Under the Bridge

 
homeless2
 
31 October 2016

“Good morning, Bernard,” I said.

“Good morning. It’s good to see you. My problem with being broke and so sexy is that I’m stuck with this face and the beard. This is Halloween, most people get to take off their masks at the end of the night, but not me. In another week I’ll be reaching the big six zero.

A woman stopped and handed him a half pack of cigarettes. “Thanks darlin’. That’s awfully sweet of you.”

I asked, “How old were you when you started smoking?”

“6 years old. I’d go to the store and say my dad sent me to buy him some cigarettes. I don’t know if they believed that, but they always gave them to me. Back then, a 5-pack of Export ‘A’ was 25 cents. I started drinking when I was 9 and hard drugs when I was 13.

“A woman said that she had a surprise for me this evening. She wouldn’t say what it was, but she rents rooms. She was disappointed when I told her I was looking for a place. She said she just rented her last one. So, I don’t know what the surprise is. It could be socks or underwear. I don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Awaiting a surprise gives you something to look forward to. Life can be full of surprises.”

“Oh, I know all about that. I had a massive heart attack when I was still a young man. Died three times on the operating table. Now, I have a pacemaker installed. That got me off the hard drugs. Then I was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. That got me off the booze. Then I got the cancer — leukemia — that put me in a wheelchair. In a couple of weeks I dropped from 230 pounds to 140. It took all my effort to wheel that chair around. I went back to school and trained as a drug and alcohol counsellor. I worked at that for over ten years.

“Working as a counsellor must have been an emotional experience. You must have seen some sad situations.”

“Yes, sometimes it was heartbreaking. It’s not always the young people who are to blame, sometimes it’s the parents. I counselled a teenage girl who was a crack addict. I got her off the drugs. She went back to live with her mother, who was a nurse. One time, the mother returned unexpectedly and found her boyfriend trying to sexually assault her daughter. It was only after actually seeing it that she believed what her daughter had been telling her. We have to protect our young people. They’re our future.”

“I’ve been clean and sober for 27 years. I still use marijuana, but I don’t smoke it in public.”

“Do you have a doctor’s prescription for that?”

“Yes, I’m registered and have a licence to purchase. There are some new weed shops that have opened up. They don’t even ask me for my licence. They’re operating illegally, but the cops haven’t started charging them with anything. The government may come through with legalization like they have in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon. These stores charge tax. I have to pay $12.00 per gram when on the street I could get the same amount for $10.00, but I don’t mind paying the extra $2.00. On the street you never know what you’re getting. Crack dealers usually add speed. They’ve changed the name from crack to ‘more’, because once a customer tries some he want more. Sometimes, they mix in household cleaners, laundry detergent, boric acid, laxatives, local anesthetics: procaine, tetracaine and lidocaine. That can be deadly.

“In the pot dispensaries you can buy different flavors, different doses, candy, brownies, cookies, gummy bears, cannabutter or cannabis oil for cooking.

“It’s getting colder each morning.  Do you have a good sleeping bag?”

“It’s adequate. I’m putting money aside for a warm room for the winter. Welfare will pay the first month’s rent, but I have to come up with the last month. Something good happened this morning. A young woman who I’d talked to a few times handed me an envelope. Inside was a note that read, ‘Dear Broke and Sexy, here is a token of my esteem for you.’ Also in the envelope was a hundred dollar bill.”

I said, “That will go a long way towards your last month’s rent.”

“Yes, I’ve put it away.”



 
 
 
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26 

BROKE BUT SEXY

 
homeless2
 

28 October 2016

Overnight snow had turned to rain. Sidewalks were slushy and I was wearing my awkward, heavy overshoes. Beside the church was a man with a cardboard sign around his neck that read:  BROKE BUT SEXY. There was an upturned cap in front of him with a few coins. I’d seen this man several days in a row and always greeted him. I don’t carry cash of any kind so, previously, I had nothing to give him. I was prepared today and had stopped at Tim Horton’s (similar to Starbucks) and purchased 10 $5.00 meal cards. I said to him, “Good morning, my name is Dennis, here’s a $5.00 card to help you with a meal.”

