Posts Tagged ‘concussion’

I approached the group of people standing on the sidewalk near the park. I shook hands with Hippo, Little Jake, Nicholas and Joy. I tried shaking hands with Matches who was lounging on the grass.  He pulled me down. “Dennis, do you know where I slept last night? Right over there (He pointed to another section of the park.) I passed out in the rain.”

I asked, “When did you wake up?”

“Seven o’clock this morning. Tom woke me up. He was sleeping over there (pointing behind him). Dennis, could you spare me enough to get a bottle?”

“I’m sorry, Matches. I don’t have my wallet with me. You know I’d help you out if I could.”

“Yeah, I know that, Dennis. I’m a street person. I had to ask.

” Some people look down on us, don’t give us any respect.”

“You know I don’t feel that way, Matches, don’t you?

“Yes, I know that, Dennis.” He opened his palm and showed me three grams of weed. Then he laughed.”

I said, “That should be enough to get you there.”

Hippo was wandering around in the bushes. Matches said, Hippo is incognito.”

I asked, “Do you mean he’s disguised as another animal?”

Joy said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.  The cops were at my place last night. P.C’s Mackenzie and Tarantino. They kept asking me where Andre is.   I said, “Have a look around, if you find any green slime that will be him.

“MacKenzie said, ‘Your old man is out, he’s staying at the Salvation Army.’ I said, “He’s not my old man, he’s my ex. I know he’s out he’s been out two weeks today.’

“Anyway, They’re going to meet me at my place in an hour. That is if they don’t come by and pick me up here.”

Little Jake said, “Andre is dead to us. He’ll end up like Kenny back there. I have to take a leak. I’ll be right back.”

Joy said, “If  Brian’s got his mouth open, piss in it.”

I asked, “What happened to Brian?”

Joy said, “He was actin’ like and asshole, a dickhead. He wouldn’t stop talking.  I told him that he should go; that every guy here wanted to kick the shit out of him.” Jacques,  Shark,  Hippo and Little Frank walked away.

“I said to him, ‘Are you going to leave now?’ He just sat there, so I nailed him in the face. His nose exploded — there was blood everywhere. Then I kicked him in the back of the head. He said, ‘Joy, you broke my nose!’ I said, “Let me straighten it out for you.’ I kicked him on the other side of his head. That knocked him out. I think he’s still laying back there.

“I’m not usually like that. These guys know me as a fighter, but this is the first time they’ve actually seen me fight. I don’t know what’s happening to me. It’s been this way for the last month.”

I asked, “Did Greg take you to get your Health Card yesterday?”

“Yeah he did. I made an appointment with the doctor for this afternoon, but I had to cancel because the police are coming over.

“Everybody else got their check today, even Mariah, who lives upstairs from me.  I’ve got a suspicion that the nut case down stairs goes through my mail. I check the mail in the late afternoon. There won’t be any. In the morning there’s mail in my box. Go figure.

“Jacques called me a rat and a goof for pressing charges against Andre. I said, ‘Jake was beating me for three years. Nobody said anything when I put him in prison. Why is it different with Andre?’

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with everybody, then I stopped by the other group with Debbie, Jacques, Heinz and Shaggy. Heinz said, “As you can see I’m that way again.”

“I can see, Heinz. I’ve heard that you’ve been this way all week.”

Debbie intends to write a book about her life. I had an extra notebook and pen that I gave to her.  She said, “Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Joy was looking dejected as I approached this morning. She said,”Today is even worse than yesterday.”

I said, “You’ve told me that Mondays are always bad.”

“Some people do okay on Mondays, but I never have. Yesterday I made just enough for a bottle and a pack of smokes. I need cigarettes. Nobody’s seen Shark for over a week. He’s probably in his bedroom smashing crack into his arm. I’ve had to pay full price.

“A lot of people have been complaining to Scarface. He may decide to go back to selling cigarettes. He smokes up to two packs a day. It costs him a fortune. He says he wants to quit. It would save him a lot if he were getting them straight from the reserve. Maybe, I can get some from Mariah. I’ll see if I can get hooked up with her guy.

