, “The best fish and chips I’ve ever had were at the Sally Ann in Halifax. Every Friday they’d serve them. It was a great big plate and the fries were just like you’d get at a fish and chip shop — hand cut, crispy.

“I got in trouble at a dance there. I was dancing with a woman — I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. It turned out that he had boxed for ten years in prison. He broke my nose, broke my jaw — I had to have it wired shut. Now, If I yawn, sometimes it’ll lock open.”

Andre said, “That’s why I don’t go to dances. I was at a dance one time — I was drunk, I started dancing by myself, I turned around and, you know how it is, I was dancing with three women. I was having fun, clowning around, then three guys showed up. They’d been there all the time, but they didn’t want to dance, that’s why the women were dancing together.

“The first guy caught me with a left hook. It was a good left hook, flattened my nose to one side. The next guy hit me with a right hook, flattened my nose to the other side. By this time my white tee-shirt was red. I said to the third guy, ‘bring it on, let’s see if you can get my nose straight again.’ ”

“I’ve had my jaw broken, ” Said Joy. “Isn’t it great having to get all your nutrition through a straw?”

Joy kept looking down the line at Mina. Andre said, “Just take a few deep breaths and count to ten.”

Joy was punching her fist into her open palm. “You don’t know the half of it. That Chester is so stupid. It was Raven’s old man who stole Chester’s bank card and drained his bank account. And how did he get in? Raven! Now he wants to invite her over to where I’m staying. Over my dead body!

“I’m feeling really pissy today. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was awake chasing cooties most of the night. I’ve found out that the mature bed bugs have a numbing agent, so you can’t feel when they bite, but the young ones don’t seem to know about that. You can feel when they bite. They start out kind of colorless, then turn orange when they suck your blood. When you crush them between your thumb and finger, they have a rotten wood smell about them.”

I asked, “Do you sniff every bug you crush?”

“Every one. See all these bites I have below my knees? I’ve got them all over my body. They’re either from the bed bugs or from the spiders I bring in from the balcony to eat the bed bugs.”

Andre said, I remember going to visit a guy in Guelph, at the Bluebird Hotel, I think it was. It was a long time ago. Anyway, we were going to go to his room. He couldn’t get the key in the lock — he was that drunk. So, I had to unlock the door for him. I turned on the light and there were thousands of roaches everywhere. The walls looked alive with them scrambling away. He asked, ‘Do you want to sit down?’ I said, ‘No way, man! I don’t want to be carrying those things to the next place I go.'”

Joy said, “I think my lungs are worse since I moved into Chester’s place.”

I asked, “Is it because of the bed bug spray, or are you using the powder now?”

“The powder is better, but I’ve run out of that too.”

Andre asked? “Do you dust it over all the carpets?”

“I sprinkle it only in the area where I sleep. Chester is on his own. I wash and dry my clothes, cook them, powder them, bag them and put them out on the balcony. Chester takes his clothes out of the bags and puts them in his drawers. He won’t listen to me.

“Now he says he’s broke. I gave him money for food, but that’s not what he spent it on. At least I have a Tim Horton’s card if I get hungry. Last night I made spaghetti sauce. Tonight I’m turning it into chilli. I’ve got it in the crock pot now. Chester asked, ‘Can I still put it on noodles?’ I said, ‘Do anything you want with it.’

“I’m going to go home now, before Chester gets there, so I’ll be able to watch English television. Sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of watching a movie and Chester will say, ‘I don’t like this,’ and he’ll switch over to one of his French channels.

“He gets up so early. This morning he got up just as I was falling into a deep sleep. First thing, he goes to the fridge for a beer, then he lights a cigarette. As soon as he does that I start coughing, and I have to use my inhaler. I wish there was a door he could close. At least he doesn’t smoke in bed. That would really scare me.

“Andre, can I ask you something that I never thought I’d ask?”

“Sure.”

“Will you come sit between me and Jake. He’s driving me nuts with his babbling. It’s all I can do to keep from punching him.”

To me she said, “The only reason I don’t punch him is because he’s HIV positive, or has full-blown AIDS.”

Andre said, “Jake, will you wipe your mouth, you’re drooling.”

To Joy he said, “If he needs straightening out, I’ll do it.”

Chester came over to Joy. She said, “What is it honey? Do you want to sit on your blanket?” She pulled it out from under her and handed it to him.. “Come sit down.”

Chester took the blanket and went back to sit with Raven. Andre said, “I thought he was going to sit with us.”

“So did I,” said Joy. “I think part of the reason I feel so schizoid is because of menopause.”

I asked, “Are they any closer to getting your health card and other identification?”

“Yeah,” she said, “I just have to go in and fill in some personal stuff about my parent’s birth dates and my mother’s maiden name. I have all that. They were both born in 1944, My father was such an asshole.” Joy was weeping as I left.

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bwgroup

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4 September 2012,

Today is the first workday after the Labor Day, long weekend. I had a relaxing time at the lake and was anxious to hear any news from my friends. Metro was handing out newspapers as usual. “Good morning, Dennis. Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was great, Metro. How was yours?”

“Good! Are you hoping to see Joy this morning? I haven’t seen her. Maybe she’s still recovering from the weekend.”

I didn’t see her in her usual spot. I looked across the intersection for Silver, but his spot was vacant also. Pat was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised at how disappointed I felt. I wondered about the results of Silver’s appointment with his doctor. I wondered how Joy’s viewing of an apartment went on Friday. Even Shakes, who I sometimes see in the morning, is getting a new apartment. I wonder if he’s moved yet. Sleeping outdoors is so dangerous, I can’t help but worry. Hopefully I’ll see them at noon.

