Six Up! – 27 June 2013

ottawacops

27 June 2013

The park was nearly deserted, strange since the weather was perfect. Little Jake, Wolf and his dog Shaggy were the only ones there. There was an empty plastic box, so I pulled it over and was about to sit down. Jake handed me his jacket to sit on.

“Thanks, Jake.”

“You’re welcome. Do you want to know why nobody’s here. Because our crew is a   bunch of assholes. That’s why. Do you know what I did yesterday when I got my check. First I paid all my bills, then I lent the rest of my money to friends. Do you see anybody here to pay me back?  No! I did it just to see what would happen. Now I know.

“I gave Jacques two hundred dollars. I saw him this morning and he gave me back fifty. He said he’d give me the rest back Monday. ‘Monday!’ I said, ‘how am I going to get through the weekend with only fifty bucks?’ ”

Wolf said, “Jake, he was doing you a favor, You know he’s good for the money.  You got two bottles, you got cards to get meals, you got your pot. What else do you need?

“I was panning at my spot at O’Connor and Laurier — Animal’s old spot; you wouldn’t believe how people were rushing around. One woman ran across a red light, nearly got hit by a car, just to get to a cubicle in some government building, where she’s probably worked for twenty years. She risks her life just so she won’t be three minutes late? Maybe her boss is a real asshole. How would I know? It just seems so ridiculous, cars are edging through red lights and where’s it going to get them? To the next block so they can do it all over again.

“I worked for twenty years, but that was construction. We’d work one place for a couple of months, then we’d move somewhere else. There’d be no work in the winter, so it’d be pogey until late Spring. It wasn’t so bad. We sure didn’t rush like I saw this morning. Crazy!”

I asked Jake, “How did the cooking go at Bruce’s place?  When I talked to you yesterday you were discussing recipes.”

“Yeah, well, Inuk was over there. At around midnight Bruce and her were going at it, so I said, ‘I can see that you two want to be alone, so I’m outta here. He lives out in Britannia, I’ve been walking nearly twenty-four hours.”

I asked, “Did you walk straight here, or did you get lost?”

“Oh man, I got lost three times. I zig zagged all over the place, up one street, down another. I started out going the wrong way. I’d walked nearly out to Scotiabank Place. Hell, I’d walked half way home to Deep River. I asked a bus driver how to get to Merivale Road. He said, ‘Fuck man, you’re going the wrong way. You’ve got a lot of walking to do.” It was the last bus, so I couldn’t even get a ride. ”

“So, after you got your directions straight you walked directly here?”

“I think so. No, I went to my place and had a cup of tea, then I walked down here.

“See my ear? Danny did that to me. I was at Matches place. Danny seems to be taking over. He has everything tidy. He’s running Matches’ life! Anyway, I was talking to Matches, Danny was going on about something, so I told him to fuck off. Next thing I know he’s punched me right in the ear. It’s still bleeding. I can take a punch to the jaw, but to the ear? That’s just wrong. Anyway, I told Bruce about it. He’s going to take care of Danny.”

Wolf said, “I’ve known Danny a long time. I’ve never heard about him acting like that.”

Jake said, “I even apologized, but you know the way I get. I can be a bit of an asshole sometimes.”

I said, “We know Jake, you’re an asshole right now.”

“Dennis, fuck off! I think that’s the first time I’ve told you to fuck off.”

“I’m sure it won’t be the last time, Jake. You mentioned Deep River. Do you plan to go home anytime soon?”

“My mother said I couldn’t come home until I got a haircut. Well, I got a haircut, so there’s no excuse there. It’s only fifty-five bucks, but I think I’ll hitch hike, just because of the freedom. I’ll meet people. Maybe I’ll get dropped off at Arnprior and have to get another ride there. Who knows?

“I went to the food bank this morning and picked up a few things. Because I’ve got AIDS I get to go to the Living Room. I can go once every two weeks. They give me really good food there, bags of it. Problem is I can’t carry very much. When Shark goes there He brings a friend with a truck. They gave me a choice six eggs or a half pound of hamburger. I took the hamburger. They said if I wanted I could have a can of beef stew instead of the hamburger. What would you have taken? …The hamburger, of course. I love hamburgers.”

Wolf said, “It’ll be cold cuts for me. Tony came by this morning and gave me some bologna, sliced chicken and turkey, potatoes, broccoli and a red pepper. He’s really good to me — comes by once a week.

