Repay Day




30 September 2014

I approached Chester, sitting precariously on a box. “Dennis, have you got a card?” His blue eyes looked distant. I wasn’t sure if he could see me. Later he asked, “Dennis, can you help me up?”

I asked, “Chester, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Debbie said, “Can some more people help here?” Chester was standing, but he was ready to fall on his side. We led him to the curb and helped him sit down. He immediately toppled over. Since the breeze was cool Wolf draped Shaggy’s blanket over him.

André rode up on a bicycle. He announced, “I’m too drunk to walk, so I decided to ride. I’m not doing so good. All morning people have been coming to my place bringing booze.”

Little Jake said, “Babysitting, first Chester, now André. I hate babysitting. Mind you, I’m drunk too. I’ve been feeling good lately, that’s why I decided to splurge, but my money is dwindling low.

“I’ve been drinking a lot of milk lately. I went through one of those big bags in no time.”

I asked, “Don’t you usually drink milk?”

“Not usually, but I had a couple of boxes of cereal to finish. I couldn’t very well eat it dry.”

André asked Jake, “Have you got ten bucks?”

“What for?”

“I owe you thirty, but I only got two twenties. Give me ten back.”

“Yeah, okay. See Dennis, it’s good being drunk. I’ve forgotten all the people who owe me money. It’s a nice surprise when someone pays me back.”

Wolf asked, “So, Dennis, are you following the hockey draft? Do you have any interest in hockey? I missed you last Friday. I was looking forward to some donuts. I got so wasted, I’m still ashamed of what happened. It’s past now. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“What book are you reading?” I asked Wolf.

“You know, I’ve been drunk for so long, I haven’t been able to read much. I started a book, The Assassins (The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller). I haven’t read much, just the first few pages and the back cover. It’s really fascinating, the author says that there was a group responsible for all the assassinations of  US presidents, from Lincoln through to JFK.  There are a lot of details to keep in mind. I wasn’t up to that.

“You know me, I’ll get myself straight. For a while, I won’t leave my apartment, I’ll tidy the place. All I’ll do is read. I just have to figure out when to do that.”

Chili was on her cell phone. “We should get someone to take Chester home. How do I phone the Salvation Army?”

Outcast said, “Just phone 311 and ask for Outreach.”

“They said, all the workers and the van are out.”

Outcast said to Alphonse, “Help me get him up near the bridge. They’ll pick him up in an ambulance. If we leave him here the cops will come and we’ve all got open booze. I’m surprised that they haven’t been here already, it’s been nearly a week since they’ve visited.”

Alphonse said, “They know we’ve been paid, so they’ll be checking all the usual places.”

Debbie asked Jake for a cigarette. He pulled out a plastic margarine container. Took off the lid and passed her a cigarette. He whispered to me, “See how she touches my hand when she takes the smoke. She’s always doing that.”

Jacques was going through the Metro flyer planning his grocery shopping. “They’ve got cod for $6.99 a pound and salmon for $3.99 each. What I’d really like is a big chunk of Emmental cheese.”

Wolf said, “I’m really not into fish, but I like their frozen meals, two for five bucks.”

Jake said, “There used to be a place not far from here that made the best fish and chips. They served them in newspaper and had a big hunk of cod on top. The chips were hand cut and cooked to a nice golden color. Each batch was made fresh.

“Dennis, you see how we’re always talking about food when you come. I guess it’s because it’s lunch time.






30 September 2014

“You look cold, Chuck,” I said.

“You’re damned right. I made the mistake of listening to the weather man. He’s never right. I knew it as soon as I got about a block from my place, but I didn’t want to go back.

“I nearly got in a fight with the bus driver. It didn’t help that he was ten minutes late. He said that I was waiting in the wrong place. I’ve been using that stop for five years and my chair was parked where I was told to park it. In winter they don’t plow the snow beyond a certain point, so I’ve got no choice. He said, ‘If you’re not in the right place, I’m not picking you up next time.’ It’s happened too. Sometimes they open the doors, see the wheelchair, close the doors and drive off.

“My new scooter has been delayed in China, maybe for another three weeks. It was supposed to be in Vancouver last Thursday. The guy I deal with is looking into it. He doesn’t have any answers yet. Perhaps there is another one in Canada somewhere.

