Posts Tagged ‘unconditional love’

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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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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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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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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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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.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
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group3

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October 2012

At noon today, I met Serge in his usual place sitting on a curb in the shade of a large oak tree.  He said, “It’s my old friend, Kenny Rogers.”

“Hi Serge, how are you feeling today?”

“Not so good. I have an appointment with my doctor, this afternoon, at the clinic on Cooper Street.”

“What are you seeing your doctor about? Are you having problems with your stomach again.”

“Yeah, it’s my stomach, and I have a pain in my shoulder.”

“What’s the pain in your shoulder from?”

“The cops came by. I smashed my bottle so I wouldn’t get a ticket. They put my hands behind my back, put handcuffs on me, then pushed me to the sidewalk. It hurt something in my shoulder.”

I said, “I know what those cuffs feel like. They always put them on too tight, don’t they.”

“I don’t know why they did that. I didn’t get a ticket. This morning a guy saw me drinking out of my Listerine bottle. He said, ‘I’ll give you twenty dollars if you throw that bottle away.’ ‘No way,’ I said. ‘Keep your money.’ He gave me the twenty anyway.”

“So that worked out well for you. I hope everything goes well at the doctor’s office this afternoon. I’ll see you later.” I moved on to say hello to Shakes and Wolf. Shaggy barked the whole time.

“Don’t pay any attention to her,” said Wolf, “she’s just saying hello. She doesn’t make much of a guard dog; she barks, but she’s too lazy to lift her head off the sidewalk.”

I sat on the sidewalk in front of Joy. Chester was just leaving to go for Chinese food, at the mall food court. “How’s everything going today, Joy?” I asked. She gestured with her head toward Chester and rolled her eyes.

“Dennis, I’m losing it. I met with my P.O. (Parole Officer) this morning. I didn’t think that I was talking loud. All of a sudden two cops came in. They said, ‘We thought there was a disturbance.’ My P.O. was upset, she said, ‘There’s no disturbance. If there had been, I have a buzzer to press, or I would have called you.’ After a while, I had to pee. When I got outside her door, sure enough, the two cops were on either side. They followed me to the bathroom and waited outside. I stayed an extra long time, just to piss them off. I also had a drink. “When I finished my appointment I took the elevator down. The two cops went with me. I said to them, ‘What is it with you guys? Is it that you just don’t like me? I wasn’t put on this earth to be either liked or disliked by you.’ I said to the big one, ‘I remember you. You’re the one who smashed my cheek.’ He said, ‘You didn’t lodge a complaint.’ I know better than to charge one of Ottawa’s finest. I learned that lesson in Toronto.”

I asked, “How did he smash your cheek?”

“Feel both of my cheeks. See if you think they feel the same.” I noticed that the bone structure felt different. “Part of my cheekbone was broken off. They were called to our apartment when I was still with Big Jake. One cop was talking him outside, the big one was with me in the kitchen. He opened the fridge and started taking out beer. I said, ‘Excuse me.’ Notice that I was being polite. I said, ‘Excuse me, but those are my beer. You’ve no right to be taking them.’ That’s the last I remember. I woke up in the hospital. I still have a scar, but it’s nearly faded now.

“I also met with my worker this morning. She may have an apartment for me to see tomorrow. I just hope I get it. Chester is driving me crazy. I’d never hurt him, but I just don’t know what I’m doing some times. I think I freaked out my P.O this morning. Hopefully, she’ll get me back on my anti-schizoid medication. I haven’t had it since I was in the hospital last January.”

“Joy,” I said, “I can understand some of what you’re feeling. If I wasn’t on medication I’d be a mess.”