“Six up, behind you.” Jake hid his open bottle of sherry between his legs. Two uniformed police officers rode up on bicycles. One asked, “What are you guys up to?”

I said, “We’re just chatting, enjoying the nice weather.”

One walked over to Wolf, “Is that can empty?”

Wolf said, “It could be. I could dump it.”

“Can I see some identification?”

“Yes, officer, you sure can.” Wolf handed him his health card.” The officer wrote a liquor violation ticket and handed it to Wolf. He then picked up the open can and turned it over.

“What you got in that bottle, I assume it’s apple juice?” Wolf didn’t say anything.

The officer said to his partner. “You can write-up Jake for the bottle between his legs. How much is in there, Jake?”

He held up the bottle of sherry. “Fuck,” he said, “you’re not going to make me dump this whole bottle are you? Shit!”

Wolf said, “Jake, the officers are just doing their job, so be nice.”

The officer said “One swallow, Jake, then dump the rest.” Jake tipped the bottle and began to chugalug.

“So, it’s going to be that kind of swallow is it?”

Jake started coughing, then threw the bottle over the railing. “That was my last bottle and I’ve got no money!”

The officer said, “If you hadn’t thrown the bottle away, you could have cashed it in for twenty cents.”

Wolf said, “He’s right Jake.”

The officer said, “We see you’ve got another bottle in your bag. We’ll let you keep that. Just try to be a little more discreet, Jake. Have a good day.”

They left. Wolf said, “It could have been worse. I’ve still got beer in my bottle, you’ve got a bottle and some pot in your bag.”

Jake said, “I’m going down to get that bottle I threw. I bet there’s still some left in it.”

Lullaby Town – 26 June 2013

Cover of "Lullaby Town : An Elvis Cole No...
Cover of Lullaby Town : An Elvis Cole Novel

I sat next to Magdalene,  she seemed upset. “Hi Dennis, will you talk to me? Nobody else wants to talk to me. I’ll tell you the truth, I fight people, men, women, it doesn’t matter. I want to talk with my mother. I dream about her every night. I think she still loves me, but I’ve done bad things.”

“Your mother isn’t alive is she?”

“No, she died when I was five years old. She was a strong woman. I saw her fight three men one time.”

“What was the cause of her death?”

“Drinking. Her liver quit working. When I was in hospital, and they cut me open, they said my liver was falling away in pieces.” She pulled some grass and sprinkled it. “Just like that.”

“I’m sure your mother still loves you and is very proud of you. She’s looking down on you right now. There’s no such thing as good or bad. It’s a matter of choices and consequences. You may have made choices in your past that you now regret, but the  past is over, it’s gone;  nothing can be done about it.  It doesn’t define who you are now. It’s only what you do next that is important. You have lots of choices and I know you’ll make the best of them. You’ll do what’s best for you. Only you know what that is.” (When not panning for change, Magdalene has worked as a prostitute.)

“Do you think so? I was talking on the phone to my aunt. I told her about everything that’s happened to me. She asked me to come home. She said, ‘Give me one good reason why you can’t come home right now.’ I said, ‘Because I’m drunk.’ She said, ‘At least you’re honest.’ I only drink, I don’t do drugs and I’m not crazy.”

I asked, “Will you be able to go home soon?”

“On Friday I get my check. I’ll go home then. Do you have a phone so I can call my aunt? Mariah let me use hers, but just for a minute.”

“I’m sorry, Magdalene, I don’t have a phone.”

“That’s okay. Sometimes, I just want to go away someplace and be alone.”

“Being alone is okay. I enjoy being alone.”

“No, it’s not okay. Sometimes I want to kill myself. See these scars on my neck. Three times I tried to cut my throat.”

“I can understand you feeling that way. I’ve felt that way before, but think of all the people who love you, your friends, your family. They would miss you terribly.”

“My friends are all drunk.”

I had two books for Wolf.  One was Lullaby Town by Robert Crais.  The other was The Chamber by John Grisham.  “Thanks, Dennis, I’ve read a lot of John Grisham books, but I haven’t read this one. Robert Crais, I haven’t heard of him, but it looks good.”