I said, “I was watching the news this morning. They showed the skeleton of a newly discovered dinosaur. It was 130 feet long and 65 feet tall. They calculated its weight at 70 tonnes. They don’t have a name for it yet. There was another one called a Spinosaurus nearly 50 feet long, bigger than a R. Rex.   It had a long snout like a crocodile and is the first swimming dinosaur ever discovered.”

“I believe that,” said Chuck. “I have the National Geographic series of videos on the Sea. When they get deep enough in the ocean there are huge creatures like the giant squid that can be sixty feet long. There are others called Viperfish that are only about a foot long but they have a large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth. In fact, these fangs are so large that they won’t fit inside the mouth. Instead, they curve back very close to the fish’s eyes.

“In some places, seeping methane feeds communities of exotic organisms that harness the gas as an energy source in their sunless environment. If that’s the case, there could be life on other planets. There’s methane on Mars, so there could be creatures that can live in that environment.






26 September 2014

“Good morning Chuck. How was yesterday?”

“Fantastic, My lady friend and I went to Cornwall. We rented a boat and rode around the St. Lawrence River for an hour an a half. I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. My lady friend was surprised that I even knew how to drive a boat, but I’ve done that for years. My brother had a houseboat on the river. I was always driving that.

“I spent too much time on my feet. I woke up at 2:00 last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. My leg was throbbing something fierce.”

I asked, “Don’t you have Advil, or something like that for pain.”

“No, I’ve been in pain since I was fifteen years old. I’ve never taken anything for it, except alcohol. If I drank enough it would put me to sleep. When I lived at home, if I complained about pain, my father would bat me across the room.”

I said, “I guess you’ve heard about the fifteen year old aboriginal girl who was murdered, then thrown in the river.

(By:  Steve Lambert The Canadian Press, Published on Thursday September 25 2014.)

Winnipeg police confirmed that two officers came across Tina Fontaine when they pulled over a vehicle on Aug. 8 — the day before she disappeared and more than a week before her body was pulled from the Red River. Fontaine had already been reported missing more than a week earlier, but was not taken into custody at the traffic stop…

Fontaine had spent much of her life with her great-aunt, Thelma Favel, on the Sagkeeng First Nation, 75 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. She had a history of running away and went to Winnipeg about a month before her death to visit her biological mother.

Favel had asked a child welfare agency for help with Fontaine and said Thursday social workers failed her. The girl was supposed to be in a group home or foster home, but had run away and had not been seen for more than a week.

Favel said social workers have told her that on the night of Aug. 8 — which would be a few hours after police came across Fontaine — the girl had passed out in an alley downtown and paramedics took her to a nearby hospital.

“They kept her there for about three or four hours until she sobered up a little bit and then (social workers) picked her up from the hospital.”

That appears to have been the last time she was seen alive. Fontaine managed to run away again shortly after leaving the hospital, Favel said.

“Yeah, I’ve heard quite a bit about that. Young girls, especially those in foster care, are so vulnerable. I remember a couple of kids who played with my kids. Their mother was a drunk and her boyfriend was even worse. One time the boy came over with both hands wrapped in bandages. He said that he had fallen and scraped his hands. Later we learned that the boyfriend, as a means of punishment, would force the boy’s hands onto a hot stove burner.

“One time when I was at the laundromat I saw a pretty little girl, about nine years old, with some old puke. That’s what I thought of him at the time. I figured something wasn’t right. I stepped out for a few minutes and I heard him say, ‘Don’t worry, that old fart doesn’t know what we’re doing.’ I phoned social services anonymously and told them what I suspected. They kept asking my name, but I said, “There’s no way I’m giving my name. If it goes to court, I could be sued for everything I own, not that I owned very much. I expected that they’d send a case worker down, but nobody came.”


Drinking on the Bus




25 September 2014

It was like old home week at the park. Friends I hadn’t seen since last year were there. Every one wanted to be outdoors to enjoy the warm Fall weather.

Shark said, “I’m trying to walk off this water I got on my knee.”

I asked Little Jake, “How are you feeling now?”

“A lot better. I’m over the walking pneumonia. My AIDS doctor gave me a new prescription for some kind of steroids. He said they’d take some getting used to. He said that I’d be moody, but I don’t have to see him again for six months, that’s how good I’m doing. I freaked out the other day. I had to go sit by myself at the fence. I’d pissed everyone off. I guess I took too many of those little white pills.”

