Chili

homeless family L

 

“Hi Chili, I haven seen you for ages. You’re walking without a cane now.”

“Hi Dennis. Yeah, I can even run and jump now.

“This is my friend Rocco. He’s going to be attending school with me as soon as I can get him registered.”

Rocco said, “Hi man, yeah, I’m looking forward to going to school. I’m off drugs, taking it easy on the booze. I saw too much of that when I was young. When my parents would get into the hard stuff, they’d sort of blackout. That’s the only way I can describe it. They’d beat us kids, and wouldn’t remember a thing about it when they were sober. Now that I’m older I tell them all the shit they put us through.

“My brother is in prison near Pembroke. He’s done four of a twenty year sentence. When he gets out he’s going to see a brother who’s made something of himself.”

I asked, “How are you doing, Chili?”

“Great, I’ve been off the drugs for three years now. I still go for methadone treatments but they’ve cut my dose down to almost nothing. In a little while I won’t need it any more.”

“How’s school going?”

“It’s okay. I got a teacher that doesn’t like me. I don’t like him either. It’s high school and I don’t really get along with the other students. When I walk past, I hear them talking about me and laughing. It’s okay though. I can handle it.”

Shaggy bit into Chili’s pant leg and started pulling and shaking it. He hadn’t bitten into her flesh, but she was obviously afraid. Wolf jumped up, attached Shaggy’s leash to her collar and pulled her over to where he was sitting.

“I’m sorry about that,” Wolf said to Chili. She doesn’t usually do that.

“Bad dog!” he said to Shaggy. “You know better than that, now lie down.”

Wolf said, “I’m sorry Dennis, I’m drunk, Shaggy’s acting up. She’s fourteen years old. Who knows what’s going on in her mind.

“Did I tell you that Jake came over to my place last night? It was a mess, beer cans all over the floor. He picked them all up. The place looks great now.

“Did I tell you what I’m reading now?”

“Yeah, you said something about a European crime novel translated from French to English.”

“No, not that one. That’s finished. This new book is about a hooker who lures married men into an alley, kills them, then cuts their heart out. Can you imagine that; cutting into someone’s chest, through their ribs, prying open their rib cage and ripping out their heart? That’s not the worst part. She takes the heart, puts it into a plastic container, then delivers it to the man’s family. She puts it on the door step, rings the bell and runs. What a shock for the family. They don’t even know the guy’s missing and they open the door to that. I’m going to try to finish reading it tonight. I’m anxious to find out her motive. Also, I probably won’t sleep until the story’s resolved.”

Wolf had the loop of Shaggy’s leash around his wrist. He was gesturing with his hands and accidentally pulled on the leash. Shaggy jumped and bit him above the knee.

“Ow, that hurt! You stupid dog! What did you do that for?”

Wolf let go of the leash to inspect his wounds. Shaggy slunk away and lay down with her back to the group. He pulled up his pant leg. “I thought she drew blood, but she broke the skin.” He dumped her water dish, took her food dish and threw the contents toward the railing.

Outcast yelled, “Wolf, what the fuck are you doing. You threw dog kibble over the three of us sitting here.”

Wolf replied, “I didn’t throw it on you. I threw it over you. What are you going to do about it?”

Outcast said, “How be I ram this beer can down your throat. What’ll you do then?”

“I’ll yell at you, that’s what I’ll do.”

 
 
 

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St. Nick

bible
 
24 September 2015

I stopped briefly to talk to Rhea. She was eating an egg salad sandwich from a plastic bag. Beside her was a juice box and an energy bar. I said, “It looks like the sandwich guys (volunteers from the Innercity Ministries Outreach Program) have made their rounds.”

“Yeah, Shawn and Mike came by. They’re good people.”

“How have you been sleeping?” I asked.

“It’s been good these past few days. I see a psychologist this afternoon. I really find it hard talking about my accident. It’s hard to remember things. I remember riding in the ambulance, but I can’t remember what happened immediately before that.”

“Why were you up on a fifty foot cliff?”