Sitting on the curb near the park, all alone, was Silver. “Hi,” I said, “How was the appointment with your doctor?”

“It was fine. He took some blood tests, but I won’t get the results until next week. I have another appointment for a week Thursday. He should be able to tell me something then. I showed him how swollen my ankles were. He didn’t tell me what was causing the swelling.”

“You were telling me that you had varicose veins, perhaps it’s a circulation problem.”

“That’s what I think it is, but I won’t know for sure until next week.”

“How are you sleeping?” I asked.

“I’ve been sleeping okay. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, did what I had to do, then went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours. I didn’t bother panning today.”

“How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. My neighbor, Don and I ordered a pizza and watched some movies. That’s about all.”

“I’ll talk to you a bit later, Silver. I’m just going up to say hello to the rest of the guys.” Sitting on the lawn was Little Jake. Standing at the park railing was Shark, Andre, Jacques and Danny who had a guitar case strapped to his back.

“Hi Danny, I said, “I didn’t know you played guitar.”

Shark said, “Either did he, but he knows how to hock it.”

Jacques said, “Maybe it’s not a guitar in the case. Maybe it’s a gun, like in a movie I saw a while ago. There was an Elvis convention and these five guys, dressed in Elvis costumes, robbed a casino. Kurt Russell was in it and another guy with long hair in a ponytail. He was a mean one, shooting into the crowd with a machine gun.”

Jake said, “That was Kevin Costner. The movie was called 3000 Miles to Graceland.”

Shark said, “Dennis meet your new neighbor, Jake. He’s moving into Elaine’s old place, if the landlord ever gets around to fixing it up. He’s supposed to change the carpet, but he didn’t do that when Elaine moved in. He’s drunk most of the time. He knows all the people in the building who drink and will come to the door and ask, ‘Can I have a beer?’ I’ll say, ‘No, but you can take these empties, since you’re here.’ Otherwise the maintenance man will go rooting through the trash for them. You’ll see the landlord drinking on the front steps. If not there, he’ll be on the back steps. The maintenance guy moves things from one apartment to another. When you view the place everything looks all nice and new, then they switch the nice furniture for crap.

“It took Irene ten months to get out of that place. The landlord said that she would be on probation for the first three months, then he was supposed to have her sign a lease, but he never brought it around. When she was moving out he said, ‘You know you’re breaking your lease.’ I said to him, ‘She never signed a lease you drunken bastard. There’s no lease to break.’ He said, ‘You don’t have to get nasty about it.’

“Eventually, we’re going to get all new furniture. Irene and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to buying things. She always wants to buy what’s cheap; like her mattress, she paid $125.00, I paid $300.00, but mine is twice as thick as hers. I don’t want to be sleeping on something that has pieces of metal sticking out. If I want something I pay for it, I don’t care what it costs.”

“So, when are you moving, Jake?”

“They’re supposed to get back to me, but I think it should be next week or the week after.”

Jacques said, “Those Salvation Army people, they don’t look very hard for an apartment for you. It’s okay if you find one yourself, then they’ll help you with moving. Otherwise, they’re useless.”

Danny said, “I nearly had a place lined up last week. I told the landlord that my disability pension would cover the first $450.00 of the rent. If there were any extras my mom would pay them. He could just give her the bank information and she would deposit a check every month. She’s an elder and a Clan leader. She’s been handling my finances for the last twenty years because of my addiction problems.”

“Andre, how was your weekend?” I asked.

“The weekend was pretty wild, but I’m trying to keep it cool today. I have to see my worker to arrange for my identification and my health card, again. This time I’m going to have them keep a copy on my file in case I lose them.

“Here are my workers now.” Two women walked into the park and Andre met them.

Jacques said, “Who are those two? I thought it was a big guy and a girl who came around. Maybe they fired him because he wasn’t doing his job.”

I asked, “Jacques, did you hear if Joy got her place?”

“I saw her Saturday, no it was Friday. She went with her worker, then she was going to 507 to pick up an air mattress.”

“Yes, she didn’t want to bring bed bugs into her new place.”

“It’s best if you don’t have carpets. They make nests everywhere in carpets. I found a big spider web with lots of dead bed bug husks. I love the spiders, me. I don’t mind how many I have of them as long as they keep eating the bed bugs.”

Jake said, “I saw Chester having breakfast at the Mission, but Joy wasn’t there.”

Shark received a telephone call, “Yes, Elaine?” he said. “What’s Hippo doing there? Tell him to get out. Tell him anything — tell him you and Kat have to go out. Tell him you have to go to the doctor. That’s what we had to do last night. We were at Buck’s playing Bingo. Trudy wanted to wash the floors. So Buck said, ‘Okay, Hippo, time to go.’ He left with no problem.

To me he said, “We’ve got Kat with us now.”

“You have a cat?”

“No, Kat is a person, a friend of Elaine’s. She’s over there now. She’s small, doesn’t take up much space — not like Hippo. When we sweep, we can just ask her to lift her feet, there’s no problem.

“Silver hasn’t moved in the last twenty minutes. Is he okay? I don’t think he’s drinking today, is he?”

“Yeah, “ I said, “he has a beer on the go. He’s not feeling too well.”