I asked, “How about you, Mariah, are you feeling better?”

“I’m getting there. My body is completely out of whack. I’ve had my period three times in the last forty-five days. Some days, I feel so exhausted that I can hardly stand. Today I’m fine.

“Joy was going to come down today, but she wasn’t quite up to it. She walked to the Metro and back last week, but she had to be off her feet for a couple of days. It took that much out of her. She wants Big Jake out, but there are still a few things she isn’t able to do for herself. He gets his cast off tomorrow. He said that it’s really itchy.”

I said, “I didn’t know he was in a cast. What happened?”

“He was at his parent’s cottage and fell off the roof. He messed up his good hip. Now his bad hip is his good hip. He also broke his arm in three places. I asked him, ‘What were you thinking of? You’re in a wheel chair, you can barely stand, and you decide to climb a ladder?’ He said that his parents needed some work done on the roof and he was trying to get back into their good graces.’

“Wolf was down here, but he had to meet someone who had a new cart for Shaggy. Did you hear how he lost the cart?  He came home drunk one night — so drunk he could barely stand let alone walk. Some of his neighbors helped him and Shaggy up the stairs and left his cart in the lobby. When he went to get it in the morning, it had been stolen. He hasn’t been down here much since that happened. It’s just too long a walk for Shaggy.

André said, “When he gets the new cart he wants me to overhaul it. I’ll put all my bicycle repair skills to use. Behind me is a bike I just fixed up. I even got a cart to give my cat a ride.”

Buck and his dog Dillinger came along. Dillinger growled at the cat, peeking out of the cart. Buck pulled out of his backpack a frisbee. He’d throw it and Dillinger would catch it in mid-air.

Debbie asked, “Dennis can you spare a couple of bus tickets. I have an appointment to go to. Usually I jump on by the back door, but they’ve got a campaign on now trying to catch people not paying the fare. The transit cops issued over a hundred tickets in one day, nineteen of them were for drinking on the bus.”






24 September 2014

Good morning, Chuck. Tomorrow is the big day, isn’t it? The day you get your enclosed scooter?”

“Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. My son has promised to drive me out there. My lady friend has taken time off work to come with me. I can never depend on my son, he may decide that he has to drive to the other side of town first.  He’ll say, ‘Relax, you got all day. What else do you have to do?’ The thing is I do have things to do. I have people depending on me. His ex-wife was like that. She’s native and they have a different way of looking at time. She had a good job. Her boss asked her to come into his office. She thought to herself, I’ve got plans right now. I’ll go see him tomorrow.  Well, when she came to work the next day he fired her. She could never understand why. I have a lot of natives in my family. I love them all, but they try to live the way they did two hundred years ago.

“It’s the same with the States and Britain.  If things aren’t going their way, they act like they did in Colonial times — invade here, invade there, to hell with everybody else.

“I’ve been a drug addict an alcoholic, but the natives in my family are all alcoholics. They can’t handle it. Their systems haven’t had thousands of years of building immunity.

“Speaking of natives, there used to be a very pretty woman who’d sit on the grass across the street from the coffee shop. She wouldn’t panhandle she’d just sit.  Every so often she’d get a phone call and would head off to one of the hotels. She’d be gone for about an hour then she’d be back again.

I said, “I know her, it’s Gwendolyn. I’ve given her meal cards. I’ve also met her at the park. She’s beautiful and very friendly. I remember her asking me if I had a cigarette. I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t smoke.’ She said, ‘ I wish I didn’t.’ Then we chatted for a while before joining the rest of the group. I heard that she’s going out with a big guy, with a beard, who’s never far away.’

Chuck said, “It’s the drugs and the booze that drives them into that line of work.’


Affordable Housing




23 September 2014

“Good morning Chuck, it’s cool today.”

“Yes, it sure is. Not what the weather forecast predicted at all. It was supposed to be sunny this morning. We were supposed to be able to see the moon and stars last night. I was up at 5:30 walking Goldie and could hardly see a thing. One of our streetlights is also out. I know we have a couple of skunks in our neighborhood. This morning we couldn’t see them and we got sprayed. Goldie was sick. She vomited three times. She’s still a bit shaky now, she doesn’t want to get down from my lap.