Bearded Bruce was sitting on the other side of me. “Robert Crais is good. You’ll like that. When you’ve finished it I can give you some more by him. Nancy brought me a book today, Whirlwind. It’s the third in a series by James Clavell. I’ve read nearly all of his books. When I get on to an author I want to read everything they’ve written. I’ve read Shogun,  King Rat, Noble House, Tai-Pan. He’s great.

“I’ve read those too.” I said, “great books.”

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “Did I tell you about my adventure this morning. Of course I didn’t you just got here. The tire on Shaggy’s cart went flat. You can see why it went flat, there is no tread on the tire. Anyway, I was talking to Abigail, and she suggested that I go to Foster’s Sports, on Somerset and Bank, and ask for Darsh. Those are two funny names, aren’t they; Abigail and Darsh? She said to mention her name to Darsh and he would charge it to her account. That’s a nice gesture isn’t it? It took me about half an hour to walk there and I asked, ‘Is there a Darsh who works here?’ The owner said, ‘There is, but it’s his day off today. Can someone else help you?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ I had to get the tire fixed. Shaggy can’t walk all the way home by herself since she was hit by the car. I asked, ‘How much?’ He said, ‘Seven dollars for the tire, eight dollars for the labor.’ What do you think of that? Anyway, I didn’t mind paying fifteen or eighteen dollars — whatever it was. I had a twenty. Shaggy is all I got. I don’t mind spending money on her.  So, until next time, the tire’s as good as new. That was my adventure for today.”

Bruce asked, “What do you think of this weather?”

“It’s great,” I said, “nice and warm, no rain in sight.”

“It’s no good for panning. I do better when it’s thirty below. The best I can do now is twenty or thirty bucks and that’s doing three shifts, about eleven hours a day. In winter I can make that much in three hours.

“I got a recipe book from the liquor store. They have great recipes for marinades, sauces.”

Little Jake said, “It’s amazing what you can do with mayonnaise,  even in a microwave or a toaster oven.”

Bruce asked, “Can you spare two bus tickets? Jake  is coming home with me tonight. We’re going to do some cooking.”

“Sure Bruce, no problem. Do you do any barbecuing?”

“Yes, I barbecue, but I’m not allowed to have one at my apartment. My landlord just died.”

“Does that mean that nobody can prevent you from having a barbecue?”

“I don’t know who will be taking over. He was a great guy. He’s the reason I was able to get such a nice place. He knows I’m a bum that panhandles for a living, but he took a chance on me. I really appreciated that. One time he gave me a huge television set. It was twelve years old, but it worked fine. All I had to do was carry one end and we brought it to my place.

“I don’t know what he died of. He was only forty-seven years old. Maybe it was the drinking, I don’t know. Maybe he took his own life.”

“Did he have a wife, kids, any other family?”

“No, he lived all by himself.”

I had to go back to work. I stopped for a moment to talk to Mariah. “How is Joy doing? Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s okay. She was here earlier, but left because of this one,” pointing down at Magdalene. Also she wanted to see Big Jake.”

I said, “I hope everything works out. You take care of her, Mariah.”

“Oh, I will. I’ll keep checking on her.”

On my way down the sidewalk I saw Warren who I haven’t seen for about a year. “Hi Warren, how are you? Do you remember me? We’ve spoken a few times where the benches used to be. It was about a year ago.”

“Sorry man, I don’t remember. What’s your name?”

“Dennis.”

“Take care, Warren. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, man.”

Magdalene – 25 June 2013

onbox

25 June 2013

A storm was on its way. Dark clouds were moving in. The air was heavy with humidity. The sun had disappeared from sight. I sat between Matches and Magdalene who said, “Everybody thinks that Matches is my father, but he’s not my father. My father is in prison for fifteen years, for rape and murder.”

“I don’t like that,” said Matches, “rape and murder?”

I asked, “Has your father ever assaulted you?”

“No, my grandfather stopped him. I was raised by my grandparents.  It happened when I was five years old. My father was drunk. He came into my bedroom and had his hand on my thigh. My grandfather came in and threw him down the stairs before he could do anything. It was a shock to me,  a trauma.

“My grandfather has always protected me. He wants me to call him every week, but I don’t have any more time on my calling card.

