Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

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womanbox

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16 October 2012

This morning, as I approached Joy, I could see that she was shivering, even though she had her blanket wrapped around her legs.

“Hi, Joy,” I said, “don’t you have any warm, winter clothing?”

“I’m wearing two pairs of long underwear under my jeans. This coat is warm, it’s just sitting on the concrete that’s making me cold. Chester is going to give me his winter pants. He doesn’t want them anymore. I said, ‘If you’re going to throw them out, I’ll take them.'”

“I asked, “Did your worker come by yesterday?”

“No,” she said, “she’ll come today or I’ll see her for my regular appointment tomorrow.

“Yesterday I hung out with Andre, Little Jake and Shakes. I went at Andre, he just won’t get the message. I said to him, We’ve been through this before. I don’t want you touching me. ‘But, Joy,’ he said, ‘I’m clean now!’ I said, ‘Andre, you’ve got five days dirt under your fingernails. Don’t tell me you’re clean. Even if you were, I haven’t been with a man for the past year. I don’t intend to start with you.’ Still he kept putting his hand on my thigh, as if it were some kind of joke. Even Shakes and Jake yelled at him, ‘Andre, for Christ’s sake, leave her alone, she’s family!’ Again he put his hand on my thigh and started moving it up, so I punched him in the side of the head. I said, ‘Next time, I’ll stand up and kick you in the head.’ Can you believe it, he started crying. His eyes welled up and he said, ‘Joy, I love you. We’d be good together.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ I just want to be left alone.

“This morning, when I was in the bathroom, I saw a red spot on the wall. I thought to myself, That spot shouldn’t be there. I took a piece of toilet paper, wiped the spot, sniffed it — sure enough, it was a baby bed bug. Next time the guy comes to spray, I’m going to be there. I’ll make sure he souses the carpet, the baseboards, anywhere else they like to hide.

“It was just getting to the point where I was sleeping through the night. Now, I have to worry again, about whether or not the sheets and covers on my air mattress are touching the carpet. Besides that, I think that the tube-shaped air chambers are affecting my fibromyalgia.”

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Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
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group3

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15 October 2012

‘Street sister’ Stella helps those less fortunate

by Gerry Sutherland of the Ottawa Citizen

 

This is a true story about someone I know who wants to do something to help those that are not in the mainstream of our society. Her name is Stella and she lives across the street from me. People in our comfortable adult community know her as the one who does so much work attending to the flower beds in the common property. But, on Wednesdays, and sometimes on other days, Stella disappears from our street and goes to her other life in downtown Ottawa.

Go to the corner of Kent and Queen around 8 a.m. and there’s a good chance you’ll see Stella. She’s sitting with a panhandler on the side of the street, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. Stella is now in her other life as friend to the drunks, drug addicts, and ex-cons that are panhandling as they sit in the doorways and the sides of streets. Not only does she talk to these friends, but she brings them clothes and other necessities to make their lives a little more comfortable, especially during the cold winter months. And sometimes her husband, Tim, is there too, doing his part.

Stella is trusted and loved by these street people. She arrives in the morning on a bus from her home. Driving her car there is not appropriate because buses are, what the street people use and she wants to act like an equal rather than someone from ‘the right side of the tracks.’ Living in a foster home and then adopted by a well-to-do family in Winnipeg in the late 1950s was Stella’s early life. In her youth she liked animals. Later on in adult life she became interested in the lives of street people. This interest has lasted for over 15 years. When asked how long she intends to do this work she answers with a twinge of sadness, “I will continue until I can no longer physically manage.” Stella has multiple sclerosis.

His name was Angelo and he was a typical panhandler. He got stabbed by another panhandler and as a result of blood loss suffered permanent brain damage. Angelo now lives in supervised lodging and Stella, often accompanied by husband Tim, goes to see him every week. This caring action demonstrates the love this lady has for her fellow humans, regardless of what station in life they might occupy. She knows that street people, in spite of their excess drinking, their addiction to drugs, or their past crimes have a basic need that we all have. They want someone who will treat them as equals, some who they can talk to, and especially someone who cares for them. Stella meets those criteria. As she sits and walks with her ‘extended family’ she is comfortable in presenting herself to them as an equal and friend. That’s what they need and that’s what they get from this grand lady. I don’t suppose Stella will ever be officially recognized for her good work. In our society a person who is a friend of those that live on the streets is not usually a candidate for recognition. But that doesn’t really matter to her. Instead, she is content to be accepted and trusted by her street friends. Stella knows there is respect and love inherent in the expression used when they call her their ‘street sister.’

It had rained during the night. Sidewalks were wet. Joy was protected by a plastic cushion. I sat on the cold, damp concrete. “How was your weekend, Joy?”

“It was quiet. I went out Saturday night and hung out with Little Jake and Andre. When I got home I got a frantic phone call from Toothless Chuck, ‘V’s dead, He was hit by a car.’ I’m not sure how the accident happened but Chuck has broken bones in his foot and refuses to go to the hospital.

“This may sound unkind, but V’s better off dead. Chuck didn’t train him properly and would kick him if he misbehaved. That’s no way to treat a dog.”

I asked, “Do you have any appointments coming up to obtain your identification?”

“My regular appointment is Wednesday, I’m so frustrated that I’ve started cutting myself again. I was so proud that I had gone almost a year without doing that. I need my medication. They say the most common reasons for cutting is Attention or Depression. My reason is definitely Depression. Chester makes it worse with all his noises. He had the temperature way up yesterday, to the point I was sweating, but do you think he would put it up this morning when I said that I was cold? No!”

Mental Health Issues: People suffering from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, chronic depression, eating disorder tend to hurt themselves in some or the other way. When they reach the highest level of sorrow, they stop feeling anything. This lack of emotions sometimes makes them suffer even from panic attacks, so they cut themselves. When they see their blood, and experience the pain they feel relieved as they are assured that they are still capable of having some feeling. However, this is not the case with everyone suffering from mental illnesses, this is more commonly seen in people who suffered from childhood trauma or abuse. I said,

“I was thinking back to this time last year. You were so happy. You’d received all your identification and your health card. You had moved into that nice house with Chuck. You had your pet snake, the lizards and Chuck’s dog, but you were stressed about the cop car parked in front of your house. That was before your kidneys failed.”