“I don’t think I got more than an hours sleep last night. When I was in hospital they told me I have a torn rotator cuff. They said that if I was an athlete they’d operate right away, but I’m not, so they didn’t. It sure hurts. I’m still not able to sleep on that side and I’ve got one rib that seems to be pinching my lung. I’m also getting dizzy spells while lying down. That’s scary. If it doesn’t clear up by Friday, as much as I hate it, I’m going to hospital.

“I took the bandage off my shin. The cut looked really red at the edges. It was weeping some ugly yellow stuff. I washed it with peroxide and put more Polysporin on, then bandaged it again. It really hurts.

“I’m also trying to soften the scab, where the stitches are, in my head. I rub on Polysporin every day, but it doesn’t seem to help.

I asked, “Were you able to talk to Greg from 507.”

“Yeah, he was up there yesterday. He said he was here Friday. I said, ‘Look, dude, I waited in the rain until 10:30.’ He said, ‘I was here looking for you, I even checked Tim Horton’s and the pizza place. I didn’t see you anywhere. Believe me, I looked.’ Anyway, we’re going Thursday morning to get my health card.

“Hippo came over yesterday. He just hung around. I told him, ‘Dude, I’m going to make myself lunch, but I don’t have enough for both of us.’ He got all pissy then and left. I don’t know why he comes to my place to eat. He has plenty of food at his apartment. His parents buy him groceries.

“Everybody’s been asking if I’ve seen Andre or Jake. I haven’t, and I don’t want to. People have written off Andre completely. He has no friends at all. I don’t understand that, Jake was beating me for three years, but he always found a place to stay, either with Little Jake or Animal. I’d say to them, ‘You guys have known me a lot longer than you have Jake. I introduced him to you. Don’t you think you should give me some support here?’

“Another person I haven’t seen around is Blair. He’s probably dead. I’m sure they pulled the plug on Claude. If a person has no money they turn off the life support really fast. It’s a shame.

“I get my check on Friday, then I can pay back everybody I owe. Chester should have his Old Age check by now. That’s probably why I haven’t seen him. I hope he pays his rent and doesn’t spend all his money on hookers, who are just going to rob him. He’s done that before.

“Here he comes now. He walked past an ashtray — I can’t believe it. No, he’s gone back. I don’t know how he can smoke other people’s butts. Sometimes, they’re still burning. It’s just wrong. I hope he doesn’t stay long.”

I said, “Hi Chester, how are you doing?”

“I’m okay, I’m going to stop in for breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Will I see you there, Joy?”

“No, I’ll see you at the park, later.”

Jacques also came by, “I’m going to the store, Joy. Can I get you anything?”

“No, I haven’t made enough yet. I just have four twenty. I’ll see you up at the park.”

At noon I met in the park with Joy, Serge, Jacques, Roland, Heinz and Shaggy. I gave Heinz a book by Ken Follett, one of his favorite authors.

“Thanks, Dennis, I really appreciate this.”

Serge said to me, “Dennis, I have a joke for you. There were these two guys. One guy says to the other, ‘This apple tastes just like a woman.’ The other guy says, ‘Let me try it’ so the first guy throws him the apple. The guy takes a bite and says, ‘This tastes like shit.’ The first guy says, ‘Bite the other side.’ Funny, eh?”

Someone wearing a Beatles tee-shirt came along. “Where’s Jacques? I see his radio, but no Jacques. What happened to him?”

Joy said, “That’s his radio, alright. It’s tuned to BOB FM. Do you hear Katrina and the Waves? That’s the only station he listens to.

“He went on a liquor run. He’ll be back soon.”

Sure enough, Jacques arrived. He sat down and proceeded to empty a small bottle of vodka into half a bottle of soft drink. “Now,” he said, “If the cops come along and smell my drink, they’ll think it’s Kool-Aid. Smell it Joy. Tell me what you think.”