“Thanks, Dennis, I appreciate this. My name is Bernard.”

I said, “You must be new in town. I know most of the street people in this area.”

“Yes, I’m from North Bay, but I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve applied for Welfare, but I can’t receive anything until I have an address, so for now I’m sleeping under a bridge.”

I asked, “Have you tried staying at one of the homeless shelters?”

“No, those placers are terrible!”

I said, “My friends have told me about noise, bedbugs, theft and fights. I also know a woman who was raped there. I don’t blame you for your decision to sleep under a bridge.”

“Yeah, it’s quite a way from here. I have privacy and I prefer to be alone. I’ve been single for fifteen years and I intend to stay that way. Women always want money and control. I’ve had enough of that. The government wants all cash transactions to be by debit or credit card, that way they know where you’re spending your money.”

I said, “I do all my transactions by plastic, that’s why I haven’t had anything to give you.”

“I can understand that, but you always greet me, acknowledge me, Most people ignore me and have a frown on their face. I don’t ask for money. If people care to drop a quarter, I appreciate it. If everybody dropped a quarter I’d have enough for a day’s food and other expenses.

“I’ve noticed that as well when I’m sitting with street people. Even my co-workers ignore me.”

Bernard continued, “Some people say I’m too well dressed to panhandle. These are just clothes I’ve been given. I’ve been really lucky. What I could use is a shower.  The YMCA used to allow people to shower for $2.00, but they don’t do that anymore. I thought they were supposed to help people.  I use wipes and clean myself as well as I can, but it isn’t as good as a shower.”

I said, “I’ve read that some communities are providing outdoor toilets and publicly accessible shower facilities. It would be even better if they provided accessible housing and rooms.”

 



 
 
 
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26 

Electronic Cigarettes

 

womanbox

 
17 September 2013

Summer is definitely over. The temperatures at night have been dipping precariously close to freezing. Gardeners are warned to cover their tomatoes.  Joy was shivering on her crate.

“I need a pair of gloves. I went rooting through my stuff and was only able to find two left-handed gloves and an assortment of different colored mittens. I’m not much into fashion, but I do like to have a pair that matches.

“This morning on the bus, I got so pissed off. An old lady was trying to exit the bus by the front door and two kids were pushing on either side of her to get on.  I said to them, “Off first, on later.” They made some wiseass comment to me.  I don’t know what’s with kids today. When I was young, I’d never talk to elders like that.  I was about to go to the back and throw them out the window. A guy saw me and said, ‘Don’t waste your energy, they’re not worth it.’ He was right, I probably would have ended up in jail.”

“Did the bus driver see this? Didn’t he say anything to the kids?”

“He didn’t do anything. He’s a new guy, one of those that jerks every time he hits the gas or the brake. I nearly fell before I reached my seat. The least he could have done was waited until I sat down, but oh no.”

I said, “It’s particularly bad now that school’s back in. Either the bus passes me by because it’s full, or I manage to get on and stand all the way.

“Have you seen Marilyn lately?”

“I saw her about two weeks ago. She came over to my place. Her boyfriend is a real jerk, he doesn’t want her associating with any of us. She had a really bad accident a couple of years ago, that’s why she has the scars on her face and no teeth. She was in hospital for nearly a year. A month after she got out of hospital she had a fight with her boyfriend. He tried to throw her off the bridge. The only thing that saved her was she got her knee caught in the metal railing.  He was still trying to push her over. Her knee swelled up like a grapefruit. Nothing was broken, but she still has trouble walking. Have you noticed her limp?

“I told her she should dump this guy. She said, ‘You’re one to talk, you’re still with Big Jake.’ I said, ‘I’m not with him, I put his ass in jail.’ She said, ‘Well, we’re getting married.’ I can see how that’s going to end up.”

“I asked, “She’s still not drinking, is she?”