“Yeah, no chance of that now. Mind you, we had three cop cars in front of the apartment building yesterday. Chester said, ‘Are they here for you, Joy?’ I said, ‘No, Chester, they’re here for you.’ He said, ‘Me, I don’t do any bad stuff.’ I said, ‘I don’t either.’ They were probably called because of the crack heads down the hall.”

I said, “Even a place like Hippo’s would be better for you. He has to deal with crack heads, but he has his privacy, he has cable, the choice to watch any programs he wants, and in English too.”

“Yeah, my worker is coming to see me and Andre, at noon, about two apartments she’s found. I sure hope that works out. I’m overdue for some good news.”

“I asked, “Did you get your laundry done?”

“Yeah, most of it. I washed all Chester’s winter clothes. There wasn’t enough room for mine. Chester’s going to give me his winter pants. They go with this parka. Hopefully, I won’t get too cold this winter. My arthritis and fibromyalgia just won’t take the cold.”

“Chester isn’t in the cold that much, is he? He doesn’t pan.”

“No, he just comes to the Mission for meals and visits with the guys for a while. If he’s cold, he goes home.”

At noon the temperature was a balmy 63 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt too warm in my down-filled winter coat, so I sat on it instead. Shaggy greeted me at the sidewalk — licking my hand and barking.

“She’s okay,” said Wolf, “Go ahead and pet her. That’s what she wants.”

Eight of my friends were sitting on the curb.  I was sitting on the sidewalk facing Joy. Marilyn was fidgeting, standing beside me. At one point she draped her coat over my shoulder, while she rooted through her purse looking for change to buy a cigarette.

I said, “Hey, what am I — a coat rack?”

Joy said, “I wish that dog would shut up for a while.”

I asked, “How did the rest of your morning go? Did your worker come by to show you the apartment?”

“Today is a typical Monday, although it is payday for the government. My worker should have been here hours ago, but I know that on Friday she had a lot of shit on her plate. She’ll come either later today or tomorrow.”

“Have you heard any more from Chuck, about his broken foot?”

“No, I didn’t go over. When I talked to him on the phone he said something about community service. He’s not going to be able to do much with a broken foot.”

Jake asked, “Is Chuck still living in the same place?”

Joy said, “No, he has a really nice apartment on Stewart Street. I’m sure he won’t have it for long. He has too many people living there. Every night there are twelve to fifteen people. They’re loud, drunk — the police get called there a lot.

“He says, ‘I can’t let people sleep on the street!’ I said to him, ‘Dude, yes you can! They aren’t your problem!’ It was the same when I lived with him. People would eat all our food, there was hardly any place to sleep. It was doing my head in. I had to get away from there.

Saturday he had a party with a lot of muk muks. Magdalene brought Ruby, a friend of hers. This Ruby chick got in my face as soon as she arrived. Within a few minutes, I was on my feet. Chuck had to hold me back. Somebody was holding Ruby back. I said, ‘Let her go. I can deal with her.”

“Today Chuck mentioned that Ruby had phoned and asked him to apologize to me. She said she was out of control. I said, ‘It’s all water under the bridge to me.’ The thing is, I’m sure she doesn’t remember what I look like, but I sure as hell remember her. The next time I see her, I’ll just walk up behind her and give her a snap at the back of the head. She won’t know what hit her.”

There was a demonstration taking place in the park. Andre said, “The R.C.M.P. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are there and some natives with a red flag, a yellow sunburst in the center, and the silhouette of an Indian brave on that.”

Joy said, “Andre, you’re part native, you don’t recognize the flag of the Mohawk Nation. There are a lot of them on Turtle Island or Victoria Island. Don’t you know about the land grant from Queen Victoria that gave the island in the Ottawa River and the land we’re sitting on, to the Seven Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy? That included the Mohawks of Akwesasne, Kahnawake, the Hurons of Wendake and the Anishinabegs.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” said Emile, “I must have been sick when they taught that history lesson.”

I noticed that Shakes was very quiet.

Joy said, “He didn’t get up until eight o’clock, he’s sober and he doesn’t have any pot. Usually by this time he’s been panning long enough to get a couple of bottles.”

I walked over to him, “How are you feeling Shakes?”

“I’m broke,” he said. I stayed at the Shep’s last night. Somebody stole, my bottle, my mary-jane and my money.”

“Make sure you eat, okay, Shakes,” I said.

“I will, thanks, brother.”

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group3

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12 October 2012

The mornings are getting ever colder. Joy was wrapped up, rubbing her legs. André was sitting on a cushion.

He said, “This cushion keeps me dry, but it sure doesn’t keep me warm.”

Joy said, “I’m going to get one of those plastic storage boxes and stash it behind Starbucks when I don’t need it. This cold really causes my legs to ache.”

I asked, “What happened when the police came by, yesterday?”

“Nothing much — the usual. They sent the Hope Recovery van for Serge. He was sleeping at ‘the heater’. I didn’t like the way they were treating him. I said, ‘Hey, be careful with him. He’s my friend.’ One of them kept waving her hand in front of her face. I know he probably doesn’t smell that good, but they must have dealt with worse than him. I found it disrespectful.”

“How has Chester been?”

“He was better this morning. Mind you, I bought him a gram of pot yesterday. When I came home he said, ‘Joy, I saved you a joint.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, Chester, I have my own.”

“Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“No, I’ll probably be doing laundry. Some clothes I had just thrown on top of the bags I moved out to the balcony. They’ll have to be washed and asshole probably has things he wants to have washed.”

I said, “I’ll have to be getting back to work now. Will you be at the park at noon?”

“We’ll probably be at the island, or under the bridge. We’re getting hassled too much at the park, especially if there are more than four of us.

It was snowing at noon. I passed Andre on my way to the park. He said, “Hi Dennis, I’ll be back in a few minutes. I just have to get something.”