He handed the drinking bottle to Joy who took two large swallows.

“I said smell it, not taste it!”

Joy said, “Yeah, it smells fine. Vodka never has an odor, unless you get into the really high-octane stuff.”

Bert said, “Speaking of the cops, I haven’t seen them around today. Yesterday they were here three times.”

Joy said, “Today they’re more concerned about that body they pulled out of the river. On the news they say that foul play isn’t suspected, but I don’t know. They haven’t released the guy’s name, and they said there was no water in the lungs. That means he was dead before he hit the water.

“If you want to kill somebody and get rid of the body, it’s best to beat him to the point where he’s unconscious, but still breathing. Then, throw him in the river. He’ll automatically breathe in the water. When he’s discovered they’ll just think he drowned. Any bruises could be from rocks in the river.

“I really shouldn’t know this stuff. These other guys should know it, maybe, but for me it’s just wrong. I shouldn’t know all these ways to off people.

“Do you find this kind of talk morbid?”

“No,” I said.

“Do I entertain you?”

“Yes.”

Two women were approaching on the sidewalk, Joy said, “Some people should not wear pink. That other woman should know that if her ass cheeks are hanging out, her shorts are too small. If I had a daughter I’d never let her dress that way.”

This morning Joy was talking to a woman who was having a cigarette before going to work in one of the office buildings. I heard her say, “Yeah, we’re moving the whole filing department. The guy that just walked by has my keys for the back room. I’ll have to get them from him. Well, I’m off.”

I asked, Joy, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. I’ve been having dizzy spells. I’d be watching television, and I’d go to get up, then find myself flat on the floor.”

“Have you seen the doctor?”

“No, Greg was supposed to come by Friday to take me to get my health card. I had all the information he asked me to bring. I’ve got it in my backpack in a plastic bag, so it doesn’t get wet. I guess he thought, because it was raining Friday, I wouldn’t be out, but I was. I waited all morning for him.”

“Can you phone him to arrange another time?”

“Yeah, I can do that at noon. They always come by. My leg is really hurting where I scraped it on the bus. I’ve been cleaning it with peroxide and putting Polysporin on it, but it looks really red at the edges. I think it’s infected.

“Chester has been by, just hanging around. I don’t know why he does that. He knows I’m working. I still need four dollars and twenty cents.”

“I guess he was on a butt run, was he?”

“Yeah, I guess so. He probably didn’t find enough on Friday to last him the weekend.”

“Nobody has seen anything of Andre. He’s really gone AWOL. Last month, O.D.S.P (Ontario Disability Support Program) fucked up. They gave everyone their full check, without first taking off rent payments. Most people, even Kenny and Stewart, paid their rent when they got their check. Andre spent his on booze. He has until the end of the month to get his stuff out of his apartment — and he has a lot of stuff. He lasted there a lot longer than I figured he would.”

I asked, “How long has he been staying there?”

“He moved in just before I did, so that would be six months.

“I’m waiting for Shark to come by with cigarettes. He’s taken over from Scarface, but I’ve hardly seen him. He usually comes by on Tuesdays.”

“When I’ve seen him, he seemed very quiet.”

“Yeah, I think he’s doing junk again. Smashing crack into his arm. It seem so stupid. Five or six Valium will give you the same feeling and doesn’t leave you drug sick.”

“Heinz, has been downtown all weekend. He’s been too drunk to walk home. He’s been sleeping at ‘the heater’, of all places. I’m glad I have my apartment. I’d hate to be sleeping outside right now.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t take the bandage off.” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy greeted we with a grimace. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I hiccupped, it hurt my ribs, apart from that I’m in a good mood. I’m still drunk from yesterday. I was so wasted at noon, I had to go home. I passed out for a few hours then watched the DVD, McClintock, for about the hundredth time, got drunk again and woke up this morning.

