Joy and Me

Love is amazing —
when we give it freely
it doesn’t diminish,
it enriches our souls.

Joy, is a panhandler
(incapable of anything else),
she is also my friend.
Each morning
(on my way to work)
I eagerly anticipate
her greeting and warm smile.

I sit with her
on the sidewalk,
as witness
to her blackened eyes.
I listen to her stories
of beatings and abuse,
give comfort
when she cries.
“Tears are a sign of weakness”
her father used to say.

I bring her tea
(cream and three sugars),
a bagel with cream cheese,
on mornings when frost
is on the ground,
and on the hearts,
of most passers by.

She gives to me
her hand to hold,
an attentive ear
to my daily problems,
and a hug
(when a hug is needed).

With her love,
Joy has enriched my soul
and filled my heart with tenderness.
She has given me so much
that I didn’t know existed —
I am deeply in her debt.

 



 
 
 
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Graduation from Rehab

 

 
19 April 2013

When I squatted down to talk to Joy she said, “Nick and Lucy have been creeping about this morning. They’re both drug sick. Nick went somewhere to get some sleep. Lucy said she’d stop to talk with me, but she had to get fixed. You wont believe believe it but she asked me, ‘Do you have a rig with you?’ I said ‘I’m not a user, and even if I was I wouldn’t keep that stuff on me.’ It would be just my luck to have a cop check my bag and get pricked with a needle. That would be an attempted murder charge against me. Little Jake has AIDS and he spit at a cop last summer. They told him that, if it had landed on them, he could have been charged with attempted murder.

“Anyway, Lucy slunk off to Tim Horton’s to use their bathroom. They won’t let her into the pizza place. She’ll be smashing in there. It’s been awhile since she left. Maybe she’s nodded off. I guess I’ll find out when I go there later.

“She was looking really rough, wearing baggy winter pants. It looked like she hadn’t bathed for a while.

“I’ve got a sore neck from that office chair I got. It has a high back and the only way I can rest my head is to stretch out. I have to hunch my back to watch my dvds. Weasel brought me a bunch. The ones I enjoy the most I’ve been watching over and over, there’s The Godfather, Serpico, Bladerunner. I have the dialog memorized from that one. Pirates of the Caribbean. He also brought me Charlie’s Angels. I can’t see myself watching that.

I said, “I like movies with Johnny Depp.”

“They’re weird, man.”

“Do you mean weird as in Edward Scissorhands?”

“Yeah that and Willie Wonka, and there’s the one where he plays the Mad Hatter and Finding Neverland. I heard that in real life he wears women’s underwear under his clothes.”

I said, “He played in the movie Ed Wood. His character was a producer of b movie, who is also a cross dresser.”

“That wouldn’t be much of a stretch for him. I can’t imagine any guy wanting to wear women’s underwear. Even I don’t like to wear women’s underwear. I wear men’s boxers, because they’re more comfortable.

“When I was with Jake he wanted me wearing these panties cut way up on the sides. He thought they looked sexy. He even had me wearing a thong. Can you imagine walking around with a string up your ass? if you sat or squatted wrong, they’d cut you.”

I asked, “Have you been taking your medication?”

“I’ve been taking it, but not the way I’m supposed to. I’m trying to make the pills last until I get my health card. It pisses me off that my worker hasn’t got me one after five months. Everybody else has theirs.”

A well dressed lady stopped to talk to Joy and dropped a five. She asked, “How have you been, I haven’t seen you around for a while?”

“I was in hospital from December to the end of January. It was because of the fibromyalgia I’ve got in my legs. I was in a wheelchair for a while then a walker then a cane. I couldn’t get out much.”

“How are you feeling now?”

“I gimp around a bit. I won’t be running anytime soon. If I get chased by a ferocious dog, I’ll just lay down and get eaten. I won’t have any choice.”

“All the best to you,” said the lady as she walked away.

I said, “She seems nice.”

“Yeah, she doesn’t usually drop me money. She’s a big shot with the government. When she’s alone, and only when she’s alone, she’ll stop to talk with me. When she’s with people from work, she doesn’t even look at me. I guess she’s embarrassed.”

I met the rest of the group at eleven o’clock, at ‘the point’ (the traffic median). They were all there: Joy, Little Chester, Tommy, Jacques, Shakes and Little Jake.

I asked Joy, “Did Nick and Lucy come back after I left?”

“No, and I checked the washroom. I just can’t understand people smashing that stuff in their arms. It just makes you nod off.”

Two women, Sophia and Becky approached. Sophia said, “We just graduated on Tuesday, so we’re free now.”

“Congratulations!” said Joy. “Hey, you’ve put on some weight. The other day I saw you from across the street. I was going to say, ‘Sophia, your ass is bigger.’ I decided not to.”

After they left I asked, “What did they graduate from?”

“I don’t know, probably rehab. I think that was part of Sophia’s parole, that she’d have to attend rehab. They’re confined to a house. They have to do chores. They’re monitored all the time.

“When I was released I was sent to the Phoenix Program in Hamilton. It was all paid for. I was using crack then.