“It was my eighteenth birthday. I was high on drugs with a couple of friends. When I was in hospital I asked one friend what happened and he acted all shifty like. So, I don’t know whether I fell or was pushed. I had two breaks in my femur, throat injury, a fractured skull and some brain damage It was eight years ago now so there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to be careful eating because of my restricted windpipe. If something went down the wrong way I could die.”

I said, “So if your accident happened eight years ago, that means that you’re twenty-six now. Is that right?”

“Yeah, I have a baby face and look a lot younger. It’s a problem sometimes.”

I said, “I promised Nick that I’d visit with him this afternoon, so I’ll see you on my way back.”

Nick was standing near the park railing. We shook hands and I asked him, “How is your health now?”

“It’s okay, my blood sugar level is at about three. At one time it was fifty-six. That was when I was panning on the streets. I didn’t take care of myself then. Now I’m careful. I may share a joint or a tug from a bottle, but it’s only to be sociable. It’s sharing.

“Diabetes is the reason I lost my job. I used to be a Tower Crane Operator. From where I was sitting a man down below looked like an ant. We communicated through hand signals and by radio. Sometimes I would lose consciousness, or I’d be at the back peeing. I had to pee a lot. After a few missed calls they sent me to the union doctor. He said that I should see my family physician. The doctor took some tests and asked me, ‘Did you know that you are diabetic?’

“The union doctor knew what was wrong. He told my boss and that was it for working the Tower. They offered me another job operating a Shunt Locomotive to move rail cars around. It was a demotion and it was boring. I didn’t like that, so I quit.

“I’ve had a few heart attacks in the past month and a half.”

I asked, “Was it due to stress?”

“Yeah, sometimes when I come home my head is so full. People dying in my arms, beatings…you know what it’s like. That’s when I talk to God. I say, ‘Please help me God. Lift this burden that is weighing me down. Please help the homeless people on the streets. I do what I can, but my resources are limited.’

“It was God who told me to stop panning. He said, ‘I’ll provide.’ That’s what I tell other people as well. There was a woman panning on the street. I told her ‘You don’t have to do this.’ Maybe she had a drug habit to pay for. I don’t know. While I was sitting there a woman dropped fifteen dollars into her cap. After she left the woman panning said, ‘You’re lucky for me.’ I said, ‘It’s not me, but God who will provide.’

“There is a twenty-three year old woman who sleeps in doorways. I brought her back to my place and told her, ‘Look, I’m a fifty-six year old man. I have a daughter older than you. I’m not going to touch you. Don’t worry about that. I have a spare bed, food. You can wash your clothes. I have others that you can put on while you’re waiting for them to dry. I told her ‘You can use this address to have your check delivered and you’ll always have a place to stay.

“She slept there for a few nights, then last night I found her sleeping in a doorway again. I said to her, ‘This is a dangerous place. You’re young, you don’t know how dangerous it is. Some of these people have been on the streets for thirty years. They know how to protect themselves, but if a man grabbed you and hauled you into an alley he’d either do you or he’d stab you — one or the other. I gave her my phone number. She wrote it on her hand. She didn’t come by last night. I’m not going look for her. It’s her choice. Soon the weather will be cold and I may not be around.

“Would you please sign my bible? As you can see I have signatures dating back to 2002. I also have church bulletins. I attended the Biker Church last week. I really enjoyed the service. It was down to earth guys. After the sermon I talked with the pastor. In some of the churches I’ve attended the pastor looked down his nose at me. When I told him about my outreach program he asked about my qualifications, what seminary I studied at. I’ve got a grade five education. I can barely read.

“Sometimes I’ll wake up at three in the morning and I’ll hear someone calling. I know it’s time to go. I’ll make up a dozen sandwiches and go to all the places that I know that homeless people will be staying, beneath the bridges, in alleys, behind dumpsters in back of the coffee shops. By the time I get downtown the sandwiches are gone. I’ll load up with a couple of trays of coffees and I’ll go back the way I came, passing cups out as I go. I receive a monthly pension. I spend about three hundred dollars a month to make the sandwiches and to hand out cards for coffee. It’s all I can do. I can’t help everybody.”

 
 
 
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Sirens

ps2

23 September 2015
I was approaching Rhea when a fire engine drove by with sirens blaring. I said hello, but she held up her hand indicating that she couldn’t hear.