“I know he went to the doctor last Thursday. Elaine said to me, ‘Make sure he goes to his appointment.’ Our doctors are both in the same direction. He goes to Sandy Hill Clinic, my doctor is further up, but my appointments are Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursday he’s on his own.

I want to go to Brantford to visit my son, but my dad said, ‘It’s not a good time.’ I’d like to go for two weeks but I have to arrange it with my doctor. I said to him, ‘You phone my dad and arrange it. I can’t get anything out of him.’ ”

It was time for me to go. I said good-bye to everyone and headed on my way. Danny was walking ahead of me with the guitar case on his back.

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.

bench

.

30 August 2012

At noon the temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. On my way to the park, I stopped to talk to Serge and William.

“How are you, Serge?”

“I’m tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night. I slept over there (he pointed north-west), outside.”

“You didn’t sleep at the Shepherd’s?” I asked.

“No.”

William said to me, “I forgot your name.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said. “I’m just on my way to the park. I’ll check on you on my way back. William, try to make sure that Serge doesn’t fall down.”

They both laughed, “See you,” said Serge. I waved at both of them.,

Sitting on the curb at the park were four of my friends. Buck and his dog, Dillinger stopped for a while then walked on.

“Hi, Loretta” I said, “You haven’t been coming around as much as you used to.”

“I live way out past Orleans. Do you know where Mer Bleu is? That’s where I live, Mer Bleu Road.

“Joy’s feeling a bit better than she was yesterday. She’s with her worker, viewing apartments. There’s one she could get for August 15, if she likes it.”

“I said, “That’s great. She’ll love having a place all to herself.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Fine, I’ve been working.”

The sandwich ladies came by offering juice, granola bars, sandwiches and socks. Danny took a peanut butter sandwich, Shakes asked for something with meat. Miles explained that he had severe allergies to mustard, mayonnaise and onions. He showed me the EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector) that he always carries.

Miles said, “Did you know that apple juice is poisonous? It contains cyanide and arsenic. Over a long period it can cause organ damage and cancer.

“I just came back from San Francisco. I have my own landscaping business there. When we first moved to the States we lived in Ocala, Florida. Later, we moved to San Francisco. I got a real break there. I got a job with a landscaping company. There was nobody to look after my daughter, so I brought her with me. My boss really liked my work and would always call for me if she needed something special done.

“One of our clients was Arnold Schwarzeneger. It would take a crew of us about three days to do his property. He would always give my daughter some money. He’d say, ‘Don’t tell your Daddy.’ She’s grown up now and has kids of her own. She lives with her boyfriend in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s studying accounting, business and something else she won’t tell me about. It has to do with the land.

“I have a proposal to build a three floor complex for homeless people. There would be the lower floor with facilities for storage, because that’s a problem for the homeless. We’d also have bunks for sleeping on that floor. Food facilities would be on the second floor and the top floor would be for games. My daughter and I would be partners. She would have her own apartment, on the third floor, for whenever she comes to town.

“It would be a safe place for alcoholics and the homeless. Even if people were drunk we’d let them in, but they wouldn’t be allowed to drink on the premises. I estimate the total cost would be about 1.3 million dollars. I even have a location picked out, near the river.”

Shakes said, “I’m going to be getting my own place soon.”

“Do you know the location, yet?” I asked.

“Right in the middle of ‘Crack Haven’, behind the Sally Ann. After I’ve been there for a while, I’m going to ask to be relocated. After I get my place they’re going to take me shopping for clothes. I’ve got a television set at my daughter, Betty’s apartment. I also have a DVD player put aside. The guy said, ‘As soon as you have your place, Shakes, we’ll deliver it.’ ”

“That sounds great, Shakes. It will be better than sleeping on the street.”

“I think I’ll sleep outside, sometimes.”

“I said, “At least you’ll have the choice of where to sleep. If it’s raining, or if it’s cold, you can come inside.

“It’s time I got back to work. Your plans sound great, Miles. Maybe we can work together.

”I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” I said as I waved good-bye.

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.

group3

.

29 Aug 2012

This morning Joy’s spot was vacant. I looked north on Metcalfe Street towards Parliament Hill. Hippo was on the west side, Silver was on the east, in his usual spot in front of Starbucks.

I sat beside Hippo. “How’s it going with your housing application?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. I got a place on Charlevoix Street, or some French name like that. It’ll be ready for the first of October. They’re completely renovating the building, including new parquet flooring. There won’t be any carpets – I’m glad of that. I won’t have to worry about bed bugs.”

I said, “I was talking to Bruce yesterday. He had to take his sleeping bag to the laundromat to have it dried. Have you had any problems with water seeping in where you are?”

“No, we’re just over there, on the other side of Starbucks, behind the dumpsters. We put up a roof. It’s nice and dry. We just pile up the cardboard and go to sleep. I found it really cold last night.”

“Have you seen Andre, lately?” I asked.

“No, the last time I saw him, he was going to visit red-haired Debbie. He asked if I wanted to come, but I said no. I really don’t like her, but Andre seems to like her fine.”

“Andre was telling me that Sharon was out of prison. Have you seen her?”

“I saw her once. We call her the super bitch, but not to her face. She fights like a man.”

I said, “That’s what I heard from Andre. She’s the one who punched Magdalene. I’m going across the street to talk to Silver. Will I see you at noon?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll see you then.”