“Last night,” she said, “I was at a party at Chuck’s place. I was having a good time. I’m entitled to have a good time, once in a while, aren’t I? I’d been there about an hour when I got a phone call from Chester. Even though I told him not to, he invited Loretta over for some Mukmuk loving. I don’t think it worked out the way he planned. He was drunk and she gets crazy when she drinks. Chester said that she was hitting him and he didn’t know how to get her out of his apartment. ‘I said to him, ‘Chester, go over to the fridge. The number for security is on a card there. Phone them and tell them you want someone removed from your apartment. They’ll take Loretta out. If you don’t want to do that, dial 911 and the cops will deal with her.’ I must have gotten half a dozen calls from him. I phoned security, told them that my father was having trouble getting someone out of his apartment. I said, ‘I’ve seen you guys, you’re big enough to handle a hundred-pound woman. I’ve also seen that you have handcuffs if she gives you any trouble.’ Chester called back again. He said that security had gotten Loretta out of the apartment, but later he heard a knock and opened the door. It was Loretta. She barged back in. Who in their right mind opens a door, when they don’t know who’s on the other side? It could have been thieves, ready to invade his home and take all he’s got. I came home and Loretta was passed out on the couch. This is my home. I saw red. I really laid into her. I’m not exactly sure what happened, I was fairly wasted at the time. I know I threw her out. This morning, I saw that there was blood on the couch. My knuckles are sore. My foot is sore, there was blood all over my white shoe, and I found teeth prints in the leather. Marilyn doesn’t have teeth, but whoever removed them did a lousy job. She still has nubs. I don’t know what kind of shape she’s in.

“Tomorrow, I go for my second anger management counseling session with E. Fry (The Elizabeth Fry Society). I’ll have someone messing with my head. I just can’t take much more. I feel like I’m dying from the inside.”

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bench

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1 October 2012

I walked toward the park. I recognized Jacques’ bushy white beard and waved to him. While I was still about a dozen feet from the group an attractive, young woman, with long black hair, approached me.

She said, “We haven’t met before. My name is Doreen.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said.

“Do you happen to have a cigarette?”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke.”

“Good for you. I wish I didn’t smoke. It’s bad for you and it smells bad.” Doreen then sat on the curb.

I shook hands with the woman beside her and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis.”

“We’ve met before, “she said, “I’m Jenny.”

I shook hands with Chester, “Joy will be here shortly, ” he said.

The rest of the group were either sitting on the curb or standing nearby. I sat between Shakes and Doreen.

“How was your weekend, Shakes?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” He was counting coins and putting them in a plastic pill bottle. “My weekend was good, except for the rain on Sunday. I was walking in that. My leathers didn’t dry until about three this morning.”

“Have you been sleeping behind Starbucks, or inside somewhere?”

“Both, it all depends on who kidnaps me, ha ha ha ha.”

“I guess you mean that in a good way?”

“I stayed at Danny’s place last night. He lives in Little Italy.”

Doreen asked me, “Where did your family come from?”

“My grandparents came from Iceland in 1902.”

“I know people from Iceland. I’m from Baffin Island, not far from Iceland.”

I said, “My mother didn’t learn to speak English until she went to school.”

“Where I went to school,” said Doreen, “If we spoke Inuk to anybody we got a slap on the head. When I went home, if I spoke English, even to someone who spoke English, I’d get a slap on the head. I got it from both sides.

“Do you know whose land were on?”

I said, “I was told it was Algonquin land.”

“There is a dispute about that. It’s Huron and Algonquin land. It makes me so mad to think about it, but this land was a native burying-ground. How would you like it if they built over the place where your grandmother was buried?

“I may live in the city, but I still make my stamp on the ground.” She demonstrated by hitting the sidewalk with the side of her fist.

To some women passing on the sidewalk, Doreen yelled, “Will you please give me a smile?”

The women turned and smiled. Doreen, replied, “Thank you, you did give me a smile. That makes me so happy.”

To me she said, “I just want to be happy. I think that is what most people want, just to be happy.”

I agreed, “If everybody expressed love to each other, the world would be a happier place.”

I could see Joy walking up the sidewalk. She didn’t look happy.

“Hi Joy, how was your weekend?”