I could hear Shaggy barking long before I could see anyone. It brought to mind a comment that Silver had made a while back, I don’t want to go up there, Shaggy’s barking his head off. On the curb on one side was Little Jake, on the other side was Hippo, Chester, Joy, Wolf and a friend of his (I can’t remember his name),

Hippo said, “My parents visited yesterday and brought some DVDs, but they took them home with them. My dad brought a tape measure last week, but he took it back yesterday. I don’t know what all that was about. I wish they’d left the DVDs — there were some good movies there. I have cable now. I just plugged it in and it’s working.”

Joy said, “He’s been complaining like this all morning.”

Hippo said, “I turned my tv on full volume this morning. It’ll serve the crack heads right for keeping me awake all night.”

Joy said, “Andre’s gone to get a bottle of water for me since he drank most of mine.”

Andre returned with Joy’s water, did a little dance then sat next to Jake. A woman was passing. He said, “Hey, beautiful, did you wash your hair with curly water today?”

Wolf said, “This is only my second time out this week. I was here on Tuesday. I haven’t got my clothing figured out yet, for this weather. I’m warm on top, but I need warmer shoes. Can you believe this snow? Shaggy doesn’t know what to make of it either.”

Chester went on a run for Joy. After he left she said, “I bought a dozen eggs last night, I had one. I checked this morning, there were only five left. Chester ate six eggs in one day and he goes to the Mission for meals. I also bought some bologna, but I stashed that away.

“This afternoon I’m going to Chuck’s old place to see if my checks are there. I’m expecting one from Trillium for a hundred bucks and one from G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax) for sixty. I’ll check the mailbox, or if someone is at home, I can ask if any mail is there addressed to me. I’ll just tell them that I was slow in getting my change of address filed. I hope they don’t ask for Identification, because I don’t have any. Last time the crack head gave them to me.” 

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
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cops

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11 October 2012

I could see my breath this morning. Joy was wrapped in her blanket sitting next to Andre. I shook hands with both of them and sat next to Joy.

I asked her, “How did your appointment go yesterday?”

“She was messing with my head. She said, ‘You’ve had quite a life, haven’t you?’ I said, ‘It started with my grandfather, then my father, then his younger brother. I got into drugs, was kicked out of my home, joined a biker gang, was into prostitution, jail, then ended up on the street, sleeping behind a dumpster. So, yeah, I’ve had quite a life.’ ”

“Is she any closer to getting you in to see a doctor, or at least get you back on your previous medication?”

“She’s working on it. I see her again next Wednesday. I’m just tired of this runaround. It’s been going on since January.”

I said to Andre, “I see you’ve shaved again.”

“I’m trying to look respectable for a while.” To Joy he said, “I guess I look better than I did last weekend. I still can’t figure out how I ended up in that garden. I sure didn’t get far from Little Jake’s place.”

Joy said, “The last time I saw you, you were sitting in the middle of somebody’s lawn. I told you to come, but you said, ‘I’m staying right here.’ ”

“I guess I can get pretty stubborn, sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” I asked. “When aren’t you stubborn?”

“That’s more like it,” said Joy.

“So, you left me there?”

Joy said, “I saw the 14 coming from one direction, so I figured the one going the other way would be along soon. I wasn’t going to miss my bus arguing with you. Yes, I left you there.”

Andre said, “All I know is, I woke up with watermelon and squash all over me. I had tomato dripping down my chin. I was a mess.”

I said, “You told me you remembered slicing a tomato with a Tim Horton’s card.”

“Yeah, I remember saying that.”

Joy said, “I remember one time, sitting here, a guy wearing a six hundred-dollar suit, and an even more expensive overcoat, threw a full cup of coffee at me. It burnt my face. I went after the guy with all I had. Some of my regular ladies came by and asked what happened. I said, “Look at me. This jerk threw a cup of coffee at me. They started hitting him with their purses.”

“Did anyone call the police?” I asked, “That’s assault! He shouldn’t get away with that!”

“Somebody may have called the police. I didn’t stick around. What I did to the guy probably would have gotten me charged. Can you imagine, someone going into a restaurant, buying a coffee with the express purpose of throwing it on somebody? He must be one sick fuck. It’s not as if I even ask for money. I just sit here. I say, ‘good morning’ to some people who I know, apart from that I’m quiet as a mouse.”

I asked Joy, “How are you and Chester getting along?”

“Last night we had another big argument. He slammed the door in my face. I said, ‘Chester, I’m moving out. I can’t put up with this bullshit any longer.” I packed my bag, put it out on the balcony. It must have weighed more than me. I didn’t have money for a cab. I had no place else to stay. I thought about going to the dumpsters behind Starbucks, but they’ve moved them close to the wall now. Nobody is staying there any more. I don’t know where Bearded Bruce is. I think he’s with Weasel.

“Chester said, ‘Please Joy, don’t leave. I love you.’ So I stayed the night. He was a little better this morning.”

Andre said, “Bruce is trained as a chef, isn’t he?”

“Bruce is a good cook, but he serves beans with everything. He filled my plate until it was heaping. I couldn’t finish half of it. Chuck took some, but he couldn’t finish his either.”

I said, “I was talking to Winston yesterday. He was mentioning the Native Friendship Center on Rideau. He was saying that every Wednesday there is a free meal, story telling, dancing and drumming. Do you know anything about that?”

Andre said, “I went there once. A guy said to me, ‘This is for native people.’ I’m part Ojibway. I said, “Who are you to say whether or not I’m part native. I see a guy over there that looks white, and another over there. Did they have to prove they were native?’ The guy says, ‘I know they’re native. You’re lucky you got a bowl of cereal. Don’t come back again.’ ”

Joy said, “I’ve had the same problem, my father was Ojibway, my mother was English. I’m metis, but I look white. I don’t fit in anywhere.”

At noon I was leaving the building, where I work, and ran into Buck, and his dog Dillinger. He said, “Joy, Andre and Shakes are together, sitting in the middle of the street.’ I had no idea what that meant. I found them sitting on the concrete island with elevated flower garden, that divides the Mackenzie King bridge, near Elgin.”

I said to them, “Hawk told me that you were in the middle of the street, I didn’t know what he meant.”