“Guess what? I know where Jake is. He’s not staying at Rodent’s place he’s at the Salvation Army. Chester saw him there, Jacques saw him there. He’s in a wheel chair. He was wearing my old, number sixty-four, GG’s sweatshirt. I want to go by there and just watch to see how he gets around. He’s got the long arms, but I bet he can’t do wheelies like I can. I’d like to sneak up behind him and take him for a ride. He might try to stop with his feet, but I don’t think it would help. I’d like to take him for a long ride on a short pier.

“Anyway, I just watch these people go by. Humans — go figure. I wonder what I look like to them. Then I see some crack head, twitching, scratching and I wonder if I used to look like that. I was on a twenty-one day high one time. I tell people that and they say it’s not possible, but I did it. I didn’t eat, just smoked and drank; then I had a meltdown. I saw my ex sitting in a tree, from a twelfth floor apartment window. He was just sitting there, outside the window. ‘Hi Edmund.’

“Then I went to my mom’s place and begged her to take me in. She pretty well locked me in the basement for about three weeks. That’s how long it took for me to dry out, but I did it. Then I went out-of-town for a while. I used to weigh two hundred and sixty-five pounds. I was always fat. Even in my baby pictures you can see a belly hanging out. I dropped that weight because of crack. When I came to visit my mother I was still skinny, so she thought I was using. She wouldn’t let me see my kids. I went through every kind of test, because that stuff stays in your system for at least a month. I had hair follicle tests, piss tests, blood tests. I’d bring the results to her. She wouldn’t believe me.

‘Now, she’s dead.  My oldest son and I write letters back and forth, but I don’t hear from the others. I saw my father when I was in Toronto. I said, ‘Hi John.’ He said, “Don’t call me, John. I’m your father.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘you’re just a sperm donor. You were never a father to me.’

“I think I’ve drunk myself sober.”

Bible of a Pimp

Bible of a Pimp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joy was in good spirits this morning. She said, “I almost thought you were going to walk right by. Who is that woman sitting on the box? For some reason I’m in a good mood today, I don’t know why. I was at Scottish Bruce’s yesterday. I did some cleaning for him. What is it about guys that they leave things in such a mess?”

“I’m surprised,” I said, “with him being a cook and all.”

“Yeah, if it was a restaurant, I wouldn’t want to eat there. I was just about to throw out a cup of bacon grease. Dave said, ‘Hey, don’t throw that out. That’s my grease. I use it for everything I cook.’

“He does, I couldn’t find any margarine, so  I buttered his toast with it. It’s no wonder he had a heart attack.

“His place is even smaller than mine. If his was this much bigger (holding her arms apart about four feet) it would be my apartment. Then he has this huge bed. It takes up almost the entire room.

“I had a great time playing with Blacky. I took him down to the river. He ran right in. I tried putting this collar on him (indicating a strap wrapped around her ankle). He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I put it around my neck and said to him, ‘See, Mommy wears a collar. It’s okay.’ I’m glad that he’s with Bruce now. He’s officially retired. Bruce doesn’t take him panning like Animal did.

“Can you get me a copy of Animal’s obituary? Heinz was showing it around yesterday, but he snatched it back before I could read it. I don’t know why Little Jake was so upset, considering how Animal abused him. Heinz read a few things that really seemed funny, like Animal being an athlete. He could barely get up off his ass. There was something else about him being caring.  He didn’t care about anybody but himself, but something happened a week or so ago. I asked him for two dollars. He said, ‘I’ve only got a twenty.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not running for change.’ He said, ‘Keep the whole thing. Consider it a gift.’ I said, ‘Sure, it’s eighteen dollars more than I needed.’ A few days later he died.”

A man walked by and sneezed, Joy said, “Bless you!” To me she said, “I wish I could sneeze like that. You can’t imagine how much that would hurt my ribs.”

I asked, “Are you going to see the doctor today?”