“It was okay — quiet. I’m so fuckin’ pissed off right now. I haven’t been able to get my check yet. It was supposed to be ready Friday, but my worker said that because I switched to the Salvation Army it was going to be delivered to a different office. I phoned this morning. They said, ‘Your check will be ready any time you want to come down and pick it up.’ ‘Great,’ I said. I used my last bus ticket to come down to the office. When I got there they said, ‘Come back at two o’clock.’ What a run around.”

Jenny stood up and tried to give Joy a hug. Joy said, “Jenny I’ve had a bad day and I’m not in the mood for a hug. I just want to be left alone for a while.”

Jenny said, “Joy, don’t be like that. I just want to be friendly.”

“Jenny, what did I just say? Now, sit down or I’ll knock you down.”

Danny said, “Joy, that’s no way to talk to your friends. Whether you’ve had a bad day or not, there’s no excuse for taking it out on the rest of us. I’ve talked to you about that before.”

“Danny, keep your mouth shut, before I come over there and smack you.”

“Come on over. I’ll smack you right back.”

Joy was quiet for a while, then she said to Minnie, “I’m sorry for talking to you like that. I had no right. I apologize.”

“It’s alright, Joy, I understand.”

“Danny, I apologize to you too.”

Minnie, walking with a cane, stopped and asked Doreen, “Aren’t you cold, with bare arms?”

Doreen said, “Since the accident, I’ve lost all feeling of heat or cold, in my arms and legs. If I wear too many clothes I get itchy all over.” (major spinothalamic or spinal cord injury)

“Let me give you a hug,” said Minnie.

Doreen stood up and they hugged. Jenny said, “Can I have a hug too, Skinny Minnie?”

Minnie hugged her and said, “Jenny, you’re skinnier than I am.”

It was nearly time for me to go. I walked over to Jacques to shake his hand. He said, “You know, I woke up in the middle of the night with such a sore throat. Then I had to go to the bathroom. An hour later I had to go again. It was back and forth, back and forth, all night long. You better not get too close to me.”

I said good-bye to Joy, she said, “Do you have to go already?”

“Yes, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not in the morning. I have a meeting with my P.O. (Probation Officer), but I’ll see you here at noon.”

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group3

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28 September 2012

When I arrived at the park I noticed that there were a bunch of separate groups. Danny and Shakes were sitting together, Joy and Chester were together. Andre, Rodent, and Bear were together. In the back was Shark, Outcast, Anne, Wolf and Shaggy. If Bearded Bruce had been there he would have said, Everyone must have got up this morning with a gut full of grumpy juice.

I could see that Joy was upset, “I’m so pissed off. I’m drunk too. My check hasn’t arrived yet. I phoned Jan, my worker, she said that because information arrived after September 16 some checks would be delayed until Monday.’ I said to her, ‘Look, I owe one guy $200. I owe another guy $250. What am I supposed to do?’ She asked, ‘How did you get so far in debt?’ I said ‘I’m an alcoholic and a pothead. What do you expect?’ Right now I’m kind of in hiding. I guess I will be all weekend.

“Chester is supposed to buy groceries, but I know that isn’t going to happen. He ate this morning, so I won’t be eating. He was drunk for two days. He’s sober today and drank about a dozen cups of coffee. He’ll probably be awake all night.

“Outcast is picking on me because I had some of the guys over.”

“He picks on a lot of people,” I said.

“He thinks that he’s so superior. I’d like to walk over there and punch that smug grin right off his face. Of course, then he would go over the railing backwards. He’d probably break his neck, or his back, and die; or he’d be severely fucked up. He had the nerve to ask me, ‘I suppose that means you’re not coming over to my (Debbie’s) place?’ I’m never having anything to do with him again.

”I think, right now, I’d just like to be alone for a while.”

I walked across the sidewalk and sat beside Andre, Jake and Rodent. “How did you sleep last night, Andre?”

“I was cold. I passed out across the street for a while, then I went downtown. Some guy was mouthing off to me so we got into it. He kept poking me in the mouth. When I didn’t get up, he went away. After that I went back to the hut. These other guys have been at it since this morning. I just woke up.”