I walked across the street to talk to Silver, “How are you feeling? You have your doctor’s appointment today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m going to the Sandy Hill Clinic at one o’clock. It’s on Nelson just off Rideau. That’s where my doctor is. I’ve been going to him for a long time. I asked my worker about him. She said he’s a good doctor, so I keep seeing him. It’s important to have a doctor that you can depend on. I know a lot of people who don’t have their own doctor.”

At the park were nearly a dozen of my human friends and Shaggy. Hawk and his dog Dillinger dropped by later.

“Silver,” I said. I guess you’re getting ready for your doctor’s appointment this afternoon.”

“No, I got that mixed up. It’s tomorrow. Today is ladies day.”

I walked over and shook hands with Outcast. “Hi,” I said.

“Dennis, what time is it?”

“It’s about five after eleven.”

“I don’t usually see you here until noon. You’ve thrown my whole schedule off. Don’t do that again.”

“Okay, Outcast, I’ll keep that in mind.”

I sat next to Joy, “How are you feeling now?”

“I’m really sick. I’ve been throwing up blood, and from the other end as well. My poo isn’t black it’s red. Don’t tell any one.” She was near tears. “I feel dizzy and have a full blown migraine. I just want to go home and lie down. I think it may be from the bed bug spray I’ve been using. I’ve got some powder now. I’ll see if that’s any better.”

Following are some of the side effects of common bed bug sprays:

Pyrethroids:
Inhalation: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.
Skin contact: rash, itching, or blisters.

Long term effects: disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females. In human males, its estrogenizing (feminizing) effects include lowered sperm counts. In both, it can lead to the abnormal growth of breast tissue, leading to development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissue in both male and females.

Neurotoxic effects include: tremors, incoordination, elevated body temperature, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults.

Other: A known carcinogen. There is evidence that pyrethroids harm the thyroid gland. Causes chromosomal damage in hamsters and mice; deformities in amphibians; blood abnormalities in birds.

I said to Joy, “Shouldn’t you see a doctor?”

“I can’t. I still don’t have my health card. I talked with my worker this morning. She checked with Oasis – the woman I dealt with before, back in April, didn’t even submit my request. They have nothing on file. It’s been sent now. It’ll take about three weeks until I get it in the mail.

“They may have a place for me as early as August 15. I told them that I don’t want to be in a crack house. I want someplace safe with no bugs. An apartment would be ideal. I’d like to be on one of the lower floors, so I’d be able to climb over the balcony and drop to the ground if necessary.

“If that place isn’t available, or if I don’t like it, there’s another coming vacant September first. I get to take a look at them next week.

“I have to get away from Chester. He’s a nice man, but I’m tired of all the noises he makes. He grunts and groans when he sits down or stands up. I have no time to myself. It used to be that he would be asleep when I got up in the morning, then I’d have peace and quiet while I was drinking my tea. Lately, he’s been getting up when I get up. I don’t want to have to talk to people that early.

“I’m going to leave soon. There are some people here that I really don’t care to be around.

“I have to go by Chuck’s old place. My check may have been left in the mailbox. I’ll just sneak up and take a look.”

Joy left to talk to Silver, so I sat with Elaine and Outcast. “How is your new apartment, Elaine?”

“It’s great. We’re still moving things around.”

“Shark said you had a plastic Mickey Mouse stapled to the wall.”

“Yeah, that’s in Shark’s games room. Outcast came over with his tools yesterday to hook up our satellite and the cable TV. He used a three-way splitter so we have TV in the bedroom, living room and in Shark’s room. The TV is free.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“I feel better than I did yesterday. I just had a couple of beer today. I had a terrible hangover yesterday.”

Anastasia came over and sat by me, she said. “Elaine was telling me that you live in our neighborhood, or Elaine’s old neighborhood. I live on Silver at Dorchester. I take the number fourteen bus.”

“Yes, that’s the same one I take. Once, on the bus, I met Shark and Irene. They got off three stops before I did. I live just off Kirkwood.”

“I’ve never seen you there. What times do you take it?”

“I leave for work at 8:00 in the morning and come home at 6:00 in the evening, unless I go to the gym after work, in which case I catch the 8:30.

“Those aren’t my times.

“They’ve just sprayed my apartment for bed bugs, but they didn’t get all of them. I phoned the exterminator, now he says they might be in the woodwork, or in my books. He didn’t tell me that before. He should have given me a full account of what he could do and what he couldn’t. He didn’t do that.

“I went to the Salvation Army to get some bed bug powder. They wouldn’t give it to me. They said that I had to be homeless. Well, I’m the next thing to it. I’m on disability pension. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off to just shut my door and move to the Sally Ann.

“I didn’t get to visit my family this summer. The other day I lost my upper front tooth. It just fell out. It was an implant, it cost me a thousand dollars. All my other teeth are fine. They can’t put a bridge there, but they can get me a ‘flipper’. Some people have told me that it’s difficult to chew when you have a ‘flipper’. They take it out when they eat.”

I said goodbye to everyone, and told Joy I’d see her in the morning.

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.

panhandeling-women

.

28 August 2012

This morning, when I approached Joy, I noticed that she had her blanket wrapped around her legs and her hood pulled up.

“Hi Joy, you’re all bundled up.”

“I’m not feeling well. I was throwing up all weekend. I couldn’t keep anything down. Chester asked me if I wanted him to call for a doctor, but I said no. This morning I had toast and tea. I thought that would stay down, but it came back up again. Cathleen was by earlier, she brought me a cup of tea, two cream, three sugars. I only drank half of it and I’m starting to feel queasy.”

