You Never Know

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wheel

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27 June 2014

A young native boy was sitting in Joy’s spot panning for change. I smiled and him and said hello, he smiled and nodded. I approached Chuck and he said, “Did you notice that little kid down there? From here I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.”

I said, “It’s a boy about eleven years old. “

Chuck said, “I’ve got a good mind to go over there and slap the shit out of him and tell him to go home. I wonder if his parents know where he is. If he hangs around downtown, I’ll bet money that he’ll be dead within the month. Some pedophile will get hold of him, or bigger kids will rob and  beat him. He doesn’t know how much danger he’s in.

“There used to be a pretty little girl around here, got around in a wheel chair. She was a bit sassy. but friendly and smiling all the same. She’d always say hello to me. They found her in the river. Someone had thrown her off the bridge, wheelchair and all, while she was still strapped in. I never heard if anyone was charged.

“I still feel stupid about yesterday, missing my cleaning lady. I haven’t phoned her yet. Maybe I’ll do that later today or tomorrow. I don’t know — I’ll see how I feel.”

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

“I’m supposed to go to a wedding if I can get a ride. My grand-nephew is getting married. I’ve only met him once and that was at my mother’s funeral four and a half years ago. My son wont drive me. He’s got this thing about going to bed at five o’clock every night. He follows that schedule religiously. My sister had a birthday party last year. It was only a couple of blocks from where he lived. The party was at four o’clock. He wouldn’t go.

“I can probably get the wheelchair taxi service to take me to the bus depot. Unfortunately,  where I want to go is just beyond the boundary where they have the rate hike. I’ll have to stay overnight in a hotel. That’ll be seventy dollars, or so. It would be nice to see my nieces, I haven’t seen them since the funeral, but it’s going to cost me about two hundred dollars. I don’t know what I’ll do.

“I remember back when I was still drinking. I’d tried to stop many times, but I entered a twelve step program run by the Salvation Army. Sister Magdalene was in charge. I’d been in the program about a month, when I was invited to a wedding out-of-town. I asked Sister if it would be okay. She approved it. I knew it would be a challenge to stay sober when everyone else was drinking, but I figured I could handle it. I got through the wedding. My wife and I stayed overnight at a hotel. When we got back into town we only had money for my wife to take the bus. She went home. I walked back to the program where I was staying.  It was about ninety degrees and I hadn’t slept well the night before. When Sister Magdalene saw me she said, ‘You’ve been drinking!’ I said, ‘I have not! ‘ She said ‘You have.’ I said, ‘I have not. That’s a damned lie!’ I went in and packed my bags. Before I left, I ordered a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey to be delivered to my house. I said to Sister, ‘The next time you see someone who is hot, tired and is not walking quite straight. Don’t accuse them of drinking, before you find out if they have. I don’t like being called a liar. Now fuck off.’ The first thing I did when I got home was to open a bottle of beer. That sure tasted good.

At noon I met Lucy and Hippo at the park. He said, “Hi Dennis, it’s good to see you. Today it’s just us and the duck.

“Does anyone know what kind of duck that is?.. It’s a mallard… Do you know whether it’s a girl or a boy?.. It’s a girl.”

Wolf asked Hippo, “Did you turn it over to find out?”

I said, “The males have green heads.”

I shook hands with Jacques and Wolf, then sat down. Jacques was showing off his new drinking bottle. “See, when you push the top this way it’s open. When you push it the other way it’s closed. I can tip it over and nothing comes out. Well, maybe a few drops. This, it’s made of good stainless steel.”

Wolf asked, “Are you sure it’s not bad stainless steel?”

Jacques gave him a disapproving look. He continued, “I’m trying to decide what to do on Tuesday, Canada day. They have fireworks, but I’m not so sure I want to be in the middle of a big crowd of people.”

Wolf asked, “What direction does your balcony face?”

“It’s on the wrong side, but still I’ll be able to see the planes fly across the sky. I think It’s better that I stay home with my beer and my pot, where I’m close to the bathroom.”

Wolf said, “Okay, this is a somber story. It’s why I never feel good about Canada Day. It was back when I lived on Bell Street. You remember that, Jacques?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Digger, Hobo and Tim were at my apartment. We’d planned to go downtown, panhandle on the sidewalks, then watch the fireworks. Tim wasn’t feeling so good, so he stayed behind. We left, collected enough for a couple of bottles, got drunk, wandered around for a while, then came back to my place. When we walked in Tim was dead. Now, those other two guys are dead.