“No, her boyfriend won’t allow it. I don’t think he drinks either. It’s all for the better, when she drinks she gets a little loopy, wants to fight everybody.  She starts with Vox flavored vodka; downs about three, then switches to beer.

“I’ve got no phone now! I was down there yesterday and told them that I wanted Jake’s internet shut down, because I can’t get into his computer. They cut off my land line, the internet is still working. I can’t call anybody, nobody can call me. I have to go upstairs to use Mariah’s phone. I need my own phone because of my health, I may have to call an ambulance.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to get a phone in your own name?”

“My credit’s not that good. That’s why we arranged everything in Jake’s name. I don’t even know where he is. They moved him to Joyceville, but that’s not permanent. I don’t know where they’re planning to move him next.

“Mariah said that Hippo came by when I was out. He may have some mail for me. I hope he would have had the sense to slide it under my door or something.

“I’m too cold to stay here much longer. I may go over to Jacques place, but it’s so far. I don’t know if I have that much energy today. I’ve paid all my debts. I just owe Buck $50.00 for pot. He’s doing okay now, He quit drinking and has his income from selling cigarettes and weed.”

 

“Well, I’m heading off. I may be at the park at noon, I may just go home and keep warm. Anyway, if I don’t see you this afternoon, I’ll see you tomorrow — same bad place, same bad station.”

At noon the only ones at the park were Jacques and another man who looked familiar. He said, “I can’t remember your name?”

“I’m Dennis. I forgot your name as well.”

“It’s Maniitok, it means wise man. I come from Iqualuit, but I was born north of there in Pangnirtung.

Jacques handed me his folded jacket to sit on. He said, “That’s near where that military helicopter crashed, isn’t it?”

“No, that was farther north. The helicopter was being pulled by a ship, Something happened and it crashed. Three people were killed. Even the captain of the ship was on the helicopter. He was killed too.

“Do you know what an ultralight airplane looks like? My brother-in-law, Dave, had one.  It stalled in the air and crashed. He was killed.  We were never opposed. We always got along with each other. I miss him.”

I asked Jacques, “Did you go to the Mission today for breakfast?”

“Yeah, they have their big breakfast today — eggs, sausages, home fries and toast. Later I’m going to 507 for a bowl of soup, and a loaf of bread. They have good bread there, the kind that’s good for making French toast. I have some eggs and milk, so I’ll have some tomorrow. I like that.

“Do you know what the latest electronic gadget is? Look, I have one? Do you know what it is? It’s an electronic cigarette. Watch.”

Jacques inhaled, the tip turned orange and smoke came out of his mouth. Then he spat.

“Did you see the smoke come out of my mouth? It’s like mint, with a bit of a nicotine taste. I think it’s for those who want to quit smoking. They’re expensive. I think they start at about fifty bucks.”

“Where did you get yours, Jacques?”

“I found it. I thought it was a pen at first, but I couldn’t open it from either end.  I saw that little hole, I cleaned it, sucked on it. I was surprised when smoke came out  I think, maybe Mariah wants it. I phoned her. She said she was coming down, but I haven’t seen her.

“Did you see Joy today?”

I said, “Yes, she was at her regular spot. She even mentioned that she may come over to your place. She doesn’t have a phone.”

“Usually, before she comes over she uses the pay phone, but she didn’t call. I hope she isn’t heading to my place now. Oh well, nothing I can do.”

“She wasn’t feeling well and was cold, so she may have gone straight home.”

“Cold? She’s always cold. There’s going to be a lot of that before long. I have something for her. It’s like a jumpsuit with a hood. It’s too small for me, but it would be perfect for her. I forgot to show it to her when she was over.”

Shark and Loon stopped by. Shark said, “I had to come down today to pick up my pills, Irene may be down later. Did nobody else show up?”

Jacques said, “There was a big bunch, but everybody took off. Try my electronic cigarette. ”

“Shark looked at it and said, “What do you do with this?”

“Put the white end in your mouth and toke from it.”

Shark tried it, he coughed and said, “That’s horrible. I’ll stick to pot.”