Alphonse and Magdalene came by, said hello and shook hands, then carried on. Joy said, “I don’t like Magdalene. Usually, I don’t have anything to do with her. It was weird shaking hands.”

Bearded Bruce came along, “Hi Dennis, I just wanted to see how grumpy here was doing today.”

Joy said, “I’m grumpy alright, feeling sick doesn’t help.”

“What kind of sickness do you have?” he asked.

“Just nauseous,” she said.

Bruce said, “I just saw Alphonse and Magdalene. They seemed happy.”

“I’ve got no use for her,” said Joy.

“Why is that?”

“I’ve got no use for someone who drinks alcohol and smokes crack while they’re pregnant. I never did that and I’ve got five sons. If she’d stayed clean they’d probably still have their baby.”

“Bruce, “ I asked, “how did it go with your housing appointment yesterday?”

“Great, they’re going to have a list of places for me to look at tomorrow.

”I was panning yesterday and a guy handed me a five dollar bill. He said, ‘I guess you’re going to spend that on beer, are you?’ I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I’m going to use this to dry my sleeping bag. With all the rain we had last week it got wet.’ Later on he saw me in the laundromat. He said, ‘I didn’t believe you, but I guess you were telling the truth.’ There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. I probably spend half to two-thirds of the money I make on food. That way I’m not throwing up every morning and don’t have the shakes.”

Joy asked, “Where’s Inuk?”

“I don’t know,” answered Bruce. “she didn’t come home last night. I’m just on my way to have breakfast, then it’s to work. Maybe, I’ll see you both at noon.”

After he left Joy said, “That’s quite a relationship. They’ve been together three years and he doesn’t even know where she is.

“Bruce really does eat a lot. When he was staying at Chuck’s he’d cook huge meals. Two strips of bacon would be plenty for me. He’d put twice as much on my plate as I could eat, but between him and Chuck they finished everything left on my plate. In the morning I’d see him drinking a glass of milk then a Pepsi. I’d ask him why he was drinking that. He’d say, ‘It’s to coat my stomach.’ I can see drinking the milk, but the Pepsi?”

I asked, “How are you making out with housing?”

“I find out Wednesday. My worker is going to check with Oasis – that’s the place Bruce went yesterday – and try to find out what’s taking so long to get my identification and health card. My worker asked, ‘Do you know who you talked to at Oasis last time?’

I said, ‘No.’

‘Can you describe her?’ she asked.

‘She had an attitude and I didn’t like her.’

‘That applies to a lot of the staff over there.’

‘I can’t remember if it was a man or woman, if they were tall or short, thin or fat — they all look the same to me. I see thousands of faces each day. It’s hard to pick out just one.’ ”

A lady dropped some change into Joy’s cap. A man, one of her regulars, handed her a five dollar bill.”

“Allright!” said Joy, “Thanks!”

To me she said, “Things are looking brighter now.”

Chester stopped by. Joy held out her clenched fist to him. He held his cupped hand out. “Pennies!” said Joy. Chester pocketed the pennies and moved on.

Motioning to a woman passing, wearing a black dress Joy said, “That woman should start thinking of using a dry cleaner or getting rid of her cat. She’s covered with hair.

“That guy that handed me the five – I see him most mornings. Usually he says, “Hi!” but if he’s with his friends, he just keeps his head down.”

At noon, at the park, were Chester, Shark and Jacques. Joy had been there earlier, but Chester mentioned, “She’s having lunch, with Cathleen at Tim Horton’s.”

“Hi Jacques,” I said, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“No, I’ve been at Dow’s Lake. There is always a breeze there, so even on the hottest days it is cool by the water. The cops don’t bother me there. I can drink my home-made wine and relax.

“Tomorrow they’re coming to spray for bed bugs. I have air conditioning which seems to slow them down, but I pay by the month and I don’t want to pay for September. We do get some warm days and there will be the humidity. The bed bugs will be jumping in the carpet then.

“It’s so easy to get them, they can jump onto your pant leg, you carry them home, they bury themselves in the carpet and lay eggs. Soon you have thousands of them. I wrap a towel around my pillow. Every morning I unwrap it and find one or two bed bugs. I pick them up and put them in a container.

“I’m looking for a new place. Near where I live, at Beech and Champagne, I’ve seen lots of For Rent signs. Maybe this week I’ll take a look at them. The only problem is, if I move, where am I going to make my brew. Another problem in my neighborhood is that there aren’t many convenience stores, and no wine stores. The closest is at Westgate. There’s Di Rienzo butcher shop and grocery store. They make good sandwiches, but I don’t buy my bread there, it’s too expensive. Also, they’re not open late.”

“Shark,” I asked, “are you all settled in your new apartment?”

“Almost, we’ve still got some things to rearrange. We found a plastic Mickey Mouse with his hand out. We stapled him to the kitchen wall and put our change in his hand.

“Elaine’s still at home in bed. I phoned her and asked if she was coming down. She asked, ‘Is it one o’clock yet?’ She can’t get her meds until one o’clock.”

“So, how long were you able to keep off the booze?”

“About ten minutes. I was down here last week and Shakes gave me a sip of his wine. Then I decided to get a six-pack of beer. What really did me in was the twenty-six of vodka. I’m going to pick up some beer for Irene on the way home. I don’t know who I was trying to fool. I am the way I am.”