“It was the same with Weasel. He’d been staying at my place, I came back with a few friends and we found him, lying there dead, his tongue hanging out. I’m glad I had those other guys there. I just broke down and cried. Someone phoned the cops. They took us all in for questioning. We were there for a few hours then they let us go.

“We haven’t seen Shakes for three or four days. I hope he’s alright. You just never know.

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Get Out!

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wheel

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26 June 2014

“Hi Chuck, how are you?”

“I’ve been better, I’ve been worse. I did something stupid yesterday and I’m kicking myself for it now. After I left here yesterday I went to the mall to pick up some prescriptions. Then I decided to have something to eat, so I ordered a couple of slices of pizza. Then I though I’d run a few errands. By the time I got home it was after four. It was then I remembered that this is the day my cleaning lady was coming over. She even phoned last night to remind me, but it went right out of my head. I feel bad, because she has to come quite a distance to get to my place. If she was working through Social Services, she’s get paid for the trip whether I was there or not. Our mayor, in his infinite wisdom decided to privatize a lot of these agencies and give them to some of his cronies, for a generous kick-back of course.

“I have her phone number at home, so I’ll call to apologize. I feel like such a fool. I guess I can blame it on old age.”

I said, “A lot of people have been asking me about Joy. I thought she would be in her spot today. Chester talked to her on the phone yesterday, she said that her arms were sore. I know that her and Big Jake haven’t been getting along so well. She complained that he came over for supper then left immediately. He was talking a mile a minute — that’s not Jake. She was not impressed. I hope that nothing has happened to her. When Jake gets drunk he gets violent.”

“I know, I can’t understand some of these women. If someone is abusing them, the first thing they should do is call the cops.  How many do that?”

Sharon, Chuck’s ex daughter-in-law waved from across the street. We both waved back. Chuck said, “She’s in the same boat. Her new boyfriend is a lazy layabout, without a job, who does nothing around the house. I told her to phone the cops. She said, ‘I don’t want to do that. I’ve written him a letter stating my grievances.’ I said, ‘A letter’s no good, phone the cops. They’ll issue a restraining order so he can’t harass you with phone calls or in any way. If he wants to come over to pick up his things, an appointment will be arranged and he’ll be escorted by the cops. It’s that simple.

“When one of my sons turned eighteen, he was getting mouthy towards me. Wanted everything his own way. I said to him, “It’s time for you to get out of my house. If you don’t I’ll kill you!”

I said, “I think that got your point across, Chuck. I’m going to have to go, so I’ll see you tomorrow. Take care.”

“I’ll see you, Dennis.”

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Party

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man2

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25 June 2014

I was on the bus, coming home from the gym, engrossed in a book when I felt a tap on my shoulder. There stood a smiling Little Jake. “Hi, Dennis, we’ve been at Sharks partying all afternoon.”

There was a vacant seat for two nearby so I suggested we move there. “Hi, Jake, it’s good to see you. So who was at the party?”

“All the guys from this afternoon and, of  course, Shark and Irene. I’d been talking to my mother on Shark’s phone, eighteen minutes, he timed me. Anyway, she said she’d send me sixty bucks.”

I said, “That’s great to have a mother that loves you and cares about you.”

“Well, actually, I suggested that I come home for a visit. She said, ‘How be I send you sixty dollars instead. I’ll have your uncle Dave bring it to you.’ Uncle Dave spent ten dollars, on the way, so that left me with fifty. So, in fact, my mother was paying me not to come home. It doesn’t matter, I had fifty bucks. I could have been a hoarder, but that’s not me, so the party was on me, or, I should say, my mother. Thanks, mom.

“We just kept passing the bottle. Shark offered me some fried chicken, but I’m a true drunk, I don’t eat until I’ve finished drinking.  I finally had to call it quits or I never would have made it home. He packed it for me and I’ll have it when I get home.

I said, “I heard that Shark and Irene are thinking of moving. Do you know any more about that?”

“Yeah, I heard the same thing. Shark didn’t talk about it, but I guess it’s true. Shark doesn’t lie. I don’t either — I can’t.” We passed a building with an ‘apartment for rent sign’. Jake said, “I’m going to check that out.”

I asked, “Are you planning to move?”

“Yeah, I have to be closer to downtown. Where I live is just too far out — you know that, were on the same bus, and you get off after I do.”

I said, “It is a long way.”

Jake said, “I got my check today. I always get it a few days before everybody else. When I get home I have to write down the names of all the people who I’ve borrowed money from.”

I said, “You mentioned at noon that you owed Wolf eight bucks.”