 
 
 
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26 

Cobweb City

 
panhandeling-women
 
13 September 2013

It was cool this morning with a forecast of rain. The patrol car with its red and blue flashing lights was at the corner, again.  Joy was huddled up with her sweater pulled over her knees.

“How are you feeling, Joy?”

“I’m really freaked man. I’m tweaked. I’ve got to get back on my meds. I didn’t sleep at all last night. See my hand, it’s shaking. I was watching BTN (Black Television Network) last night an Steve Harvey was on. I was laughing so hard I said to myself, I’ve got to tape this.

“I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up in some kind of nightmare… really scary shit, anyway, I was awake for the rest of the night.”

I asked, “Since you don’t have your health card, what if you went to the emergency department of one of the hospitals? Wouldn’t they give you your meds?”

“They’d get me juiced up on Delantin. That really screws up my brain and when I take it I’m not supposed to drink. My doctor gave me a prescription for a lower  dose of the pills, that I’m supposed to take on a regular basis. I haven’t seen him for years. He’s across town. When I moved in with Chuck, I decided to go to his doctor since he was close by. He was really creepy, so I stopped going to him. Then, I went to another doctor, but he’s the same nationality as my landlord. I don’t get along with them.

“I really hate doctors and hospitals. A couple of years ago I was in and they told me that I had an ovarian cyst. They tested it and it was benign. That means it won’t hurt you — right? The next time I went in they checked it again and said that it had grown. I said, ‘Cut the sucker out. Give me a hysterectomy.  It’s cobweb city down there — I can’t have any more kids, my period has to stop sometime. I won’t miss that. I’m not with a man so I won’t be losing out there.  While I’m here anyway, just scrape it clean! Get rid of that junk!’ He said in a deep voice, all proper like, ‘I’ve never heard it described in those terms, but you understand the situation. We can’t operate because it isn’t causing any secondary complications. If that changes, then we’ll consider a hysterectomy.’ ”

I suggested, “If you were happy with your first doctor, why don’t you go back to him?”

“I hadn’t thought of that. Do you think I could go back?”

“Phone him. I’ve gone back to a doctor I had twenty years ago.”

Michelle stopped by with a paper cup and a bag from Tim Horton’s.

“Hi Michelle,” I said.

“Hi, Dennis. I have your tea, Joy, one cream and three sugar just as you like it. Since I got a large, I asked them to put the cream and sugar on the side, so you can mix it as you like. I also got you a cranberry lemon muffin.”

“Thanks,” Joy replied.”

Michelle left. Joy asked, “Is that what her name is, Michelle?”

“Yeah, she was by yesterday while you were in the restaurant. I think you passed her on the sidewalk.”

“Gee, I wasn’t expecting a frickin large. It’s nice to keep my hands warm though. Do you want this muffin. The thought of cranberries and lemon makes me gag.”

The garbage man (I forget his name) came by. Joy said, “Hi, handsome! do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“Just hanging with my girlfriend.”

“Can you spare some time for me? I was thinking maybe we could go an a vacation together.”

“Sorry, we are planning a vacation though, maybe the Caribbean.”

“Do you have your passport?”

“I’ve got three of them. I have citizenship from the States, France and Canada. If one causes problems, I just give them one of the other two.”

Joy said, “Since you’ve got your truck here, maybe you could turn around and pick up that patrol car.”

“That wouldn’t be a good idea. We’re trying to get the military contract.”

“Did you say you’re joining the military? Like, to go fight in wars?”

“I’d like to, but my boss won’t give me the time off to take basic training. I’d join the reserves. I probably wouldn’t see combat.”

He left. Joy said, “I saw Marissa and Teddy last night. He was gunning at me. She’s a big girl, must be five foot ten at least.  All her weight is on top, she’s got skinny legs, skinnier than mine. One kick I could break her leg like a twig. She wasn’t even wearing a bra. Her jugs were hanging around her waist. That’s disgusting. I don’t have much, but gravity takes its toll. At least I keep mine packaged. I can imagine her with Andre. It would be like Chewbacca with one of the Ewoks. ”



 
 
 
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26 

Spirits

 

bench

 

12 September 2013

This afternoon at the park the grass was slightly damp from the morning rain, but I sat down anyway.