I noticed that he was drinking a Smirnoff vodka cooler. “You’ve changed brands, haven’t you, Andre?”

“These were given to me.”

He rolled one across the sidewalk to Hippo, who said, “Thanks, man.”

Jake said, “I think that I lost the master-key to my apartment. I don’t know how that happened. Sometimes I black out. I guess I’ll have to have the super buzz me in.”

Andre said, “They’re probably going to charge you for a lost key, especially one of those electronic ones.”

Danny said, “Joy just gave me the finger. She shouldn’t treat us like that. We’re family. You don’t give the finger to family. I haven’t done anything to her.”

Shakes said, “Just leave it, man.”

Joy asked, “Has anybody gone for a run yet?”

Andre said, “As soon as I finish this, I’ll go. It seems odd, me being the soberest one here.”

I asked Hippo, “How is it going with your place?”

“I’m all moved in.”

“Do you have a bachelor apartment?”

“No, I’ve got a one bedroom, with kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. It has hardwood floors.”

“Do you have any furniture?”

“I got a few bits of stuff, the rest I’ll have to wait for.”

Rodent went back to talk to the other group. As he was coming back he said, “Wolf, if you ever talk to me like that again, I’m going to punch your face in.”

Joy said, “Rodent, I’d really like to see that. I’ve never seen you go against anybody in my life.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, Rodent, that’s so. Go ahead, prove me wrong!”

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shelter

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27 September 2012

Five of my friends sat on the curb, near the park today.

Outcast said, “Dennis, before you sit down, here’s a copy of the Metro to keep your cheeks dry.”

“Thanks, Outcast.

“How’s everything going, Hippo?”

“Great, I get the keys to my new apartment tomorrow.”

“Where will it be?”

“Vanier, on some street starting with ‘L’, a French name. It’s really nice.”

Outcast asked, “That’s in one of those projects, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Where did you sleep last night, Hippo?” I asked.

“We all slept behind Starbucks, the old place.”

“Were Bruce and Weasel there?”

“Yeah, and Bear. I slept next to the dumpster, nearly underneath it. I was the windbreak.”

Andre said, “You should have seen it, Dennis. Bear’s nose was about an inch from Hippo’s.”

To Hippo, he said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t make any sudden movements in your sleep. You could have lost part of your face. I don’t know how you could have put up with Bear’s breath, or how he could have put up with yours.”

“Bear and I are good,” said Hippo.

“Don’t get too friendly,” laughed Andre.

A female police officer, followed by a male, rode up the sidewalk.”

“Hello gentlemen, does anyone have any open liquor.” Outcast had kicked his can over the railing. She noticed an open can of beer between Hippo and Andre. “Who does that belong to? Is that your’s Hippo?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He held up the can.

“If I dump it, do I still get a ticket?”

“If I don’t see anything, you don’t get a ticket” Andre put his cap in front of the can and took a swig.

Hippo said, “This is my last beer. I’ll take the ticket.”

The ticket was written and handed to Hippo. He took it, folded it and handed it to Jacques. “Another one for your wall, Jacques.”

Andre said to the police officer, “You guys know that we don’t pay these things. Does that bother you at all?”

The officer said, “We do our job, the courts do their job. We’ll be back in fifteen.”

After she left Andre said, “She’s my cousin.”

Outcast said, “That’s the second beer I’ve kicked over the rail today.”

Andre said, “I’m just glad they haven’t changed the law, so we’d have to do jail time for unpaid tickets. I know I’m over $8,000.”

Shakes said, “I’m over $10,000.”

Outcast said, “It would be ridiculous to have us do jail time. It costs over $70,000 a year to keep a man in jail. We’ve got no assets, no houses, no cars, no jobs. There’s nothing they can take from us.”

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26 September 2012

Ottawa Citizen

Acclaimed Inuit artist comes to terms with her greatest work.