Shark said to Jacques, “That was quite a sentence they gave to Shakes — six months probation. He won’t be able to do anything. If he spits on the sidewalk, he could get arrested. If he smokes a cigarette in the park, he could get arrested. That would be a breach on top of a breach. He’d do jail time.

“Danny was with him when he got out. A cop stopped Shakes and said, ‘I could arrest you right now.’ Shakes asked, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ The cop said, ‘You’ve been pan handling and you’ve been drinking.’ Shakes said, ‘I’m allowed to drink.’ The cop said, ‘You’re allowed to drink inside a house or a bar. You’re not allowed to drink outside.’ Shakes was ready to argue, but Danny told the cop that he was taking him to the Shepherd’s. The cop let it go.

“Friday is check day. We should have that spent by the end of the weekend. I don’t know how these people on welfare can live. They get $450. a month and the cheapest price for one room is $400. Landlords prefer to rent to students — even though they make a lot of noise — because their parents are footing the bill and they leave at the end of the school year, which means that the landlord can jack up the rent. Try to pay all your food and other expenses out of the remaining $50.”

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.

salvationarmy

.

27 August 2012

This morning I went over to see Silver, panning in front of Starbucks. He was sitting on a plastic box. When I said hello, he was startled, he may have dozed off. “Hi Dennis, you snuck up on me.”

“How are you feeling, Silver?”

“Fine.”

“How is your stomach?”

“I’m going to see my doctor on Wednesday. I still don’t have any appetite and haven’t been sleeping well. Look at my ankles. See how swollen they are. Those aren’t my ankles at all.

“I think I’m getting what my mother had, varicose veins. See, beside my knee and down my calf.”

“How did it go, panning at the church yesterday?”

“Not good.”

“Is that the one on Kent or on Sparks?”

“On Sparks, the one on Kent is where I was assaulted last spring. I didn’t even have to phone the cops. Two women from church were witnesses and there was a cop right on the corner. I was going to get up and talk to the cop, but the two women said, ‘Silver, you stay right here. We’ll deal with this.’

“When they came back they said, ‘Silver, you need to go to the hospital for stitches.’ I said, ‘No, just give me a couple of band-aids. It’ll heal better that way.”

I said, “I see you have a scar in your right eyebrow. Is that where you were hit?”

“That’s it.”

“So, what happened Sunday?”

“Where?”

“At the church on Sparks, you said it didn’t go well.” I said.

“No, I didn’t have a problem.”

“I’ve been taking a bit of a break lately. Trying to catch up on my sleep. On the weekend I watched a bunch of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies.”

I said, “I’ve always enjoyed those. ‘Pale Rider’ with Clint Eastwood is one of my favorites; another, is ‘Rooster Cogburn’ with John Wayne.”

“’Pale Rider’ is one of the ones I watched on the weekend.”

“I guess you’ll be getting your check soon.”

“Yeah, Sally will be around with it on Wednesday. I also want to get some laundry detergent and some socks from her.

“Were you up on the hill, Friday?” asked Silver.

“Yes I was.”

“Did the piggies come by?”

“Yes they did. They didn’t give out any tickets or ask us to move. Willy dumped part of his beer and Wolf had his hidden.”

“I was in the market. I saw them ride by and decided not to go to the park. I stayed at the loading dock where I often go. I’ve never been hassled there.”

On the way to the park at noon, I stopped to talk with Serge, “How are you doing today, Serge?”

“I’m fine.”

“On Friday you said you weren’t feeling very well.”

“When did I say that?”

“You were sitting on the bench, on Elgin Street, with William. I asked how you were. You said, ‘Not so good.’ ”

“I was tired,” he said. “I went beneath the bridge, where it was quiet, and I slept for a while. I felt better after that. Yesterday, I went up the stairs at the Art Centre and had a sleep up there.”

“So, your feeling better now?”

“Yeah, I got my booze,” he chuckled.

“I’m going up to the park. I’ll see you on my way back.”

“See you.”

At the park, sitting on the curb were seven of my human friends and a dog.

“How are you, Dennis?” asked Bruce.

“I’m fine, how about you?”

“I’m waiting here for my worker. She’s taking me to fill out the forms for housing. I’ll also have to get my picture taken – my health card has expired.

“Apart from that, it’s been a slow day. I was panning since 6:00 this morning and made 87 cents. I’m going to lose the busiest part of my working day, getting forms filled out, but it has to be done.”

I said, “Joy doesn’t do Mondays.”

“Wolf,” asked Bruce, “can I have a cigarette?” Wolf pulled out a clear plastic bag and threw him a cigarette. Bruce casually caught it in one hand. He lit it and said, “Shakes, can I have a sip from your bottle?” Shakes tossed the bottle and Bruce plucked it out of the air. He took a sip then tossed it back to Shakes who easily caught it in one hand.

Bruce said, “If that had been a sandwich or a ball I would have fumbled it, but a cigarette or a bottle, I never miss.”

I said to Silver, “You mentioned that you didn’t have a good day at the church on Sunday.”

“Did I say that? I think I meant to say, I didn’t make as much money as usual. Normally, I get from thirty to forty bucks. Yesterday, I think I got about twenty. At Christmas, one of my regulars dropped me five twenties. When he gave it to me I said, ‘This feels like more than a twenty.’ He didn’t say anything. I folded it, put it in my pocket. I didn’t count it until I got home.