Shakes said, “Dennis, I met a friend of mine yesterday. His name is John, but I’ve always called him Tom Sawyer. I don’t know why. I told Danny that He was going to spend the night at our place. The only thing that Danny said was, ‘Just make sure that my portfolio is put in the bedroom. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.’ I gave Tom Sawyer two bus tickets and said to the bus driver, ‘I don’t have a pass.’ He said, ‘That’s okay, just take a seat.’ He even gave me an all day pass, because we had to transfer.”

I asked, “Do you always get the same bus driver?”

“No, but they’re getting to know me.”

Jake looked different for some reason. I said, “Jake, you’re looking very stylish today. Your hair looks nice, You’re wearing an orange shirt.”

“The only thing I did different today was to take a shower. Jacques gave me the shirt.”

Joy said, “There is something freaky going on at my place. I hear knocking inside the closet. My sofa keeps moving away from the wall. I talked to Stella about it yesterday. She said, ‘Maybe It’s kids playing a prank.’ I don’t think so.”

Mariah said, “It’s the house. It’s over hundred years old. I’ve had problems with a presence in my place. Sometimes cans are moved around. One time, everything on the TV was brushed to the floor. I can feel cold spots in the room. It just means that it’s time for a cleanse. I’m trying to get Charlie to leave. He smokes a lot of pot. I have to be free of all of that stuff, purify my body and clear my mind. I leave one door open. Then I meditate.  I’ll ask who is there and what do they want. Then I tell them that it’s time to leave. I think there is more than one spirit. It’ll will be quiet for a few months, then things will start happening again.

“That’s why I had to move from New Brunswick.  I had a sunroom upstairs. It was the only room that had windows on two sides. I put my plants there, some on tables, others hanging in the window. It was like a forest in there.

“I was downstairs and I heard the sun room door slam, I didn’t think anything of it. I figured it was probably a draft, so I got rubber door stops to keep the doors open. Some months later I heard the door slam. I thought to my self, It’s winter, there can’t be any drafts. The house is sealed tight. I went up to  investigate. The door was closed and the door stop was across the room. All of the plants had fallen to the floor.

“When I was in school they thought I was some kind of whiz kid. I never took books home, never studied. When it came time for a test I knew all the answers. Sometimes I’d come into class and I’d see what they were doing. I’d ask, ‘Didn’t we do that yesterday?’ I was having deja vu.

I’m part  Mí’kmaq. Whenever I’m in the forest I hear drumming. Nobody else hears it.



 
 
 
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26 

Flashing Lights

 

womanbox

 

12 September 2013

It had rained this morning, so I wasn’t expecting to see Joy. A patrol car, with its lights flashing red and blue, was parked at the corner, as it was yesterday. As the crowd parted I could see Joy sitting on her box, hands holding her head.

“Hi Joy, how are you feeling today?”

“Those damned flashing lights are giving me a migraine. I’m epileptic and flashing lights can trigger a seizure. Earlier, I started feeling woozy and fell off my crate. A woman came over to help me up. I told her about the flashing lights and my epilepsy. She asked, “Do you want me to go over there and ask that they turn them off?’ I said, ‘Go for it, fill your boots!’

“I got even with Buddy yesterday.”

I asked, “Do you mean your upstairs neighbor?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. He was stomping around, as usual, so I got my transistor radio, tuned it to a really annoying Jazz station, turned the volume up full blast, then with the radio facing up I taped it to the ceiling. Then I went out.

“When I came back a few hours later he asked, ‘What’s with the noise?’ I asked him, ‘What’s with the stomping. I can play dirty too. If you want to act like an adult and walk a bit more quietly, I’ll turn off the radio.’ He was quiet for a few hours, then, at about 10:30, he was back with the stomping again, So back on with the radio.’ His girlfriend came down, I get along with her, she said, ‘The noise is really irritating upstairs and it’s right under his chair.’ I said, ‘I’d be happy to turn the music off if he’d stop stomping on my ceiling. In fact, I’d like to turn it off; I can’t hear my television programs.’ She went back up and it was quiet for a while. Then at 1:30 he woke me up.