Joy said, “We’re just trying to stay out of trouble. The cops were by earlier. They can’t say anything about us sitting here. We’re not talking to anybody, we don’t have any alcohol visible.” Then she looked at Shakes.

“Shakes, for Christ’s sake, will you put that bottle under your coat or something. You don’t have to advertise that you’re drinking.” Just then a police car passed.

“Just watch, he’s going to turn around.” she said. The car continued on and didn’t return.

Andre said, “I haven’t seen that big cop, Caron, lately. The one with the muscles and all the tattoos.”

Joy said, “I heard that he got promoted. He works in the building now.”

“He sure doesn’t like Little Jake,” said Andre. “I remember the last time, Jake was sitting on the ground, Caron was bending over him saying, ‘Why don’t you learn to shut up. If you say one more word, I’m going to take you behind that electrical shed and beat the shit out of you.’

“The other cop looked at me and said, ‘If he gets into it with your friend, I’m not big enough to do anything about it. If you can talk reason to Jake, now would be a good time.’ I bent down and said to Jake, ‘This guy is the size of a tree. There’s no way out of this. Just keep your mouth shut.’ Jake said, ‘Okay.’

Joy started sneezing, over and over again. She said, “I heard that a sneeze is like one tenth of an orgasm. I usually sneeze ten times. I don’t need men at all.

“I’m not looking forward to going home. Chester is still acting pissy. He went to the Mission for lunch and was complaining about the food. He said, ‘They were serving grilled cheese sandwiches. I told them it was garbage and threw it in the trash.’ I’ve seen Chester cook grilled cheese sandwiches. He didn’t throw it in the trash; he ate it, and didn’t complain.”

“Is Chester still upset about Silver’s death?”

“I guess so, but he has to move on. I have.”

“I need to be on my medication and I’m having a real problem with menopause. I’ve got more zits now that I’ve had at any time in my life. I like my face. I don’t want to look like this. I’m whining, aren’t I?”

I said, “You have good reason to be upset.”

I had to return to work. I shook hands with Joy. Andre and Shakes then headed towards Elgin. A police car pulled up. The cop asked, “Are you guys waiting for your meal?” I’ll hear the rest of the details tomorrow.

 

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

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bench

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10 October 2012

This morning was even colder than yesterday. I had a picture of Silver, from the funeral home. I gave it  to Metro. He would have seen him every morning for nearly eleven years. Joy was wrapped in her blanket, rubbing her legs.” I wore the wrong shoes today. These Pumas, given to me by Wolf, are worth about a hundred and fifty bucks. People look at me and they figure, Why are you panhandling if you can afford shoes like that? I try to hide them, but I have to straighten my legs out to rub them every once in a while. They’re really bad today.”

“How are you and Chester getting along?”

“He got really drunk last night. I gave him some money and asked him to buy a bottle for me. He used my money to buy himself more beer. He went through an eighteen pack yesterday. Usually, after six he’ll be asleep.

“He was saying to me, ‘Joy, I love you. I wont mind if you stay after Christmas. Then he touched my leg. He hasn’t done that for a while.”

“I said to him, ‘Chester, you don’t like to be touched. I feel the same way, so keep your hands to yourself.’

“Later, he was banging around in the kitchen stark naked. He said, ‘What’s for supper?’ I told him, ‘I’m having this box of Kraft Dinner. I don’t know what your having. When are you going to buy some groceries?’ I’ve really spent a lot this month supplying him with cigarettes — and he chain smokes, one right after another. I’ve bought all the food. He hasn’t bought any.

“Well, I don’t think I’m going to be making any more money this morning. I had a good day yesterday.”

“I’ll see you later, Joy. Stella will be bringing pumpkin tarts.”

“I’ll give mine to Albert. I can’t stand pumpkin. I don’t mind the seeds, but that’s all.”

Later, at 10:00, I went to the park. Stella and her husband Tim were there. Stella loves to walk Weasel’s dog, Bear. She’s known him since he was a pup — at that time he was owned by Andre, who has since passed away. Stella had brought pumpkin tarts, with whipped cream, for everybody. She also brought me a package of photos and a photo copy of a newspaper article entitled, ‘Street Sister.’

Joy said, “Janice, my worker, is meeting me here to take me to my Elizabeth Fry appointment.” She poured some wine in her water bottle, added water and placed it in her bag. Little Jake, said, “can you roll me a joint?”

Janice arrived and said hello to the people she knew. Andre asked, “We’re meeting tomorrow, right? You’re coming here?”

“That’s right Andre.”

Joy asked, “How many buses do we have to take, and how far do we have to walk?”

“We can just walk down to the next cross street and board an 85. That will take us right there.”

Joy asked, “Can you just wait until I finish this joint? Then I’ll be ready to go.”

“Sure, we have time.”

Joy hoisted her heavy backpack onto her shoulders and they walked down the sidewalk towards the bus stop.

I said hello to everybody I knew. Shakes introduced me to Clifford.

He said, “So, you’re Dennis the Menace! I’m Downtown Charlie Brown. I’ve been on the street for the past few days. Before that I was in a recovery program. I’m native Algonquin. I was born, on the Madawaska River, near Algonquin Park. I have a deep history. My grandfather was a guide for the Group of Seven, from 1920 to 1933, when they painted in the park. He served three terms as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I’m also related to the President of the Odawa Native Friendship Center. My father is a millionaire, but he won’t even answer the phone to me. He wont give me fifty bucks; won’t even give the price for a bottle. My sister is the same, she has a great big house; I sleep on the street. She says, ‘You got yourself this way, you get yourself out.’ ”

I said, “I’m really interested in learning about native culture. Is the Odawa Center a good place to go?”

The best place is the Aboriginal Drop-In Center. Every Wednesday the native ladies host a meal, storytelling, chanting and drumming. You’ll get to see Shakes dance, sing and play guitar.”

“Shakes,” I said. “I didn’t know you sang and played guitar.”