“No, tomorrow. Yesterday I phoned and made an appointment. I’m so glad I have my immunization card. I asked if he wanted my Birth Certificate. He said, (imitating a deep voice) ‘Yes, please bring that along too.’ So, I’ll get everything checked out and taken care of.”

Metro walked by, seeing Joy and I sitting together he said, “What’s the split — sixty forty? Seventy thirty? Is he your pimp?”

“Pimp, none of the girls have pimps anymore, unless they’re high-class call girls. Now, forty to sixty bucks will get you anything you want. Fuck, a crack ho will do you for soup and a sandwich.

“When I was in Toronto, my girlfriend and I had a pimp — a big black guy. We did all the work, he got most of the money. We figured, ‘What do we need this guy for? Protection? We were getting the shit beaten out of us by the johns all the time. We decided to go independent. That was a mistake. One night a big black car came down the street where we were working. It stopped, we were told to get in. They took us to the bus station, gave us a ticket and said, ‘You’re going to Detroit.’ I said, ‘Better kill me right now, ’cause there’s no way I’m going to Detroit alive.’

A large garbage truck stopped near by, Joy yelled,  “Hi, Sunshine!” A good-looking, young man waved before emptying the garbage cans. I asked Joy, “I’ve been introduced to him before, but I forget his name.” Joy said, “I forget his name too. I just like looking at his tight butt.” He came over, shook hands with us both, then went on his way.

A man wearing a Senators hockey jersey walked by. Joy said, “Hi, Father Peter!” He stopped and chatted for a while. Joy said, “I see you’re not wearing your collar today.” He said, “I just came from breakfast; I didn’t want to get it dirty.” Joy asked, “Have you seen Father Jacob lately?” After he left she said, “They’re getting younger and cuter every day. Those priests would surprise you. I saw Father Jacob grab some woman’s ass the other day; at least it wasn’t a guy’s ass he grabbed.

Chester came shuffling along. I took that as my cue to leave.  I asked Joy, “Will I see you at noon today?” She said, “You sure will, even if it’s just to bitch at the guys.”

Pimp C in mid-2005.

Pimp C in mid-2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All weekend I’ve been anxious about Joy, wondering what Jake will do. When I saw her sitting in her usual spot I was so relieved.

“Joy, I’ve been worrying about you all weekend!.

“Why?”

“Friday you were so nervous about what Jake might do.”

“Yeah, I guess I was. He didn’t do anything. I was so bored on Sunday, I borrowed Chester’s phone and called Rodent. I said, ‘Hi, whatcha doin’? Care to come over to my place for a barbecue?’ He got all flustered, he said, ‘Jake stayed with me for a few days, but he’s gone now. I don’t know where he is.  He has all this paper work about how he’s supposed to stay away from you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, so when has that ever stopped him before? Usually, he’d just move back in with me.’

“That Rodent, he’s such a liar and a scum bag. Jake was probably sitting right beside him. We’ll meet up, maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Who knows?”

I said, “That’s the thing with life, we never know what the next moment will bring.”

“Life’s a bitch and then you die.”

“Joy’s words of wisdom and inspiration for the week?”

“Yeah,  something like that. I’ve got a splitting headache and the dizzy spells have come back. Hippo went to the General Hospital and got my immunization card with my medical number on it.  I don’t have it with me now, but I’ll bring it tomorrow. I’ll stop by the Mission, or go to the clinic on Somerset, to have a doctor check me out.

“I’ve been reading this book by Justin Cronin, The Passage Trilogy.  I’m nearly finished and it’s over nine hundred pages. The only other time I can remember finishing a book was when I was doing time.”

“Will I see you at the park at noon?”

“Yeah, as long as it’s not pissin’ down rain.”

15 May 2012

This morning was warm, sunny and pleasant. Joy was in her usual spot. All was as it should be.

“How are you feeling, Joy?”

“I’m a lot better than yesterday. I went home, lay down and drank a lot of water. I was able to sleep most of the afternoon, until Chuck came home at 4:30. This morning, I was able to keep my breakfast down.”

