“Good morning, Chuck, did you get caught in the rain yesterday.”
“Did I ever, but I did something stupid.”
“What was that, Chuck?”
“Well, when I left here I was soaked. I’d heard there was a chance of rain, but I decided not to bring a rain jacket. The forecast is never right anyway. By the time I got home I was soaked and frozen. I undressed, dried off then had my supper. I went to bed early, Goldie woke me at about 12:30 wanting to go for her walk. It wasn’t raining when I left, but after about five minutes the sky opened up and it poured. I went home, undressed, dried off then went to bed again. When I woke up this morning I went into the bathroom, as I usually do, showered and shaved. You’d think I would have been clean enough with the number times I got soaked then dried off, but by then I’d forgotten. I wasted fifteen minutes of my life, fifteen minutes that I’ll never get back again.
“I was late getting down here. I went to the bus station and needed to get to the upper level. I wheeled my way to the elevator and it was full of cleaning supplies, both inside and in front, blocking the door. The cleaner was there. I said to him, ‘Get your stuff out of my way.’ He asked, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Why do you think, asshole, I need to catch my bus on the upper level.’ He took his time. I not only missed two busses, but I missed Old Jim at the mall. He delivers free papers, it’s the only job he is able to do. I’d promised that I’d take twenty papers each morning from him. That way, he’s able to get home earlier. I hope he’s okay.”
“Sitting here each morning, Chuck, you must see a lot of things that most people don’t know about.”
“Yeah,” I’m surprised that I’m still alive after some of the things I’ve seen. I was sitting quietly one morning, with my hat out. One of my friends, another alcoholic, was riding his bicycle along the sidewalk. There was a police squad car parked at the curb. As the guy rode past the car a cop reached out the open window with his baton and smashed him in the shin, fractured his leg. I could have reported it, but they’d find a way to get even with me.
“A lot of the cops would get caught with hookers. The excuse they’d give was, ‘I just wanted to see how they worked.’ That’s a pretty lame excuse, but it saved them.
“I knew a lot of the women on the street. Helen was one of them, skinny as hell. Her old man was usually in jail. He’d serve four months, be out for two, then do something stupid that would land him inside again. I could tell that Helen hadn’t eaten, so I invited her to my place and I cooked her a couple of fried egg sandwiches and poured her a coffee. I didn’t ask anything from her, but when I sat down on the sofa, she knelt in front of me, unzipped my pants and gave me the best head ever.
“There were a couple of really bad cops. They’d patrol the alleys and if they’d find anyone sleeping there, they’d beat the shit out of them, take their sleeping bags or blankets and dump them. It didn’t matter if it was freezing outside. One of them, even the cops hated him, was drinking at a pub I worked at. He ate like a pig, drank until he couldn’t walk then threw up on the table and all the way to the bathroom. He came in the next day and thought it was a big joke.
“He’s the guy that would go to the rooming houses where a lot of the panhandlers stayed, where I stayed. At about 4:00 in the morning, he’d take his baton and bang on all the doors. He figured that if we didn’t sleep at night, we wouldn’t be panning on the streets the next day.”
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