Clifford said, “Shakes and I used to sing in the park, He taught me some boxcar Willie and other blues songs:

Boxcar’s my home, railroad my friend
It’s been that way since I don’t know when
I’m here today, tomorrow I’m gone
Where I hang my hat is where I call home

Stars at night my roof over head
The ground below where I make my bed
Horizons you see, well that is my walls
When the sun comes up my hobo blood calls.”

“I love Boxcar Willie, and all the old blues singers.” I said.

Clifford said, “When I think of native culture I get so angry. In school the nuns forced us to speak English. They called what we spoke, ‘the devil’s language’. If we were ever caught speaking Algonquin or any other native language we would be beaten with the edge of a ruler or a leather strap. Can you imagine if something like that happened today, especially to the children of white people. The nuns would be arrested.

“All this land we’re on was given to the Algonquin by treaty, even the land where the Parliament buildings stand. The government decided that it was a good military location, so they just took it. The Rideau canal was built mostly with native labor. They were paid starvation wages, most of them had families to feed, so they’d feed their families first. Many were worked to death. There isn’t even a plaque to commemorate the natives who died.

“Most native people would rather sleep outside, than in one of the shelters. Last night the guy in the bunk on my right kept saying, ‘six, six, six, six, six…’ all night long. He never stopped. The guy on my left was a crack head. Every twenty minutes he’d get up and walk around. I didn’t trust him, so I was trying to sleep with one eye open. Whenever he got up, or went back to bed I woke up.”

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bench

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11 October 2013

On my way to the park I saw Shakes sitting on a low wall near the sidewalk.

“Hi, Shakes, is nobody up the hill?”

“Oh, there are some people up there. I was on my way to the liquor store, but this is as far as I could walk. My legs gave out. Would you go on a run for me?”

“Sure, I’ll go , Shakes.”

“Here’s the change, a bottle of Imperial, please. I’ll see you up top.”

It was only a block out of my way, so I didn’t mind the detour. Later, I met with the rest of the group. Chuck was leaning against his sleeping bag. Inuk had earphones on listening to Chuck’s music. Mariah was standing,  Shakes was sitting on the curb.

“Thanks, Dennis, I appreciate that.”

Chuck said, “Bruce and I have been working the past two days and we got work for Monday as well. Stella hired us to do some landscaping. They had a big load of gravel dumped. We’ve been taking the big rocks out and raking the rest. Bruce keeps telling me to slow down, but once I start a job I want to get it finished. That’s why they like to hire us. They know the job will get done. Last time they hired high school kids. They were too slow. They didn’t know how to work. We worked right through the rain on Monday, it didn’t matter to us. They liked that. So, I’m going to have lots of money for food, booze and weed.”

Pierre came down the hill on his roller blades. He said to Mariah, “I’ve got a present for you.” He handed her a plastic bag of weed. “Smell it, what do you think?”

Mariah said, “It smells like Tangerine.” To me she said, “I like buying from Pierre, because I know everything is natural. He uses natural cow manure, no chemical fertilizer. Also, it’s mellow. It doesn’t make me choke when I inhale, like some of that other shit. He’s got a bunch of strains going. Every time he gets something new he brings me a sample, just to try. ”

Pierre said, “I’m so happy today. My parents are moving and they’ve offered me all their old furniture. I asked, ‘Even that new bed you bought?’ They said, ‘Everything, take your pick.’ It’s going to be nice having new, or at least different, furniture.”

Mariah said, “Six, at the bottom of the hill. He’s on motorcycle.”

Chuck said, “I saw a cop on nearly every corner. I think there must be some dignitaries in town. They’re probably coming in a, what’s the word, cascade? I don’t think cascade is the right word. Dennis, what is it?”

I said, “Maybe, cavalcade, or procession?”

Mariah said, “Yeah, it could be procession.”

Chuck said, “I didn’t want to use the wrong word and look stupid.”

Mariah said, “What else is new? Joy is still sick, puking and diarrhea. She doesn’t seem to be able to shake that. She’ll be better for a few days then it’s back again. I’ll stop in to see her when I get home.

“I saw Jacques, but he was in a bad mood, just passed by. I guess he didn’t get his check today.” To everyone she said, “I see lots of empty cans in the bushes. Is no one collecting?”

I said, “I’m sure Chester will get them on his next butt run.”

Mariah said, “It won’t be today. I just talked to him on the phone. He’s not coming down.”

I said, “I talked to Little Jake, yesterday.

“How has your back been, Mariah?”

“It’s better today. I’m still wearing the heat pack. I get the refill pads in a box of three for three bucks. They heat up as soon as they’re in contact with air. I’ll show you what they look like. See, little gel packs. Not bad for a buck each.

“I’ve kicked Charlie out for a while. Sometimes I just need a few days to myself. He’s been trying to be nice, he’s even being nice to my friends, but they know what he can be like. He’s a big guy with a lot of military training. It scares people when he gets in one of his moods.”

Shakes pulled a half roll of toilet paper out of his jacket pocket and blew his nose.

Chuck said, “Shakes, you didn’t get it all. Try again.”

Mariah said, “Chuck be nice.” To me she said, “Someone has to side with Shakes’ sometimes.”

Chuck said, “I am being nice. If I turned my head away, it wouldn’t be nice. As it is I’ve got my back to Inuk, but she’s in her own world listening to music. It’s only polite to tell Shakes when he’s got snot hanging from his nose. I don’t want to look at that.”

It was just about time for me to go back to work, so I stood up and said my goodbyes. Mariah said, “I’m going to the Lord Elgin. I’ll walk with you part way.” We crossed the street. Mariah said, “Let’s stay away from this guy taking photos. I’m a bit camera-shy. When pictures of me get out, bad things happen.”

I said, “Yeah, there are a lot of crazies out there.”

She said, “That’s one way of putting it.”

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group3

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9 October 2012

Joy was huddled in her blanket with her hood pulled close to her face. She was rocking back and forth. When I came closer, I could see that she was shivering.

“I’m freezing, ” she said. “I didn’t see you on Friday.”

“I was at Silver’s funeral. I met his sister, his three brothers, nephew, son and granddaughter. She’s a little sweetheart, just four years old.”

“I know that Outcast, Shark and Irene went.”

