Six Up!

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 usual spot  — Weasel’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 in the outskirts, 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 the stadium. 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 Shakes’ place. Danny seems to be taking over. He has everything tidy. He’s running his life! Anyway, I was talking to Shakes, 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 hitchhike, 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.”



 
 
 
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26 

Lullaby Town

 

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

26 June 2013

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 the sports store, 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 Darren who I haven’t seen for about a year. “Hi Darren, 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, Darren. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Take care, man.”



 
 
 
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26 

The Sally

 
homeless
 
23 August 2016

As I walked toward the park, Loon staggered towards me. “Hi Dennis,” he said as he shook my hand. With no teeth he mumbled something I couldn’t understand. After three tries I gathered that he was saying, “Hippo and Outcast are up there. I bought beer and vodka. Now, nobody will even give me a drink.”

Outcast stood and offered me the crate on which he was sitting, saying, “You’re only going to be here a short time. I can stand.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said, “I have to get home soon anyway to guard my groceries.”

I asked, Does that mean that you and Debbie are back together?”

“No, I’m sleeping on Big Chester’s couch — not the guy from Newfoundland. I got a big bag of groceries yesterday from the Food Bank. I said to him, ‘I’m going to take a nap. Don’t eat all the treats. We’ll share them later.’ When I woke up he’d eaten all the cookies, chips and candies. I was pissed. I said, ‘Jesus Christ, you could have left something for me! After all I got the stuff.’ I cooked him a nice omelette with veggies on the side.”

I said, “Joy had the same complaint when she was staying with him. Has he still got bed bugs?”

“No, I wouldn’t be staying there if he had.”

I asked Hippo, “How are things going with your worker. Has she found you a place yet?”

“Yeah, I’m just waiting for the keys. They have to change the locks and do some other things, but I should be able to move in this week. It’s $579.00 a month, more than I was paying at my last place. I hope it doesn’t have electric heat. That would be expensive.”

Outcast said, “Your worker was by this morning. I didn’t tell her that you were at the police station being fingerprinted. I didn’t know if you’d want her to have that information.”

“It’s okay. She knew where I went. I told her.”

I asked, “What were you being fingerprinted for?”

“It’s because I had this bicycle lock that curls up. I was trying to pull it off my bike and it slipped out of my hand, crashing through the window of the apartment behind me. They have it all on closed circuit TV. I don’t know what the judge is going to say. I may have to pay a fine. I may go to jail.”

I said, “If it was an accident, I can’t see you going to jail.”

Outcast said, “No, you’re not going to jail.”

I asked Hippo, “Where are you staying now?”

“I’m at the Sally, but I’m not getting much sleep. The guy in the bunk above me tosses and turns all night, all I hear is creak, creak, creak, creak, creak.”

Outcast said, “You two are a good match. You snore like a chainsaw, he makes the bed creak.”

“Yeah, I snore like a Husqvarna, roarrrr, roarrrr, roarrrr.

“I ate breakfast there this morning. A giant cockroach climbed onto my table and was heading toward my sausage. I slammed him with my fist. Pow! A guy behind the counter yelled, ‘What’s all that banging about?’ I yelled back at him, ‘I just killed a big mother fuckin’ roach! D’ya wanna see it? I should call the Health Department!’ That shut him up.”

Louis wandered up. He was meeting Mariah at 1:00. Outcast said, “So, Louis, how’s the new job working out.”

“Good, I’m doing landscaping. For the first couple of hours we sat waiting for supplies. My first job was raking cedar chips. I thought to myself, For $14.75 an hour, I can do this.



 
 
 
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26 

Magdalene

 
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 Shakes and Magdalene who said, “Everybody thinks that Shakes 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 Shakes, “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 the others were sitting. Joy had brought her crate 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’ll 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 purple one all the time.”

Chili said, “I know the store where they sell those. 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.”



 
 
 
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26 

Chester

 

Panhandler
Panhandler (Photo credit: jon.guillen)

 
25 June 2013

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.

“Shakes 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 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.”



 
 
 
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26 

Court Appearances

 
group3
 
19 August 2016

“Dennis,” said Jacques, “I have a crate with a tarp for you. Have a seat. You’ll be sitting in style today.”

“Thanks, Jacques, I appreciate that.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I’m so glad to see you. A lot has been happening, most of it bad. I’ve been charged with cruelty to Shaggy. The cops came to my door and handed me a ticket. The ticket read, that I wilfully caused unnecessary pain, suffering, injury or death to an animal. I cried when they said that. You know me, Shaggy has been with me for fourteen years. There’s no way that I’d hurt her in any way. The SPCA was there as well. In their instructions it said to only approach the owner with a police escort. That’s because I yelled at them and tore the ticket up the last time they came.

“Apparently there are two witnesses, one from my building and one from downtown. One said that I ran over Shaggy with her cart. She jumped out while she was riding in it, but I didn’t run over her. The other woman said that I kicked Shaggy up the ramp to the apartment building entrance. I didn’t do that. I may have nudged her with my foot because she’s fourteen years old. Sometimes she doesn’t want to move.

“This is my second charge. I went to court last Spring. I brought my mental health worker with me. One witness said I was rough putting Shaggy in her cart. The other said that she thought she saw me kicking her, but she wasn’t sure. When they asked me I said, ‘I was drunk. I don’t know what happened.’ The judge said, ‘We have two witnesses who don’t know each other and have no reason to lie. You say you can’t remember because you were drunk. The only judgement I can reach is guilty. You’ll have to pay a $300.00 fine over the period of one year.’ So, here we go all over again.”

Little Jake asked, “Did you hear what happened to me? I was panning in front of the pharmacy. This fat woman panhandler told me to move. Lots of people pan there. It’s not her spot, so I waved her away and said, ‘Fuck off. get out of my face. Anyone can pan here.’ That was one day. The next day when she saw me she flagged down a cop. She said that I had verbally assaulted her then stood up and kicked her in the stomach. I didn’t lay a finger on her. Now I have to go to court. Can you imagine that, a panhandler calling the cops on another panhandler. That’s just wrong.”

Outcast said, “Well I’m homeless again. Debbie and I haven’t been getting along so well lately. Her daughter is pregnant and wants to move in. They got together and wrote a really nasty letter about me and sent it to the Housing Authority. I’m fucked.

Wolf said, “I told you about the problems I’m having with my stomach, or the part of my stomach I have left after the surgery. This is the first beer I’ve had since Saturday. I can’t smoke because if I start coughing I’ll throw up. I can eat a May West cake coated with chocolate. The other day I had some chicken and the most delicious ice cream. It comes in packages of six assorted flavors. I know I can’t eat the vanilla fudge chunk, but this one had bits of caramel in it. I thought I’d be okay, but after an hour I started getting these intense pains. I put up with them for another half hour then I had to go to the bathroom to ralph it, but the taste of that ice cream was worth all the discomfort that came later. Next time, I’ll just eat half a container, maybe I’ll be able to keep that down. Each day I try something different. I know I can eat flaky stuff, but I don’t like flaky stuff. I want donuts.



 
 
 
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26 

Humans

 
pdjoannejpg.jpeg.size.xxlarge.promo
 
24 June 2013

I wasn’t expecting to see Joy this morning,  she’d 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 cream 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.”



 
 
 
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