“I have to go pee. Do you mind waiting here with my stuff? You can keep my blanket warm.”

Rachelle stopped by. She asked, “is Joy around?”

I said, “Yes, she’s just gone for a few minutes. She’ll be back shortly. Your name is Rachelle, isn’t it?”

“No, Michelle, and you’re Dennis, right? I just stopped to put my dollar in Joy’s cap. I’m on my way to work.”

“Sorry, I’m bad with names.”

“So am I.”

When Joy returned I said, “Michelle was here. She dropped you a dollar.”

“Who’s Michelle?”

“She’s one of your regulars. She’s pretty, with streaked blond hair. You said she prayed with you once.”

“Oh, is that her name? Yeah, she wrote me a poem once. It was all about me being me and to be the best me I can, I was loved, that kind of stuff. I keep getting her confused with Catherine, but she’s mulatto, kind of olive skin and black curly hair. I haven’t seen her for a long time.”

Joy had a third of a roll of toilet paper under her jacket, “I’ve run out at home. It’s not like I broke in any place. it was just sitting there.”

To a woman walking by Joy said, “That’s a beautiful dress. It really suits you.” To me she said, “I love giving out fashion advice.”

I asked, “Have you heard anything from Jake. You said he was being moved to Joyceville.”

“Yeah, he’s there for a while, then they’re going to move him. I don’t know where… When he was at Millhaven they kept him in the hole for the first month. I guess it was because he breached his parole, by visiting me. I don’t know. He says he wants to go to his mother prison, that’s Collins Bay. He’s only got ninety days left. By the time they get through all the paperwork, he’ll be ready to be released.

“Ontario has about eight prisons, most are in Kingston. I was in P4W (Prison For Women), but they tore that down. It was all mouldy inside. The bricks were deteriorating. It’s a good thing they tore it down.”



 
 
 
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26 

Psycho Bitch

 

group3

 
11 September 2013

Joy was smiling and waving as I approached this morning.

I asked, “How are you feeling today?”

“My ear is still bothering me. I was using one of those plastic gel packs, that you put in the microwave. That helped at first, then the pain spread down  to my teeth and throat.  I was coughing and could hardly swallow. It’s a bit better today. I just had to get out of the apartment.”

“Has there been any news about your health card?”

“No I haven’t seen Greg, for a long time.”

“How about talking to your worker at the agency?”

“I can try that again, but he was to take me to the food bank. That never happened. He’s also supposed to take me to their big warehouse, on the outskirts of town, to get some different furniture. What I have takes up too much space in my apartment.  I’d like to get a futon that I could fold up during the day. Now, I usually fall asleep on my two-seater sofa. I awake all scrunched in a ball.”

“If I get to talk to my worker, I’m going to ask if he can find me a new place. My lease is up in November. The asshole that lives above me is really driving me nuts, stomping around all hours of the night, and at 7:00 Saturday morning.  I know he’s trying to get a rise out of me, so I’ll get kicked out.  I’m not going to give him the satisfaction. I get along well with my landlady. She was out with the weed whacker yesterday.  She didn’t know how to replace the nylon cord, so I showed her. Later, I helped her weed her garden. I had nothing else to do. I should phone her and tell her what’s going on.

“He thinks that the reason the cops have been coming to my door is because they’ve got something on me, or suspect something, but it’s McCain and Sarrazin. I get along well with them. They’re still trying to nail Andre with assaulting me. They said they’ve tried several times at his apartment, but he doesn’t answer. I wouldn’t either. Cops have a distinctive knock.”

“What did Big Jake think about you being beaten by Andre?”