“Yeah, I saw them there. They didn’t stay for the service. Stella was also there.”

“We were too bummed out. Chester was crying. He got me crying. He took it really hard. He said, ‘What am I going to do with the dvds that Silver lent me.’ They’d often get together to watch movies, game shows, eat pizza and drink beer.”

“How was your weekend?” I asked.

“Quiet, I went to visit Loretta for the weekend. She’s renting a room in a house near Mer Bleu. It’s out in the country, a gorgeous house. Her landlord doesn’t like her boyfriend, Vance. He’s been really ignorant on the phone when the landlord has answered. He said, ‘Why the fuck are you answering Loretta’s phone?’

“The landlord was away this weekend. Vance came to visit. I hardly saw Loretta at all. When I woke up Sunday morning they were gone. I had no bus fare, because I’d given tickets to Loretta. I had no cash, because I spent the last of it on a bottle for her. So, I was stuck. The landlord had change in a dish near the door. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to get home.”

“So, you and Loretta are friends again?”

“Yeah, we’re fine. It’s just when she gets drunk that she acts crazy. When she’s relatively sober she’s okay. She has to go into rehab, sometime soon. She’d previously said, that she was going to come back to the house after she finished. Vance gave her an emerald ring on Friday. I could see that it was an antique ring. I talked to her landlord on the phone yesterday and he seemed really pissed off. Now, Loretta is saying she’s going to find a new place to stay after rehab. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vance had stolen the ring from her landlord.”

“Irene was really upset Friday, after Silver’s funeral. She had been going out with Silver for about six years. She dumped him for Shark. She and him have been together now, for about five years.”

“Silver mentioned that. When I told him that Shark and Irene were going to share an apartment, he said, ‘He’d better have a place to hide when she gets crazy.’ He also mentioned that Irene was the reason he started smoking again.”

“It hit Silver really hard when Irene left him. He didn’t go out with any women since her. He’d say, ‘I still love Irene, I have no interest in other women.’ ”

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salvationarmy

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5 October 2012

At 10:15 this morning I entered the Kelly Funeral Home, Somerset Chapel, to attend the viewing and memorial service for Silver. Most of the viewing rooms were empty. I heard voices and walked into one of the rooms. I didn’t know if I was in the right room until I saw, at the front, two boards of photographs with Silver lettered on top. There must have been a dozen photos on each board. Many of the photos I wouldn’t have recognized. They were from Silver’s childhood, teenage years and as the adult that I had considered my friend for the past nine months. As I was looking, I was approached by a woman with blond hair, and a welcoming smile.

She asked, “Did you know Silver well?”

“Yes,” I answered, “I sat and talked with him nearly every day. In the mornings, in front of Starbucks, and at noon at ‘the benches’ at Confederation Park.”

“I’m Silver’s’s sister, Cathy, by the way.”

“Silver spoke fondly of you,”

“Did you also know that he has three brothers, a son and a grandchild? Did Silver mention that? I’ll introduce you to them when I see them.”

“Silver may have mentioned the rest of his family. The last time I saw him was about two weeks ago. He showed me the swelling of his ankle and varicose veins he was worried about. He said he had an appointment with his doctor that same day. Jacques mentioned that Silver’s stomach was swollen. We all noticed that he had lost weight, especially in his face, and were worried about him. Sometimes, he would sit alone and just gaze into the distance. It just seemed to be his way. It was a great shock to hear that he had passed away.

“What was given as the cause of death?”

“Liver failure. Swollen ankles and abdomen are symptoms of liver failure. Luckily the whole family was able to be at his bedside for the last week. His son and granddaughter, of course, his mother and father, his brothers, his nephew. We all had lots of stories. It was good to see Silver laugh.”

“Here’s Cody now, Silver’s son, and Cody’s daughter Jennifer, Jenny for short.”

“Hi, Cody, and Jenny. I knew your father well. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a striking resemblance to your dad.”

“I know. I’m proud of it.”

Cathy said, Dennis have you met Steve?”

“Hi Steve.”

Linda said to Dave, “You saw John fairly regularly too, is that right?”

“Every day or so we’d go for a beer together. I lived next door to him at the Lafayette.”

Cathy said, “We’d lost contact with Silver. We didn’t know he was so close. He didn’t have a phone. If we’d know where he was we would have whisked him away.”

“Steve, how long was Silver at the Lafayette, about four years?”

“Nearly five years.”

“Dennis,” asked Cathy, ” what was your impression of Silver?”

“He was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man. He always had a smile to greet me. It was always a pleasure talking with him.”

Cathy said, “He was a glass-half-full kind of person, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said, “He was always cheerful and optimistic.”

I saw Danny, Outcast, Spike, Shark and Irene. Outcast walked over to the photographs and said, “Here’s me with Silver, this other one is of me also, but my head is cut off.”

I said, “Outcast I’d recognize your crotch anywhere.”

Shark said, “We’re not staying for the service. We just came to pay our respects to Silver’s family, then we’ll raise a few glasses to Silver.”

Irene and I walked over and signed the visitor’s book. I saw Danny sitting down, so I went over and sat with him.

“I’m just on my way to Thunder Bay,” he said. “After I leave here I’m, going to the bus depot to pick up my tickets.”

I asked, “Is that where you’re from. Do you have family there?”

“My mother’s in hospital, so I want to spend time with her. She has had part of her colon removed. Now they’ve found more polyps in the remaining colon. Doctors want to remove another two inches. She doesn’t want to go through that again. She said, ‘I’m ready to go. Why won’t they just let me die at home.’

“She’s had a hard life. My dad passed away a while back. He was on life support. The family was asked for permission to stop the machines that were keeping him alive. I was talking to my mom, on my cell phone, when they pulled the plug. I heard laughing in the background. The family thought that after he was removed from life support that he would die immediately. He drifted off to sleep for about ten minutes, then he awoke. He said, ‘I must be in heaven, I see all the angels of my family around me.’ Everyone laughed. I think he was trying to hold on until I arrived, but he didn’t last long enough for me to see him alive. At least I got to talk to him, and tell him that I loved him.