“How is it going with you and Marilyn, getting a place together?”

“She’s going to phone them today and, hopefully, we’ll be able to see it this afternoon. It’s furnished, that worries me a bit. I don’t want to be in a place with bed bugs. There are mattress covers, that have a very fine weave, that the bedbugs can’t get through. A friend of mine has one, but you can still see the bugs crawling around underneath. It creeps me out.

“Some people have told me that I shouldn’t move in with Marilyn. They say she can get wild when she’s drinking, but she’s cut back quite a bit. I think we’ll get along fine.”

“If she does get wild, I’m sure you can handle her.”

“No problem there.”

“Have you heard anything more about the funeral for Dennis ‘Fingers’?”

“That was a mistake. I talked to a friend of his and he’s doing fine. He just hasn’t been downtown for a while. He was in hospital and is still very weak. He prefers to pan on the Quebec side of the river, since he’s been robbed several times in Ottawa. You’d think they’d pick on someone with more money. Panhandlers just make enough to get by. Whenever I get my check at the end of the month, you won’t we me on the street for a couple of days.

“Silver is down here almost every day. I asked him, ‘What are you hoarding your money for? Are you that greedy?’ He’s not here today, though. There was someone else sitting in his spot this morning, but it wasn’t very long before a gray-haired man chased him off. I don’t know what that was about.”

“I saw Nick yesterday, panning on Elgin Street.”

“He, Hippo and Little Jake were kicked off Bank Street, but Elgin Street is even worse. The police don’t like you panning on Elgin. They’re patrolling it all the time. The same with the park. That’s why they’ve been by so often. It’s the same every summer.”

I said, “I was talking to Claude yesterday. He’s in the Wet Program at Shepherds, but he doesn’t like it.”

“On that program they give you a bit of home-made wine every hour, sometimes it’s watered down. Claude is used to drinking rubbing alcohol and Listerine. He wouldn’t like drinking wine. He doesn’t panhandle. I don’t know where he gets his money. He probably just has a small pension.

“He’s another one that won’t be around much longer; another one to add to the list.”

A man stopped and handed Mo a banana. She said to me, “Do you want this? Since my kidney failure my doctor said I’m not allowed to eat bananas. They have too much potassium.”

At noon I talked briefly with Claude. He was sitting in his usual shaded place, on the curb of the sidewalk leading across the bridge, adjacent to the lawn. “Hi Claude, how did you sleep last night?”

“I slept at the Shepherd’s.”

“Yesterday you mentioned that someone was opening and closing the door all night. Did that happen last night?”

“Yes, he did that for a while.”

“How about the other man who shit on the floor. Did he do that again?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I changed beds, so I’m near the kitchen. I like it better there. They have me on the Wet Program. I don’t like that.”

“I hear they give you wine every hour. Is that right? Do you like wine?”

“No, I don’t like it. They give me cheap wine, and the beer they give me has no alcohol. It’s awful.”

“How is the pain in your hands and legs?”

“My hands are worse in the morning. If I try to move them, before I’ve soaked them under hot running water, the pain goes right down to the bone. I have pains in my legs, and I can’t walk fast, but apart from that I’m okay.”

“Can you talk to the doctor? Maybe he can give you pills for your pain.”

“I’ll just wait. I’m going to move to the Salvation Army.”

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

A group of people were standing in a circle on the lawn, Chester, Silver, Hippo, Heartless and Joy. Katy, Heinz and Shaggy were sitting by the bridge railing.

As I approached, Heartless was giving advice to Silver, “For your blood test tomorrow, don’t eat after six tonight, and drink only water.”

“What do you mean, ‘drink only water?’ I can have juice and coffee in the morning — can’t I?”

“No, Silver, only water and lots of it. It’ll make your veins stick out, so they’ll have an easier time extracting your blood. They love to see addicts come in because they have such large veins.”

“Here, Silver,” said Joy, “have a swig from my water bottle so you’ll know, in advance, what it tastes like.”