“Do you know why I was born?   One time my mom came home, opened the door and my father was fucking another woman.  My mother jumped on her and punched her, then beat my father. Then she got a knife from the kitchen and she cut him from his right side up to his neck. He was just sitting there holding himself together.” She was going to kick him out, but he said, ‘I want to have a child with you. If you do that for me I won’t report you to the cops. ‘ So she let him stay. Nine months later I was born.  She died giving birth to me. That is a reason why I’m here.  That’s why I fight with men so much.

“I just got out of jail for beating up my husband. I was in there two weeks. I didn’t eat anything. I felt too sick. I just drank water and they kept feeding me pills.

“This morning I beat up three men. Alphonse just ran away. I just kept punching and punching them. See my knuckles, and the blood on my hands and shirt. When I catch Alphonse, I’m going to beat him for running away.

The three of us moved up the lawn to where Jacques, Gaston Chili, Little Frank and Loretta were sitting. Joy had brought her box to sit on.

I asked Loretta, “How is your recovery coming along?”

“It’s been five months now, but today is hard. I was helping my boyfriend with roofing, we had an argument and were shouting at each other. I just had to get away. He gave me ten dollars, I bought some cigarettes and two cans of pop, but I really wanted something stronger. I still do. I’m an inch away from taking a drink.

Jacques overheard part of the conversation, he asked, “Do you want a drink? I have some here… You don’t drink any more? I didn’t know… Five months? I should quit drinking.”

Loretta continued, “I finished my fifty hours of community service today. I have to go to court in two months. The prosecutor wants me to get jail time. My lawyer said that if I do extra community service it will look good when I go to court. Actually, I have fifty hours to do from two years ago. We figured that if I work one day a week, by the time of my court date, I will have it completed. If I don’t go to jail, I hope to go to secretarial school. Thanks for talking to me. I feel better now.

Joy said to Gaston, “You look hot in those long pants. You should have worn shorts today.”

“I’m going to work later. If I was to wear shorts to where I work, I’d be raped.”

Loretta reached in her bag and pulled out a bandanna that she gave to Joy. “Cool, this is great. I’ll wear it tomorrow. People must be getting tired of me wearing this same old one all the time.”

Chili said, “I know the store where they sell those. It’s on Rideau. Often they have racks of stuff out on the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “I know that place. I’ve snagged a skirt from there.”

Chili continued, ‘If you wear baggy pants like these you can get a bunch of stuff. I’m going to get two yellow scarves and one red one. I’ll sew them together like a flag. Brazil is my favorite soccer team. It’ll be like the Brazilian flag.”

Chester – 25 June 2013

Panhandler
Panhandler (Photo credit: jon.guillen)

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

“Hi Chester, have you finished your run?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humans – 24 June 2013

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24 June 2013

I wasn’t expecting to see Joy this morning,  she’s told me previously, ‘I don’t do Mondays,’ but there she was.’I said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”

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

“How was your weekend.”

“It was quiet. I didn’t go out.”

“Did you see anybody?”

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

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

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

“What else did you say you got?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run With the Wolves – 21 June 2013

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

“How did it go with getting your furniture?”

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

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

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

I asked, “Who would dickhead be?”

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

“Has he apologized for beating you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What time is it now?”

“”Eight thirty.”

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

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

“Was she arrested?”

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

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

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

“Maryjane just got out of jail.”

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

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

I pulled out another book, Mob Rule, that I intended to give to Wolf. Matches looked at it and asked, ‘Are you going to give this to Wolf?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘I like to read too, you know, especially since I don’t have television.’ I said, ‘You take it then, Matches.’ Shortly after Wolf returned. He saw the book Matches was holding. ‘That looks interesting. Mind if I read that after you’re finished?’ ‘Sure,’ said Matches.

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

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

I said, “There are pictures, too.”

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

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

“It looks very nice. It suits you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, ” I said, “are you?”

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

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

“Which one?”

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Cause he wanted to shoot the guy.

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

I asked, “What were you in for?”

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

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

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

The Mammoth Hunters – 20 June 2013


The_Mammoth_Hunters_cover

20 June 2013

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

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

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

“I can’t go to the World Exchange, they won’t let me in. I have  to go to Rideau. Is there anything else you want?”

“No, just beer.

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

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

“Did they let you go?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Yeah, it’s 12:20.”

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

“No, sorry.”

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

“12:20”

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

“The twentieth, summer starts tomorrow.”

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

“Thursday.”

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

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

“So how are you doing today?”

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

“Did you ever get your furniture?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I asked, “Would I know him?”

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