I met Silver’s brothers and his nephew. I also met Spike. I introduced myself. I said, I think we’ve met before at ‘the benches’, or at the ‘heater’. “Maybe, he said, I go to those places.”

Shark said to Spike, “What do you think of this place?”

Spike said, “It’s handy to the Somerset Street Beer Store.”

It was time to go upstairs for the memorial service. I’m guessing there were about fifty to seventy-five people in attendance. The Minister, who hadn’t met silver, started the service with a reading from  the Book of John:

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

Jesus the Way to the Father

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know [b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The minister added a personal note. “I am getting on in years. I know that when my time comes that my Lord will have prepared a room for me, even though in my life I have made mistakes. I am human. We all make mistakes. The dead are not gone, they live on in our hearts and memories, and in the genes of Jesse and Abbie.

He then went over and blessed Silver’s cremation urn with holy water.

A family member read a poem she wrote for John.

Cathy talked about stories from their childhood, stories that they had recounted at Silver’s bedside:

In the winter, Silver loved ‘bumpering’. To go bumpering, you grab the bumper of a moving vehicle and allow it pull you as it careens along the icy roads. This is dangerous and not at all recommended.

Silver enjoyed board games such as Monopoly and Clue, and playing cards. He and his older brother, Don, played a game called Hi-Lo. The loser of each hand would have to do push ups. What Silver didn’t know was that Bob was stacking the deck against him. Don was ahead in the short run, but Silver developed massive shoulders, that gave him the advantage in wrestling.

Our father died when Silver was nine years old. The three oldest siblings had to take turns minding the two youngest. Silver wanted to go riding on his bike, but it was his turn to care for his younger brother. Silver found a way to do both things at the same time. He tied his brother to the front stair railing and hopped on his bike. He rode around and around the block, waving at his brother each time he passed.

Cathy read the following poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye,

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

The service ended, and as the congregation arose and left the chapel the following song was being played:

 

Spirit in the Sky

by Norman Greenbaum

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you die
When you die and they lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best

At the door leaving the building I had a chance to speak with Stella, who has known Silver and the rest of his friends for the past sixteen years. I hope to collaborate with her and share information. She had the following to say about Silver:

I met Silver at the beginning thru Tom, who used to pan at the Metcalfe & Albert corner. They both decided they would hitch-hike up to Timmins for some reason, but only got to Carp and came back. Guess there weren’t many beer stores along the way. Very funny. Tim passed away a few years ago. 

This was a very emotional service. Over the past nine months silver had become one of my family — my street family. It filled a void in me where my own family once was. They have all passed away, or are living in different parts of the continent. I too am a father and a grandfather.

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group3

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4 October 2012

Sitting on a curb near the park was the regular congregation. Serge, who had been sleeping on a park bench on Elgin Street, came walking up the sidewalk with William.

I asked, “Does anybody know any details about Silver’s funeral? I’d like to attend if I can.”

Andre said, “From what I’ve heard, it’s at Kelly’s Funeral Home on Somerset. The viewing of the body is at 10:00, and the service is at 11:00. You won’t see me there. I’ve been to too many funerals, dozens of them. I want to remember Silver the way he was, not the way they’ll have him in his casket. I can’t take that.”

I said, “Hi Serge, William. Serge, have you seen the doctor yet. You mentioned that you wanted to see him about your stomach and your shoulder.”

“My stomach is okay. I have an appointment with the doctor next Thursday. It was arranged through Center 507, with a doctor at the Clinic on Cooper Street. William and I are just going for something to eat now.

“Shakes, how are you today? You didn’t look too good yesterday when the fire truck and the paramedics arrived.”

“I’m fine, I’m just tired that’s all.”

“How are you Andre?”

“Last night Joy, Jake and I were drinking at Jake’s new apartment. Joy and I got into a little tiff. We were both drunk. I decided to leave and I woke up in somebody’s garden. I was eating carrots, some kind of squash. I used a Tim Horton’s card to slice a tomato. That worked really well. I killed a pumpkin, a big sucker. I just wound up and ‘kapow’. Now, I got all these stains on my pants.”

I asked, “Did Joy find out when she’s going to be able to see a doctor?”

“Yeah, she’ll be going tomorrow.

“I’m just waiting for my worker, she’s supposed to be here at 12:45. She’s going to take me to see an apartment. Next week she’ll take me to see a doctor. She asked me, ‘Do you have any medical problems?’ I said, ‘How much time do you have? I can keep you writing for an hour with all my medical problems.’

“I walked into a clinic one time, there were all kinds of people in the waiting room. I walked up to the counter and said, ‘I’m in the middle of one of my mood swings. I want a doctor NOW! I guess I looked real freaky. The doctor saw me right away and gave me some medication. It was potent stuff. I felt like a zombie for three days. I don’t want to take that again, I couldn’t do anything but sleep. When I was awake, it was like I was in a fog. I smoke pot instead. It keeps me mellow. If I don’t have any for about three days, I start to get wired up.

“One time the cops were chasing me and I pulled myself over a five foot fence. What I didn’t realize was there was a thirteen foot drop on the other side. I broke some ribs that time. I had a floating rib for a while. That really hurt. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath.

“Another time I jumped out a second story window. There was a wooden shed below that broke my fall and my ribs on the other side.”

Wolf said, “Did I tell you that Shaggy bit me this morning. That’s why she’s over there in front of Nick. She started the day well, she walked all the way down here on her own. For a thirteen year old dog that’s pretty good. These guys get her all wound up. I reached in front of her and she chomped down on my wrist. It didn’t break the skin, but it’s so sore.

“That’s all I got to say to you.

“Andre, can I have a drink from your bottle?”

Andre said, “Yes.”

“You know, I don’t often ask you for anything, do I?”

“No, you don’t, Wolf. I don’t remember the last time you asked me for something.”

“Alright then, just so we have that straight.”

A skateboarder went by and Shaggy started barking and chasing him. Andre grabbed Shaggy’s leash, just in time. He said to the frightened kid, “She doesn’t like skateboards.”