“That’s four that have come by. Sirens scare me. I hate to think of someone being hurt.”

I asked, “Have you been sleeping better lately?”

“Yes, they moved me out of the room I was sharing and put me on a cot. I like it a lot better.”

I said, “I’ve been having trouble breathing lately. I have asthma and they’re renovating the building where I work.”

Leah reached into her backpack and pulled out a blue puffer. She said, I use this a couple of times a day. When it gets too bad I take pills. My voice sounds a bit raspy due to an operation I had on my throat when I was eighteen.”

“What operation did you have?”

“I fell off a fifty foot cliff. The last thing I remember was looking up and seeing purple, then I saw stars. Doctors had to do a tracheotomy. Now, my windpipe only has seventy per cent capacity.”

“Where are you originally from?”

“Nunavut.”

“Do you go back there often? I guess there aren’t many jobs available?”

“No, there aren’t, but I don’t miss the place.”

I left to visit my other friends at the park. Pierre was passing around a joint. He said, “This is the best weed you’ll ever taste. I grew it myself, no chemicals, just water. I still wish that they’d decriminalize it. I’d lose business, but if I could buy it at a reasonable price it would take it out of the black market and customers would know what they’re buying.

“There is a guy they call the $400. doctor. He’ll give anybody a year long prescription for medical marijuana. You don’t have to have anything wrong with you. He’ll just make something up. You give him $400. for the prescription and he’ll say, ‘See you next year.’ The problem with medical marijuana is that the buds have stems in them. They also reduce the potency with fillers. It has a THC content of about 9 percent. Of course, you can also take it by vaporizing, eating extracts, taking capsules or using oral sprays.

“You know, a while back, people were saying they were smoking hash laced with opium? It came with white powder on it. Do you know what that white stuff was? Mold, from coming in on ships from Viet Nam. It gave you an incredible high, but it was dangerous for your lungs.”

Jacques’ phone rang. He looked at the display and said, “Outcast, I think this is for you.”

I heard Outcast say, “Yeah, I’ll be coming home soon. I’m going to stop by the Food Bank for vegies. It’s the once a month one. I’ll be home in about an hour, or two, or three. No, I’m coming right home. Don’t start cooking anything, because I’m going to make my soup. Bye.

“We don’t have a relationship anymore, so we get along better. She does her thing, I do mine.

“Have you heard about the trouble between the uber drivers and the taxi companies. Yesterday a passenger was dragged out of an Uber car and forced into a cab. I can’t remember the company name. I don’t like the idea of Uber coming in, taking business away from the drivers who have to pay for a taxi licence. Also, I don’t think they are insured if a passenger is injured. On the other hand, the taxis are charging too much and it seems to be arbitrary. My girlfriend took a cab to the airport, it cost $37.00. For the return trip, exactly the same route, they charged $49.00. Where’s the logic in that?”

 
 
 

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Family Reunion

group3  

22 September 2015

Since hearing from Little Jake that my friends were meeting in the park again I wandered over at noon. The first to greet me was Shaggy, wagging her tail, pushing her head under my hand, moving further forward so I could scratch her back.

Wolf said, “See, she missed you, we all missed you. Jake mentioned seeing you the other day. Have a seat.” Mariah offered me a cushion to sit on. “What do you think of those Blue Jays, they got a real streak going. Tickets are selling for $337. unless you want the luxury seats for seven and a half thousand. They’ve even brought seats out of storage. The others were sold out. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like if the Jays win the Series over New York. There’ll be riots in the streets. If they lose there’ll be riots in the streets.”

I said to Outcast, “The last time we met, you were going into hospital for a hernia operation. How did that go?”

“Yeah, I had a double inguinal hernia. The operation went okay, but I didn’t listen to the doctor’s advice. He said that I should take it easy for two weeks after the surgery. I was over at Jacques’ place the next day horsing around. I pulled out some stitches. Now, the mesh that they used for the repair is scraping my intestines. Sometimes, I notice blood in the toilet. I’ll have to go in and have it re-done.”

“Nick,” I asked, “didn’t you need surgery the last time I saw you?”