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook has given birth to a baby girl, a month before she was due, at a Lowertown shelter.The premature child, named Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt, was born about 4 a.m. Friday in a washroom of the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street. Pootoogook says she was in the washroom, experiencing labour pains. Suddenly, her water broke and out came the baby.

Pootoogook’s cries were heard by staff and others staying in the shelter, who rushed to help. They had her lie on blankets on the floor until an ambulance arrived to take the mother and baby to the Montfort Hospital.

William Watt, the baby’s father and Pootoogook’s boyfriend, says Napachie is only 1.64 kilograms (three pounds, 10 ounces) and is in an incubator at the Montfort, where she is expected to remain for a month.

“But) she’s doing fine,” says Watt. “Her motor skills are fine. She’s a perfectly healthy baby. She’s just tiny.”

Pootoogook says she “feels good. I could go dancing.” Watt says his girlfriend doesn’t look any worse for wear. “She was in labour only five minutes.”

Pootoogook says she was released from hospital at 4 p.m. Friday, had dinner at a native drop-in centre on Rideau Street, and then stayed the rest of the weekend with friends, until she was reunited Monday with Watt. He had spent four nights in jail. That’s why Pootoogook went to the shelter late last week, he says, as “she didn’t want to be alone” because of her pregnancy. Coincidentally, Watt was in jail last January for theft when Pootoogook found out she was expecting.

Tuesday afternoon, Pootoogook was back on Rideau Street where the artist has been seen drawing during the past three months. The parents visited Napachie earlier in the day. It was the first time Watt had set eyes on his daughter.

“I’ll be (at the hospital) every day,” says Watt. “I heard on the Oprah show that you have to hold them, nurture them and show you love them.”

Pootoogook, 43, and Watt, 49, have a meeting with her social worker today. They think the possibility of giving up the baby to the Children’s Aid Society for adoption will be raised.

“The CAS is involved,” says Watt, who is optimistic they’ll be able to keep Napachie because “I’m a good fighter.”

CAS involvement was expected after the couple detailed months and months of homelessness as well as drug and alcohol abuse in a Public Citizen story in July. But the couple claimed they were cleaning up their lives for the baby’s arrival, and, at that point, had not had any drugs or alcohol for six weeks. They were also looking for a home.

The couple spent most of the summer sleeping outdoors in Lowertown and eating at shelters. A social agency recently found the couple a one-bedroom apartment near Bank and Walkley streets, where they moved on Sept. 15.

Watt is paying for the unit with income he receives from the Ontario Disability Support Program. Watt says rent and hydro will take most of his monthly cheque, so the couple will have to depend on food banks and shelter kitchens until they can get into a subsidized unit.

“It’s very nice,” Watt says of their new digs. “It’s an upper-class building.”

Pootoogook is considered one of Canada’s most pre-eminent Inuit artists and began her career in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island. She was discovered about 10 years ago by a Toronto art gallery that began buying her work through the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset.

Pootoogook’s work, often depicting disturbing and chilling scenes of Inuit life, has been exhibited in major shows in Europe and the U.S. She was given glowing reviews by various American papers, including The New York Times, and honoured with the $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2006. Her earlier drawings, done with coloured pencils, sell for as much as $2,600 at Feheley Fine Arts, the art gallery that help her raise her profile as an artist. Limited edition prints go for as much as a $1,000.

But Pootoogook, who has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs — disappeared from view for the past few years. She has lived in Ottawa since 2007, with a variety of acquaintances and at homeless shelters. She started drawing again this summer, while awaiting the baby.

Passersby on Rideau had been paying her $25 to $30 per drawing when the Citizen caught up to her in July. The money paid for her cigarettes. She says she now receives upward to $300 per piece and was trying to sell a drawing Tuesday for $260. Many people just stop to say hello. Some give them a few dollars to help them by.

The couple say they do not expect to hang around downtown as they used to, mostly because they now have their own place and then a baby to look after once she’s released from hospital. But Watt says sleeping outside over the summer didn’t bother them.

“I know it sounds sad, but we slept good. In retrospect, it was nothing because I was with the love of my life.”