”It has been slow lately. I blame it on the drifters — these people who live with their parents in the winter. When it comes spring the parents give them a hundred bucks and tell them to live somewhere else for a while. When winter comes they’re crying to their mommies and daddies to let them come home again.”

Bruce said to me quietly, “I could never pan in front of a church. I have nothing against those who do, but to me it seems wrong.”

Shakes said, “This morning I was just twenty cents short, to buy two bottles. Darren was going for a run, so I said to him, ‘Just bring me one for now.’”

Wolf motioned for me to move closer, “Don’t worry about Shaggy. She’ll be fine as long as you don’t touch her, or be aggressive.

”I was listening to these guys talking about panning, five or six days a week and getting maybe seven dollars. I couldn’t do that. Panning is hard work. Shaggy and I go out maybe once a week.

“I went to court Friday. Did I tell you about that? I was charged , a few months ago, with animal cruelty. Can you imagine that? Two women — I don’t know who they were — reported me to the police. It was just in the parking lot, behind where I live. I guess these women didn’t like the way I was putting Shaggy in her cart. They said I was too rough. I was walking along the sidewalk, pushing her cart, when three police cars screeched to a stop. They took my dog.

“You know, that dog means everything to me. I got her back the next day. I talked to my lawyer about it. He said I could plead guilty, or ask for a trial date. He recommended going to trial. Friday, they set the date for February 24. He said to contact him about two weeks before the trial. Last time, I got over a hundred signatures, from my friends and regulars, saying that I had never mistreated Shaggy.

“I rough house with her, but she always comes out on top. I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

Bruce’s worker came by. “Is Jake here?” she asked.

“No,” said Bruce. “I don’t know where he is.”

She said, “If any of you see him, tell him that I’ll be by here at noon tomorrow, to pick him up. Tell him that it’s very important.”

“Bruce, are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, just let me refill my bottle,”

Silver asked, “With apple juice?”

Bruce said, “Yeah, with apple juice.” The worker smiled. He pulled an Old Milwaukee out of his backpack and filled his bottle.

“Is anyone collecting?” asked Bruce.

“I’ll take it,” said Wolf. Bruce threw him the empty can. Wolf crushed it and threw it in Shaggy’s cart.

Hippo said, “Andre has gone over to Debbie’s. He asked me if I wanted to go. I thought about it and said, ‘No, I think I’ll just stay here.’ I really don’t like Debbie.”

It started to rain, and it was time for me to go back to work, so I said my good byes. I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Then, at the park bench, I said good-bye to Serge and William.

“See you tomorrow, Dennis,” they said.

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.

ottawacops

.

24 August 2012

Even though it’s still August, the mornings have been cool but not jacket weather, yet. At noon it’ll be hot. Joy had a big smile for me when I arrived.

“How is it going this morning, Joy? Do you mind is I sit down, or will that interfere with your panning?”

“I don’t care. It’s been a good morning. I’m happy, surprisingly. My legs are sore from the fibromyalgia. My left hip is stiff and it feels hot to the touch. I guess that’s arthritis. I wonder if it’s the same thing that Big  Jake has. Rodent gets his letters from Millhaven. He also contacts him, through prison message boards, on the internet. He told me that Jake’s using a cane. He’s having trouble with the same hip I am. Rodent asked me if it’s catching.”

I asked, “How long do you think they’ll keep Little Jake at Hope Recovery?”

“Just overnight, he’s probably out now. I remember once, when I was staying at Cornerstone — the women’s shelter — I got really wasted. I couldn’t even ring the doorbell. I did a face plant against the front glass doors. At the desk they said, ‘It’s Hope Recovery for you tonight, sister.’ I said, ‘No, just help me to my room and I’ll pass out like I do every night; but no, they phoned the outreach workers and they came to pick me up.

“The next morning when I woke up I couldn’t remember anything about the night before. I had two hundred dollars in my jeans pocket, three bottles of sherry and a gram of weed in my backpack. I have no idea where I got the money. For days, I was looking over my shoulder. I thought maybe I had robbed somebody.

“I don’t know what happened to Little Jake yesterday. He seemed fairly sober when I went up there in the morning. Chester went on a liquor run, then Jake mixed one of his Jakenators — beer with sherry. All of a sudden he was wasted.

“It didn’t help that Andre was throwing his bottle around, and making comments to women passing on the sidewalk. They don’t want that on their lunch breaks. I’ve seen some women give him real dirty looks. I saw one stop at the bottom of the hill and make a call on her cell phone. Ten minutes later the police arrived.

“The last thing we need is someone drawing attention. Andre has been in town for five years. He knows the rules.

“I’m glad that Shakes’ is getting treatment at Innes. They probably have him on Lithium, Valium and an alcohol drip. That’s what I was on the last time I was there. It prevents the shakes from alcohol withdrawal. I was just there for the weekend. I slept most of the time. They just left the jug of tea outside my cell. I had no appetite, all I wanted was something warm.

I said, “Silver’s looking awfully thin. He says he has stomach problems and has made an appointment with his doctor. He says that he’s not eating enough.”

Joy said, “I think he’s back on crack. He gets a check every month, but he eats at restaurants. He has a small fridge, he could stock it with vegetables, and in his little freezer compartment he could have frozen meat. He’s alcoholic, he has to eat.

“Chester’s coming down later to have a coffee. He was by earlier, but I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have a Tim Horton’s card yet.’ We’re going to the food bank at St. Jo’s later. We need to stock up for the weekend. I always make sure we have lots of vegetables in the fridge. Chester can’t carry very much, but I can get a lot in my backpack. Then we take the bus home.”