“No, but I had a heart attack. Since that I ‘ve had some memory loss. My brother, who was an alcoholic, passed away a couple of days ago. They’re burying him today. I’m also supposed to see my doctor this afternoon, but to hell with it. I’d rather just sit here with my friends.

“I still make sandwiches and give them out to any homeless people that I come across. There are a couple of women staying at my place. They had nowhere else to go.”

I asked, “Do you know Rhea, a small native woman, who pans up the street.”

“Yeah, she’s a sweetheart.”

I said, “She is staying at a women’s shelter, but isn’t getting along with her noisy roommate.”

“Yeah, noisy roommates are often a problem.”

Outcast said, “Nick, how would you deal with a situation like that?”

Nick responded, “If it happened with women staying at my place, I’d read to them out of my bible. If that didn’t work, I’d take them out in the hall. A bible can be used in many different ways.”

“Wolf,” I asked, “what are you reading now?”

“My ladies brought be some European crime books that have been translated from French to English. I like to read about what happens in other countries. They don’t use guns as much. I like the descriptions of the towns and the countryside. When I’m not at my spot in the morning, or down here at noon, I’m at home reading.”

I said my goodbyes, and promised that I’d come back another day soon.

 
 
 

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Rhea

ps2
 
21 September 2015

Reah was squatting against a building, her upturned cap in front of her. She’s a petite, pretty woman with parallel scars on her forearm from self cutting.

“Hi, Rhea, how are you doing? Have you found a good place to stay?”

“I’m at one of the shelters, but I’m not sleeping too good. My roommate is sexually harassing me. I’ve told staff about it and they just laugh, think it’s a big joke. They even tease me about it. When I wake up to a naked seventy year old woman dancing around it’s not funny, it’s disgusting. I also think that she’s schizophrenic. She says that she’s psychic but I think that it’s voices in her head. She talks constantly in her sleep, nothing that makes any sense, just noise.

“Some of the staff are okay, but I’m sure that some of them deliberately put people together who won’t get along.

“I was sexually abused as a kid, so a lot of things can be triggers for me.”

I asked, “Is there any chance that you could see a psychologist to help you with what happened?”

“I’ve talked to psychologists before. They didn’t help. Some of them didn’t even believe me, said I was lying. There’s no way I would have made up stuff like that. I’ve also got problems with OCD and depression. I’m just trying to hold onto my sanity here.”

I asked, “Do you take any medication for that? Are you able to get medication?”

“Yeah, the doctor gave me a prescription. It’s waiting for me at the pharmacy. I haven’t picked it up yet. I don’t like to take pills.

“I’m going to call the Mental Health Crisis Team. They’ve helped me before.

I asked, “Do you know Mariah?”

“Yeah, I look on her as a predator. My friend and I are both scared of her.”

“She can be a scary woman. I’d hate to get on the wrong side of her.”

“My friend is moving. I asked if there was anything vacant nearby. She said, ‘You wouldn’t want to live there. It’s a very bad section of town.’ So, I’ll just keep looking.”

I said, “Take care, Rhea. Perhaps I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye”
 
 
 

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Little Jake

man3
 
18 September 2015

I nearly ran into Jake; I was walking along the sidewalk on my way to work, he was exiting a building. He was wearing his usual green cap, an orange and black tee shirt, beige shorts and sun glasses.

“Jake!”

“Dennis! Sorry I nearly ran you over. I just stepped in here to use the bathroom.”

“How’ve you been?” he asked.

“I’ve been fine. I haven’t seen many of the regulars around. I have seen Magdalene and Adam, Chuck, Joe, Mary, a few others. I stopped and talked with them a while. Do you still meet near the bridge?”

“Yeah, I go there, Mariah’s there nearly every day, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy. Wolf slept out last night. He was wasted on something. He could barely walk. I was partying and stayed out as well. this morning I’ve been panning in front of the coffee shop, trying to get enough change for breakfast.

“You’ll have to come by.”

“I will, Jake. I can’t make it today, but next week, for sure. The weather’s been so unpredictable lately. One day is too hot, the next day it rains.

“Are you still living in the same place?” I asked.

“Yeah, everything is still the same.”
 
 
 

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