“That’s been taken care of. This has been a really great day. It keeps me from thinking of the really gory stuff. October 14, I hate that day. Be warned, if I’m acting crazy that day, there’s a reason for it. Now, don’t go putting this into your blog. The only other person I’ve told is Wolf.

“Why am I telling you this stuff?”

“It’s okay, Jake, you can tell me whatever you want, or don’t tell me whatever you want. It’s your choice. I’m not going to ask you any questions about it.”

“Well, for some reason I feel comfortable talking to you, and I have to talk to somebody.

“This is my stop. I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Jake.”

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Gone Fishing

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wheel

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25 June 2014

“Good morning Chuck. I see that Joy’s plastic crate is there, but she’s not in her spot.”

“No, she may have heard that rain showers have been forecasted, or maybe she’s suffering from a hangover. With her you never can tell.”

“She told me yesterday that she was upset with Big Jake, so maybe they had a fight. That would be enough reason to get drunk.”

Chuck said, “I was using her spot earlier. There was a crazy guy sitting with a paper cup. He made sense some of the time, at other times he talked gibberish. A cop spent ten minutes talking to him and writing a ticket. That’s just a wast of time. They’re complaining about too many crazy people in jail as it is. After the cop left the guy stayed where he was. I talked to him nicely and told him to move. There was no problem.

“Remember the story about Breezy, the Doberman whose ears were cut by its owner, to make the dog look more vicious. The owner was charged with animal cruelty and is serving two years plus a day. That means he would go to the penitentiary — two years less a day would put him in one of the local detention centers. Anyway, once the convicts got a hold of him they cut off both his ears with a pair of scissors. It served the guy right.

“Then there was the case of that guy on the Greyhound bus who cut a guy’s head off and ate parts of the body. He went to trial and was found not criminally responsible for the killing.  The attacker said  saying that he began hearing ‘the voice of God and that he wanted to save the people from an alien attack.’ After six years he was allowed out on day passes.

“You must remember Brian Smith, the CJOH sports broadcaster, who was killed 1995.  The gunman was a paranoid schizophrenic who had gone to CJOH because he believed the station was broadcasting messages in his head. Smith was the first broadcast personality that the shooter recognized coming out of the building. He was found not criminally responsible due to his mental condition. Six years later he was being given 72-hour release passes. I think it’s criminal that our government closed so many of the mental institutions. The crazies aren’t getting help, they’re either out on the street, or they attack someone and go to jail.

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A noon I sat with Wolf and Scruffy. Little Jake and Chester were also there. Curt rode up on his bicycle, “Hey, Dennis, I haven’t seen you for a while.”

I said, “I don’t think I’ve seen you since last summer. Your hair and beard are a lot longer now.”

Wolf said, “I was talking to Stella this morning. Did you know that Shark and Irene’s place was broken into. They were away at the time. They had deadbolts on the door, but someone just smashed it down. That’s one of the risks of selling dope. He’s been at it for about twenty years.

“Curt, you used to be in that business, didn’t you?”

“Not since 1991.”

I said, “I heard that Irene is really terrified. I think they’ve hired some bodyguards.  Neither Shark or Irene weigh more than a hundred pounds.”

Wolf said, “It’s a young man’s business. They’ll rob you for your stash of drugs, or the money they think you’ve hidden. They’ll even beat you up if you have no drugs or money. It’s a rough neighborhood — time to move. Irene is going to take a place by herself — she can’t take the stress. Shark will get a room somewhere.

“A couple of days ago somebody came into my place. I was out, but I’d lost my keys, so I left the door unlocked. They stole my margarine, ketchup, mustard, six eggs and a few hot dogs. It really makes me mad that someone in my building, probably someone I say hello to everyday, would do something like that. After a hard day I came home and was looking forward to cooking some supper, but they cleaned me out. I left a note inside the fridge saying, ‘fuck off you piece of shit, stay out of my apartment.’

I asked, “Have you had your keys replaced?”

“No, I’m saving that until check day.”

“How much does a new key cost?”

“Thirteen bucks. I’ve probably got that much on me, but not in the bank. I owe Jake eight dollars. He’ll let it slide, just like I would with him. He knows that I’m good for it.  With some people I know, like Outcast, I wouldn’t feel comfortable lending money. He’s too shifty. Jacques is still pissed off with him, so is Shark.

“Now, Jacques is avoiding us because of $1.50 for cigarettes. Go figure.”

Jake said, “Dennis, I saw this giant woodpecker. It was at least a foot high.”