“Was Chester asleep when you left this morning?”

“No, I had a coughing fit. I tried to eat, but it came back up. He said it didn’t wake him up, but before that, I heard him snoring.

“When I finish here, I have to go wake up Andre. We both have an appointment at the Salvation Army. My worker is going to look into why it’s taking so long to get my identification papers. I’m going to get her to keep a set in my file, for the next time I lose them. She’s also going to help me get my meds. I really should be on them.

“Outcast was pissed with me last Saturday. He got it in his head that Chester phoned Debbie and told her that Outcast and I had been sleeping together. Chester said he didn’t call, and Debbie’s smart enough to figure things out on her own.

“She also thinks he’s been stealing her pot. He said to me, ‘Oh no, Debbie keeps that in a safe.’ I’m sure that Outcast has watched her open it, and knows the combination.

“Now, he’s got no money and he can’t borrow any because everyone knows he’s a thief – the worst kind of thief, who steals from his friends.”

After I left Joy, I saw Sunny at the pay phone in front of the library. He said to me, “Can you believe this, I’m trying to call the University of Ottawa, and nobody’s answering. Did you hear that I was on the Money Show?”

I said, you mentioned being on the Lowell Green Show. You played me the tape.”

“No, this was Wednesday evening, Lowell Green was on Monday. I was promoting my idea of the solar-powered monorail.”

“I read on the internet about the one in Bologna, Spain. It seems like a good idea. I think that’s the way we should go.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. Here, I’ve got something for you. These green and purple ribbons are the colors of my Peace and Justice party. I’d be honored if you’d wear them. May I take your photo?”

“Sure, “ I said. “I have to go to work now, but I’ll talk to you next week.”

On my way to the park I saw Serge and William. “How are you today, Serge?”

“Oh, not so good.”

“I hope you’re feeling better soon. Have a good weekend, if I don’t see you later.”

At the park I met a half dozen of the regulars. Wolf was sorting things in Shaggy’s canopy-covered cart. When he turned around I was sitting on the grass beside Joy.

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “I didn’t mean to ignore you, well yes I did, I had some things to sort out first. Eventually, eventually, mind you, I was meaning to turn around and say hello to you. So, hello, Dennis.”

“Hello Wolf, I was sure you were going to say hello to me.”

Willy said, “Dennis, are you really sure that Wolf was going to say hello to you?”

“No, Willy, I’m not sure of nothin’.”

Wolf had a bag of treats.  Joy asked if she could feed Shaggy. She put one of the treats on the lawn, about three feet from Shaggy, then moved her hand towards it, as if she were going to take it back. Shaggy lunged and nearly bit Joy’s wrist.

“Bitch,” said Joy

Shakes had been released from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road. I said to him, “Hi Shakes, when did they let you out?”

“Yesterday. I was inside for six days. The court screws saw that the sole of my shoe was flapping. They gave me new shoes.”

Willy asked, “What were you charged with, vagrancy?”

“No, it was a breach. I’m not allowed within five hundred feet of Mc D’s on Bank. I’m not sure how far that is, but it’s more than a foot.”

Willy said, “That was well put, Shakes.”

Two bicycle cops, one male, one female rode up. Shaggy barked.

The female cop did all the talking, “Jake, do you understand the conditions of your probation?”

“Yes, I understand – no pan handling.”

“Shakes, I see you have some court documents.”

“Yes, I’m now allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“You say, you’re not allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“I am allowed.”

“Okay, Shakes.”

“The rest of you, any alcohol? Are you staying out of trouble?”

Joy said, “Two of us are just leaving for St. Jo’s food bank on Cumberland.”

“What time does that open?”

“One o’clock.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you alone then.”

They left and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Willy said, “I had about two inches of beer in my can, when I saw them coming. I just turned around and pushed it over the railing. I didn’t lose too much.”

Wolf said, “I’m glad they didn’t check Shaggy’s cart. I had my beer in there.”

Shakes said, “I’ve got a gram of pot in my underwear, but I can’t find it.” He then proceeded to pull down his sweat pants and search for the missing pot.”

Willy said, “Shakes, I hope you’re not intending to share that with anybody. I don’t want anything to do with pot that’s been in your underwear. It’s going to taste of shit and ball sweat.”

“It’s in a plastic bag.”

Joy said, “Shakes, for God’s sake, pull up your pants. I’m seeing way too much, and it isn’t pretty. The cops will be coming back.”

To me she said, “I’ve seen Shakes down and out before, but never this bad. He’s incontinent, he wears Depends. He’s so weak, he can barely get up by himself. He’s not taking care of his burn scars. He doesn’t care. It’s sad.”

As I was standing with the group — everyone packing their bags, picking up their cushions — I saw Wanda, a woman I work with. I waved. She looked at me, with a disapproving look, and walked on — she didn’t wave.

Sometimes, I question what it is I’m doing. I have arguments with health workers whose job it is to treat people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They say, ‘I can feel empathy with people who are sick — not of their own doing, but alcoholics have brought this on themselves. With our health care system, everybody pays for their choices.’ I agree, the shelters cost money, welfare costs money, jails cost money, the police cost money; but looking at my friends, in their varying states of ability and disability, their personal motivations to struggle with addiction or give in to it, I know it’s more complicated. I don’t know the answers; day by day, I’m beginning to understand the situation.

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