Silver said, “My doctor wants to prescribe some pills for my alcoholism. If they make me better will I have my O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) cut off?”

“Silver, You’re too far gone,” said Joy. “You’re not going to get better.”

“’Heartless told me that they might cut off my O.D.S.P. if I get better. If that’s the case, I don’t want to get better.” (Died 29 September 2012 from cirrhosis of the liver. He was a good friend. I attended his funeral.)

“Silver,“ said Heartless, “if I said that, I was only joking. Get the doctor to prescribe as many pills as possible, and while you’re at it, tell him that you have a bladder problem and you need a diaper allowance. Wet your pants right in his office if you have to.”

Joy said, “You can let a juicy, wet fart that stains your underwear. Wear white, so the stain shows. It would have worked great yesterday when you split your pants.”

“Dennis,” said Heartless, “how long have you been around this area?”

“I’ve worked around here for the past five years.”

“You wouldn’t remember it then. This whole area used to be covered with bushes. Now, they’ve cut them back. Hoover and Elaine lived here for nearly a year. They had a tarp stretched out to keep the rain off. We could all sit under there and keep dry. It wasn’t even visible from the sidewalk.

“There was a rumor going around, about a ‘tent city’ being erected; part of ‘Occupy Ottawa.’ It was supposed to start last Saturday. The city tore up all the grass, like they did last year. It’s not so pleasant camping in the mud. I haven’t heard what’s going to happen next.

“So, how did you come across this group? You don’t drink, you don’t smoke. Did you just stop by one day and start-up a conversation with someone?”

“It’s not that I don’t drink or smoke, I just don’t do it during working hours. I’ve known Joy for about a year and a half. She invited me here, in January, to meet some of her friends.”

“Dennis asked me if he could buy me breakfast. He does that most mornings, when I’m panning.”

‘Heinz called me over, “Dennis, you’re really looking dapper today.”

“I’m wearing Value Village from top to bottom.” (Value Village is a used clothing store, similar to Goodwill or the Salvation Army Thrift Store.)

“I don’t care what you’re wearing. I just wanted to say something nice to you. I just celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday. I wanted you to know that. I’m more miserable and grumpy than ever. I’ve been really nasty to Katy. Half the people here I don’t talk to at all. I just like to come down some times to have a few beer, talk to my friends.

“How is Shaggy doing under her trailer? I can’t see her.”

“She’s got her head out, watching what’s going on. Trying to decide who to bite next.”

“I won’t keep you, Dennis. I just wanted to shake your hand, and I’m not sure I can get up.”

Silver was asking Joy, “What’s Katy’s problem? She hasn’t said more than three words since she’s been here.”

“She’s got the same problem I’ve had all week; she’s starting menopause. Since September, my period hasn’t been regular. It’s all over the place — four months off, one month on. It leaves me feeling miserable.”

The park was sunny, warm, everything one could hope for in the way of weather.  I sat next to Joy on the curb.

“Has anything happened?” I asked. “I see you’re still in one piece.”

“No, Jake hasn’t been around. You know the party that Rodent arranged for his homecoming? Nobody came. Shark and Irene were invited, but they didn’t want to go. Shark said, ‘Why would we want to go there?’ Rodent thought he had friends, but the only ones he has are the ones he buys with booze or drugs.

“I almost wish Jake had come by. I wanted to ask him if he felt violated last night. I wouldn’t put it past Rodent to drop some Dilaudid in his beer. I’m sure that’s what he did to Chester, that time I was staying there. After two beer Chester was staggering — and he can drink a lot. Rodent was rubbing his back, rubbing his thigh. I didn’t stick around, but I’m sure he waited until Chester passed out then it was slam, bam, then he rammed. I shouldn’t talk like this, but when it comes to Rodent, he’s such a perv. I can’t stand the guy.”