Wolf said, “Monday you said it was four feet high.”

“Yeah, that was after three bottles of wine, still it was big.”

Wolf noticed an earthworm crawling in the grass. “Here’s some fishing bait for somebody. Did you know that Andre is living right across the hall from me? He’s been sober for months now and goes fishing every day.  I don’t think it’s good to eat as much fish as he does — all that mercury, raw sewage and whatever else is in that river.

Chester said, ‘I talked to Joy on the phone today. She asked, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘I’m just phoning to ask about your health. When I saw you last, you mentioned that your legs were sore.’ She said, “My legs are fine, now my arms are sore.’  She’s just as grumpy as ever.”

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Rain, Rain Go Away

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womanbox

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24 June 2014

Rain was falling lightly.  I opened my umbrella. I wasn’t expecting to see any of my friends, but from across the street I saw Joy, huddled in her coat. I jaywalked in front of traffic to talk to her. I held my umbrella over both of us.

“Don’t worry about me,” said Joy, “I’m soaked already, a few more drops wont make any difference.”

“How have you been feeling?” I asked. “Big Jake left a message with Wolf that you had sun stroke.”

“Yeah, I was feeling pretty sick. Now, my legs really hurt because of the dampness. I saw Chuck earlier. I don’t know where he is now. Oh, there he is, talking to that native guy on the corner. I guess he’s been cutting Chuck’s grass. The guy’s coming this way now.

“Did that grumpy guy chase you out of your spot?

“No,” he said, “it’s just too wet.”

After he left Joy said, “I don’t know where these guys are coming from. They’re not twinkies, coming from the suburbs for the summer.  He must be from out of town.  Here comes Chuck.”

“Hi Chuck,” I said. “Was that guy giving you any trouble?”

“No, I just asked him to move along. He did.”

Joy said to him, “I’m leaving shortly, so you can set up down there.” Chuck, with Goldie on his knee, motored back down the sidewalk.

I asked Joy, “How was the rest of your week?”

“I’m pissed off with Jake. He phoned me at three o’clock yesterday. He said, ‘I saw you down at the park at eleven.’ I said, ‘You saw me at eleven and you wait until three to call me. Whats with that?’

“He’s been hanging around with some junkie friend of his. Jake sells him his morphine pills. I don’t know what he gets from this friend. He was over yesterday hardwired on something, talking a mile a minute. That’s not Jake. Usually I have to pry words out of him.  He stayed for supper, then just left — no explanation, nothing. I’m not his personal cook. It pisses me off. I hope he doesn’t come down here this morning.

” I’m heading out now.  I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet at home. Maybe, depending on the weather, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye, Joy.”

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Tattoo

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wheel

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23 June 2014

“Good morning, Chuck, how was your weekend?”

“Oh, it was good and bad. I went to some of the festivities downtown. It was just a drunken brawl. There was a half-naked woman and two guys arguing. They were causing quite a commotion. The street was closed, so even the bars that don’t have patios had tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. My son works as a cleaner at one of those bars.  They were packed. He had a big  job the following day.

“I guess I never told you, but I have a tattoo on my left arm.I’ll show it to you in the summer when I have a short-sleeved shirt on. It’s just a simple ribbon with my girlfriends name on it. The way I got it was, there were some tattoo artists visiting from New York. These guys were rated some of the best in the world.  We went to an English style pub that had a dart league, so there were boards along the wall and you could get darts from whoever was behind the counter.  Anyway, we were all pretty drunk when someone suggested that we play darts. The idea was to diddle for the middle. The wager was a hundred bucks. It must have taken half an hour before someone hit the middle. My son won the hundred dollars. He said to one of the tattoo guys, ‘I’d like my dad to have a hundred-dollar tattoo.’  So that’s how that came about.

“It’s six years to the day that I had my heart operation. The same day that I quit cigarettes and alcohol. I still have a craving for cigarettes. I’d quit before for about five years, then one day I was in a bar, someone blew smoke in my face and all I wanted was a cigarette. I decided to stay in my apartment for a week, just so I wouldn’t be tempted. One morning I was walking to the mall, and there on the path was a pack of Players plain, that’s the brand I smoked.  They were still in their cellophane wrap. The temptation was too great. I ran to the convenience store, bought a lighter and I was smoking again.

“I don’t know what it was like with you, but when I was growing up my whole family smoked. That cigarette smell would be everywhere, in your clothes, in the car, pool halls and bars. It was hard to avoid. The only one who didn’t smoke was my mother.”

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