Andre said to  a woman passing by, “That’s a beautiful shawl you’re wearing, sister. Has anybody told you today, that you’re beautiful too?”

To me he said, “See how tall she is, she must be six one or two. I love tall women. They can wrap their legs around you twice.”

Nick was chattering away to nobody in particular, mumbling something about, “I know how to survive. I’ve even slept in a snow drift with a piece of cardboard, newspaper inside my pant legs and in my sleeves. I was fine until the cops kicked me in the face.

“Can somebody throw me that bottle?”

Wolf said, “It’s not mine. I’m not going to throw it to you.”

It was time for me to go. I said my good byes and said that I would see everyone tomorrow.

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.

 

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salvationarmy

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3 October 2012

As I got off the bus this morning, I was approached by Metro. He had a grim look on his face. “Dennis, someone just told me that Joy is in hospital. I’d like to visit her, but I don’t know her last name.”

“It’s, Wolford,“ I said, “Joyce Wolford.”

“Thanks, Dennis, I’m not good at hospitals. There are too many sick people there, but I’ll try to get over to see Joy.”

“Thanks for telling me, Metro, I really appreciate it.”

“No problem.”

Nearly beside me, sitting at a patio table outside Tim Horton’s, drinking coffee from a paper cup, was Deaf Donald.

“Dennis, something really bad happened to me. I just got out of jail. The police, all they say is lies. My landlord phoned them last night. He said I was making too much noise. I wasn’t making a lot of noise. It’s just that my landlord doesn’t like me. The police say I assaulted them. I didn’t do that. They came to my door; when I opened it they grabbed me, put me in handcuffs and pushed me to the floor. I spent the night in jail. My mother posted bail for me. I have a ticket for disturbing the peace. It says I have to pay $350.00, within fifteen days, or I go to jail. On top of that, I’m not even allowed to go back to my apartment. My rent is paid until the end of the month, but my mother and some friends are going to have to move my things. I’m not allowed. That’s not right.

“I’ve stopped taking drugs. I can’t go to jail again. Do you know the name of a good lawyer?”

I wrote down, on a piece of paper, the name of a lawyer I’ve used in the past and handed it to him. I said, “Contact this person, if she can’t help you she’ll refer you to someone who can. She’s very pleasant. There’s no charge for the introductory visit. She’ll explain the charges to you, and what your rights are. Any information needed for your court appearance can be collected by her office. If you want, she’ll represent you. Don’t worry, you won’t go to jail.”

“Thanks, Dennis, I’ll walk there after I go for my methadone treatment.”

“Take care, Donald.  Everything will work out.”

At noon I was relieved to see Joy. I said to her, “I’m so glad to see you. Metro said that you were in the hospital. He said that someone gave him the message to pass on to me. Are you alright? Metro didn’t know your last name, but wanted to visit you in hospital.”

“I’m fine, thank him for me when you see him next.”

I shook hands with Chester, “How are you, Chester?”

“Not so good.” He then turned and walked away.

“We did get some bad news,” said Joy. “Silver died on Monday at the Mission Hospice. He and Chester were really close. Silver checked himself into the Mission, they moved him to the Salvation Army, then he was moved to the Hospice. There’s something not right there. He should have gone to the hospital, not the Mission. They have no trained medical staff there.”

Bert pulled out a photo of a very healthy looking  Silver, sitting by the canal. “I must have known him for ten, twelve years, maybe. It was strange. He had a swollen ankle, then his belly swelled up, his face became skinny. He died so soon. I think he must have had some sort of virus or an infection. I wonder if they’ll do an autopsy. I’d like to know what he died of.

“We were just talking about all the people we know who have died. Just in one year, Rip died…”

Shark said, “Rip’s still alive.”

“Oh, I meant Tim, he died at Easter, Digger died on Canada Day and Hobo died on Labor Day, all in the same year.”

I said, “I saw some of those people in a video.”

Shark said, “It was called ‘Under the Bridge’. Most of those people have left town or are dead.”

Jacques said, “I had an uncle. He retired and stayed home with his wife. He had nothing to do, nothing to keep him busy. He died within two weeks of retiring. Me, I don’t have to worry about that. I’ve never had a job, so I’ll never die from stopping work.”

I said, “That’s good preventative medicine, Jacques.”

Andre said, “I out drank Hippo; he’s gone. I out drank Shakes; see he’s going fast. He’s giving me the evil eye, pretending he’s not falling asleep; he’s gone.”

“Where is Hippo?” I asked.

“He’s at his apartment,” said Jacques. “Didn’t you know? I saw his place. It’s a one bedroom, the size of a bachelor. The bedroom is so small, there’s only room for a single bed. When they brought it to him he said, ‘Hey, I wanted a double bed.’ They said, ‘There’s no room.’ He’s over in Vanier. I was there but I don’t know what street he’s on. It goes in this way, out that way, before you know it, you’re lost.”

I said, “He told me he was moving to Lavergne Street.”

“Yes, Yes that’s the name, Lavergne Street.”

Joy said, “That’s the place I should have gotten. I know why I didn’t get it, my worker told me; they thought I was a hooker. If I was a hooker, I wouldn’t have been wearing that cheap, polyester dress.

“I told Chester I wouldn’t be coming home tonight. Last time, he waited up for me. I said to him, ‘Chester, I’m forty-six years old, nobody has to wait up for me. If something is going to happen, it’ll happen. If I’m not home by eight o’clock, figure that I’m going to be gone for the night.

“He’s invited Raven over, can you imagine? She’s worse than Loretta. At least I won’t have to deal with getting her out of the apartment.”

I asked, “Have you seen Loretta lately?”

“Not since I threw her out, Monday. I took her down in the elevator, bounced her around the walls a bit. Nothing was broken. She was able to walk away from the building.”

We saw a fire truck pull up. Jacques said, “We better leave, soon the police will be here.”

Firemen came over to Shakes and tried to wake him up. Shortly after, a Paramedic truck pulled up. It was time for me to be back at work. I expect that Shakes will be taken to Hope Recovery, at the Shepherds of Good Hope. He’ll be allowed to sleep the night and will be back in his usual place tomorrow.

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