I asked, “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“No, I need some pot, so I invited Scarface over for supper. He asked, ‘What are you cooking?’ I said, ‘Steak.’ So he said, ‘Okay, I’ll be over.’ I really don’t want to be alone this weekend, and you can bet I’m staying sober. I want to be able to see what’s coming, so I can duck.

“Jake should be getting  his forms filled out for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program).  He was on it for a few months before he went inside. He’s using a cane now. He should have had his hip replaced two years ago. If he had, he wouldn’t have gone to prison. If he was on crutches, he wouldn’t have been able to hit me. He’s got to be pissed after twenty-six months inside.”

I said, “I notice that Lucy is here; is Nick around?”

“No, he’s in hospital. He’s having problems with his ankle that Buddy broke in their fight  last year. That’s the way with ankles. I should know, I’ve had mine broken five times each.

“I see that Willie’s getting crazy. He’s into  the sherry again. I don’t know what it is with these guys. I water mine down, so it tastes better,  but I drink as much as them. It’s just over a longer period of time.”

Mariah came by and asked Joy, “Was that you screaming last night?”

“No, I went to bed at six o’clock and was watching videos. I didn’t sleep all night. I didn’t hear a thing.”

“The neighbor above you, heard something too. She said it sounded like, “No you can’t come in! Get away from here!’ I thought it might have been that scum bag, Andre, skulking around again.”

Serge said, “Something funny happened a while ago. It wasn’t really funny. I guess, it was sort of bad for me. Anyway, I found this doctor’s bag, you know with a stethoscope, blood pressure meter, the light they use to look in your ears and nose, all that kind of stuff. It was just lying on the sidewalk. I took it home and tested my blood pressure; it was bad — one ninety over ninety. My dad died at fifty-one of a heart attack. I’ve already outlived him by four years. I think my blood pressure is up because of stress. I just bought a Harley; I’ve got payments to make. I’ve never had that before.  I’ll just have to learn to relax.

“I’m happy, we’re all happy. Even if I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be happier than I am now. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Do you know what’s important in life?”

I said, “Love, friends, family?”

“That’s right, what you see all around you. This is family.

“Do you know why the cops give us tickets? It’s because at the end of the year, when they show a deficit, they say they need more money because of unpaid parking tickets. They’d never say it’s because homeless people haven’t paid their fines for drinking violations. Some of the people here owe, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars.”

I said, “I know, Jacques has his walls covered with them.

“A cop said, the other day, ‘Three tickets and I get a toaster.’ I guess he was happy to meet his quota.”

Serge said, “I don’t think it’s fair that they have a quota. Do you think it’s fair?”

“I don’t know, Serge, it’s too complicated for me.”

I was late this morning,  so I only had a few minutes to talk with Joy.  She was sitting on her box and was visibly shaking.  “I just heard this morning, from Jacques, that Jake was out of prison.  I thought he was getting out today. I didn’t sleep a wink last night.

“Rodent had a party for him yesterday. Jacques was invited, but didn’t go.  Shark and Irene were invited. They may have gone,  I don’t know. Rodent told me that, if Jake ever came near me, he’d kick him out of his house. That’s never stopped Jake before. He’d just stay somewhere else.”

I said, “You mentioned that you’d been in contact with Jake and that he’d wanted to get together with you. That sounds like he still cares for you.”

“Yeah, he wants to hook up, but twenty-six months in prison would make him a bit pissy. Even when we were on good terms, that didn’t stop him from beating me.

“I thought I saw him on the corner a while back. I nearly shit my pants. It turned out to be someone else. I’ll see him sooner or later. I’m definitely getting drunk today. I’ve panned enough for a bottle.’

“I wonder if Jake’s heard about you being beaten by Andre. That would upset him.”

“Yeah, Andre’s spent next month’s rent.  He’s just finishing out his last months rent.  He said he’ll be leaving town next month. I’m sure his sister won’t take him in. Can you imagine? He’d be drunk, having pool parties until all hours, kicking doors in. She wouldn’t put up with that, even from her scum bag brother.

“Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I’ll be there. Take care.”