“He asked, ‘Do I know the guy?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said,  ‘you’ve met him, a short little ass wipe, bow-legged, no front teeth, deep voice like a frog.’ Jake asked, ‘How did he manage to beat you up?’ I said, ‘He’d bought me some drinks. We were drunk.’ He said, ‘I paid out, now you put out, or I’ll knock you out.’ ‘That’s what he did. He sucker punched me in the side of the head.’

“I filled out all the paperwork.  The cops asked me, ‘Do you want him arrested?’ ‘You’re damn right, I want him arrested! Throw his sorry ass in jail. My old man beat me; he’s doing two years. I never did nothin’ with this guy. I wasn’t his girlfriend.  I wasn’t sleeping with him. I didn’t kiss him, nada.’

“He’s the only one that cut me or gave me a concussion. Jake never did that.  The inside of my mouth was all torn up from getting shots in the face.

“I told the cops, ‘You guys see him on the street, he’s always up to some scam or another. He must have warrants against him. Keep an eye out, you should be able to get him on something.’ It happened so long ago I don’t even care any more. He’s lost all his friends. The crackheads he’s hanging around with now are as likely to kill him as anything.

“See that woman across the street, the one with the grey suit jacket and the striped hair? That’s Deaf Donald’s mother. She doesn’t talk to me much any more, except to ask if I’ve seen Donald. Whether I have, or not, she tells me to say to him that I haven’t seen her. So, when he comes along and asks, ‘Has my mother been by?’ I say, ‘Nope.’ I should get paid for passing on these lies.”

I asked, “Did Mariah tell you that the cops were by on Friday?”

“Yeah, she said it happened just before she arrived.”

“Donald was the only one they hassled. They saw the methadone in his pack, along with an open beer. He’d thrown an empty can behind him.”

“When you’re taking methadone you’re not supposed to mix it with alcohol, or anything else. it’s easy to tell when Donald has been drinking. He gets that dopey look on his face. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

“See that patrol car on the corner, with its flashers on. He’s been here all morning. It sure doesn’t help my business, makes people nervous. I’ve only made three eighty-six, so far.

At the park  I went to shake hands with Yves, he said, “Not that hand, it’s broken.”

I asked, “How did that happen?”

He said, “Don’t ask, I won’t tell.”

Chester said, “I saw Andre yesterday, He was with that big black guy, Teddy, and Marissa.”

Joy said, “Marissa is a psycho bitch from hell. I nearly went toe to toe with her one time, but she was wearing boots with steel caps. She’s a big girl; one you’ve got to get in,  stab fast, or your done. She stabbed Kip seven times in the gut.”

I said, “He’s in a nursing home now, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, Stella’s the only one who knows where he is. She can’t tell anyone or she’ll lose her visiting privileges.”

“One time me and Jake were down by the river when Teddy came along. He started shouting at me about stuff that happened in Toronto fifteen years ago. As soon as he got close, Jake stood up and clotheslined him, right across the throat. Teddy didn’t get up.”

A patrol car pulled up to the curb. Donald walked away, Chester dumped his beer, crushed the can and put it in his backpack.

“Does anyone have any open alcohol?” the cop asked.

Joy said, “I got a bottle, but it’s sealed.”

“That’s okay.” He asked Chester, ” How about you? I saw you put something in your pack.”

Chester opened his pack and said, “I’ve got four closed beer, and two cans. I return them for refund.”

“It sure smells like beer.”

Joy said, “His pack always smells like beer.”

“You weren’t planning to drink those other four here, were you?”

“No, I’m heading straight home.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you alone,” said the cop.”

The patrol car left and parked across the street. Later, it circled the block.

Joy pulled out of her backpack a half bottle of sherry, poured some in her drinking bottle, filled the rest with water. Her hands were shaking,  “Shark helped me pour the last one. I saw him earlier. He lent me four bucks. Can you imagine? We’ve been fighting for thirty years. Now, he helps me get a bottle.”

Jacques and Mariah were having an animated conversation in French. Jacques kept pointing at an article in the newspaper.  Joy said, “I have no idea what they’re saying, but it sure as hell sounds interesting.”



 
 
 
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