Accommodation was offered to the couple by Citizen readers. However, they turned down the offers.

They say their apartment is sparsely furnished. They have been sleeping on a couch left behind by the previous tenant. Watt says they expect to be getting a bed as early as today, and then they can start worrying about furnishings for Napachie.

Says Watt about his daughter’s birth: “It’s a happy ending to the story

This afternoon at the park, I sat with Andre, Shakes and Little Jake.

“Hi, Jake, how is everything at your new apartment.”

“Fine, but I still don’t have any furniture, just an air conditioner still in its box; that’s what I sit on.”

“When will they be getting your furniture?”

“Around the first of November, that’s what my worker said.”

“So, you’ll be without any furniture for over a month?”

“That’s the way the system works. Yesterday, my worker — you’ve met her before — took me to the doctor. I’ve been having raging migraines, ringing in my ear, pain in my sinuses and behind my eyes. When I try to roll a cigarette, I notice that the skin on my fingers is very dry. I think I’m a bit dehydrated. The doctor had me close my eyes, stand with my feet together, with my arms straight out at my sides. I nearly fell over. He’s going to send me for a CAT scan to see what’s going on in my head — I hope it’s not a tumor.”

“Did the doctor suggest to you that it might be a tumor?”

“No, he wants to see some pictures first, before he tells me what’s wrong. Yesterday morning I took a Seroquel. It was a drop. This guy said to me, I’m sorry, I don’t have any money, but here are three Valium and two Seroquel. Joy and I shared the Valium, I took the second Seroquel before lying down for the night. That knocked me right out.”

“I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about having a tumor. There may be a lot of reasons for balance problems. Perhaps, you have an ear infection. It may be something simple that can be treated with antibiotics.

“Shakes,” I asked, “Did you find your bag?”

“No.”

“What did you have in it?”

“My clothes, my bottle, my cigarettes, my weed, my house — everything.”

“How are you doing, Andre?”

“This is kind of an off day for me. I was drinking last night, then at 3:00 am I was wide awake. I drank a couple more bottles and slept until 5:00. I came down here and haven’t moved more than six feet since. See that sweater on the curb? That’s mine. It’s there in case anybody wants to sit down. That’s where I started this morning. I’ve been watching and thinking about people. I try to figure out where they’re coming from, what their motives are.

“Joy said to me yesterday, ‘if you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. So, you shouldn’t point at people.’ By the way, do you know where Joy is today?”

“She had an appointment with her worker. They were going to take the bus to the Elizabeth Fry Society for Joy’s anger management course.”

A woman walked by. Emile said, “Hi darlin’, blue really works well on you, it brings out the color of your eyes.”

“Andre,” I said, “her eyes were brown.”

“Doesn’t matter. This is what I do all day long. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

A soldier in uniform passed by. Andre said, “Thank you sir, for protecting our country.” The soldier waved.

To me, Andre said, “I really mean that. I have a lot of respect for the military.”

Lucy passed in her motorized wheelchair and waved. We all waved. Andre said, “Hi, sister, take care.”

Shakes reached for Emile’s insulated travel mug. “No you don’t,” said Andre. He threw Shakes an unopened bottle of sherry. A few minutes later he asked, “Did you honor it, before you took a drink?” (Honoring means to fill the cap of the bottle with liquor and to throw it over one’s shoulder.)”

“Yes, I did”

“Good, ” said Andre. “I don’t know where I slept last night, but I have green stuff all over my pants. I’ve been picking it off all morning.”

I asked, “Did you sleep outside?”

“Yes.”

Jake said, “I’m going home now.”

I asked, What are you going to do, Jake, watch your air conditioner?”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Andre said, “I’m just sort of floating right now. Everything is mellow. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what I’m going to do for the rest of the day.

“Shakes, I’m going to take you someplace where we can get something to eat.”

“That sounds good.”

“Eating is good,” I said.

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with Andre and Shakes.

“See you, brother,” they said. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you, brothers.”

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