“This morning I saw two beautiful women, in fact they walked by a number of times. They were wearing the high hooker shoes, short tight skirts. I though to myself, ‘They’re either strippers or hookers. Then I thought, there are no strip joints around here. So that narrowed it down. I also saw Chili down by the market. She went out with my son for a while, but got badly messed up with drugs.  A couple of months ago I saw her standing on the corner, waving at truck drivers. She’s a young pretty girl. It’s a shame that she’s ended up like she has.

I said, “She sat with me on the bus last week. We had a long chat. She’s lives not far from me. She said that she’s near her methadone clinic and going to school, so that sounds good.”

“I’m glad to hear that she’s getting treatment. She’s a nice girl.”

I asked, “How difficult is it to get treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism? I was talking to Ian a while back. He was on a wet program with the Shepherd. The waiting list was two years.”

Chuck said, “If you don’t have much money you can get on a program where they monitor your drinking and Teach you how to get along without alcohol. The trouble is it only lasts a month. It’s not worth a shit. You can’t break a thirty year habit in a month. On the other hand, if you’ve got lots of money, you can go to an addiction facility with the best psychiatrists, like you see the Hollywood stars doing. You can stay there as long as you can afford.”

I asked, “How about affordable housing? I’ve heard that a lot of people wouldn’t be homeless, if there was housing within their budget.”

“I’m in a good situation where I live. It’s the best in the city. For a two-bedroom apartment that would normally rent for $900 a month, I get it for $318. Then I have to pay the hydro. It’s a good deal, but I still have to panhandle to get enough to eat.”






22 September 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. How was the wedding? Did you go?”

“Yes I went and I had a great time. Mind you, my sisters ex husband wasn’t treated so well. Everybody likes my sister, but nobody likes his new wife. She’s just one of those people who it’s hard to like. I don’t have anything against her. We all have shitty ass holes, and we all wipe them the same way. Nobody’s better than anybody else. I’ve tried to like her, She’s just an unlikable person.

“There were a lot of attractive women there. If I had been six years younger, before my heart attacks, I would have gotten some action. At one wedding – I can’t remember which one, we have such a big family – I’d gone out for a smoke. It was before they had the laws against smoking in public buildings, but some people there were very sensitive to cigarette smoke. They announced earlier in the evening that anyone who wanted to smoke should do it outside. Anyway, there was this nice looking woman who was putting out her cigarette out at the same time I was.  We walked into the hall together. Beside the hall was a bowling alley, she said to me, ‘It’s so long since I’ve been bowling.’ I said to her, ‘Now’s your chance. Let’s go in and bowl a few frames.’ So we did. We went back to the wedding. I was sitting down when she asked me if I wanted to dance. I said, ‘Sure.’ Before long we were kissing, she had her tongue halfway down my throat. A guy came up and tapped me on the shoulder. He said, ‘What do you think you’re doing with my wife?’ I said, ‘I’m not doing anything with her. She asked me to dance.’

“Did you hear about the man who was beaten and robbed, on the weekend, near my place? There were three guys, beating another guy on the ground. I didn’t have my phone with me so I yelled to some of the bystanders, ‘Somebody phone the cops!’ They just stood and watched. One guy said, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’ I yelled, ‘Will one of you cowardly cocksuckers, take your hands out of your pockets and call the cops.‘ Nothing.

“Also there was a woman raped on the weekend. She was standing at a bus stop when she was approached by four men. ‘Against her will the woman was led to a secluded area where she was sexually assaulted, beaten and robbed, while bystanders did nothing to help.’  That’s what it said in the newspaper this morning. I can’t figure people out.

“In the days when I was still drinking, I used to pan across the street. A woman slipped on the ice and banged the back of her head. All these people in suits walked right past, didn’t pay any attention to her. I went over and helped her get up. I said, ‘If you feel dizzy, later on, be sure to tell someone to call you an ambulance. It will mean that you’ve had a concussion.’ I made sure she got to where she was going. A week later she came by and gave me ten bucks. She said, ‘I’m so grateful to you. Who’d have thought that government workers would pass me by, and a bum in the street would offer me help.’

“That’s what I was back then, a bum in the street.”