“They gave us these little, blue 12 Step books from A.A. I said to the woman, ‘I’m not here for alcoholism I’m here for drug addiction.’ She said, Just replace the word alcohol with the word drug. It’s the same program.

“I got kicked out of there. You couldn’t buy crack in Hamilton, so my friend and I went out and got drunk.” They made a mistake in refunding to me the unused portion of the money paid for the program. I got really wasted after that.

“My mom wouldn’t speak to me while I was taking drugs. I quit, but I’d lost weight, so she thought I was still using. She wouldn’t let me see my kids. I had lots of money then. She liked that.

“Earlier, I tried taking a pee behind that brick wall. Bearded Bruce yelled over at me, ‘Joy, I can see your bum.’ I tried to turn around a bit, but the shrubs don’t give much cover. I couldn’t pee after that. I’m going to go back there and try again.”

Joy walked across the street and I talked to Bruce, who I hadn’t seen since he’d invited me over for Christmas dinner. “How are things going in your new place, Bruce?”

“Great, sometimes I don’t even want to leave. I pan in my usual spot from six to around nine. I make about twenty bucks, enough to buy my smokes and a few groceries. I go grocery shopping twice a week. My freezer is full. I’m eating well. I only drink once a week — today.

“My place is small, just a bachelor with a big double bed. My girlfriend had been staying with me, but she had to go to hospital for gall stones. They did, what they call, non-invasive surgery. They put a tube through her nose and vacuumed the stones out that way.

“It was awful when I went in to see her. She had the tube in her nose, the oxygen tube, she had to have a blood transfusion. There were machines with wires hooked to her arms. Her blood pressure was going up and down. I thought I was going to lose her.

“Then she developed pancreatitis. I’m sure she picked that up in the hospital, because it was antibiotic resistant. She’d never taken antibiotics before so she wasn’t immune. It wasn’t an allergy. Anyway, they had to use two of the strongest antibiotics they had. She’s fine now.

“Now, she’s gone to stay with her folks for awhile. I hope she doesn’t start drinking again. When she was here, I could keep an eye on her.”

 



 
 
 
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Police Brutality

 

 

16 April 2013

It was raining this morning, so I wasn’t expecting to see Joy, but there she was in her usual place. I said, “I’m surprised to see you here. I thought you’d stay at home because of the rain.”

“I was up early and didn’t have anything else to do, so I came here. It rained three times and it stopped three times. Who knows what the rest of the day will be like.

“Boy, I’m really glad you came, I’m near to busting with having to go to the bathroom. Can you watch my stuff?”

“Sure, you go ahead.”

When Joy returned I asked, “So, did you talk to your workers? Is there any news about getting you furniture?”

“Yeah, that’s set up for 1:00. The only thing I haven’t done is the dishes. I’ll do them before they arrive.

“I saw the guys yesterday. Jake threw Shakes out of his apartment. Shakes has lived outside all his life, he doesn’t know how to act inside. Jake doesn’t have furniture, just an air conditioner, still in its box, but just the same he likes his place kept tidy. Shakes was flicking his cigarette ashes everywhere, grinding his butts out on the hardwood floor. It’s not his fault. It’s just the way he’s lived all these years.

“Chester came with Raven, but as soon as she saw that Jacques had money she went with him. Chester wasn’t too happy about that. Before they left Jacques said, ‘Maybe, me, I get to play with a little pussy this afternoon.’ I’m just glad that I’m single and celibate, no cooties for me. Some of the women these guys go out with — they’re not pretty — most you’d have to double bag, and I mean Hefty bags.

“Can you mail a letter for me? It’s to my youngest son, he lives with his older brother. I’m trying to get some communication going between us. The others I haven’t heard from in a while. One’s up in the Northwest Territories, working in a gold mine. He was raised by my sister and sent her a huge nugget. She had it appraised at $20,000.00. I said, ‘Hold on to that, he’s going to need that for college.’

“I saw Andre yesterday, while he was still sober I said to him, ‘You know there is never going to be anything between us. You’re like a brother to me. Do you understand that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I guess so.'”

“So, do you think he got the message this time.”

“I hope so.”

At noon it was still misty, as I passed a bus shelter I saw Tom and Shakes. “Hey, it’s been a long time, man!” said Tom.

“Yes it has. Shakes do you have your hydro turned on yet?”

“Yes I do. That Friday that it went off, I phoned my worker and said, ‘I want my fuckin’ hydro turned on. It’s a long weekend coming up. How would you like your fuckin’ hydro off for that long. I’m going to be out this afternoon, but when I get home for supper the fuckin’ hydro had better be on.’

“You told her, Shakes!”

“Yeah, I sure did, ha ha ha.”

“So, Tom, have you been panning near the mall?”

“No, did you hear what happened to me there a couple of years ago? I wanted a Happy Meal from McDonalds, but I was a bit drunk and I knew they wouldn’t serve me. I didn’t have any money, but I had just been to the pharmacy and had my prescription for Percocet renewed. I asked a guy going into McDonalds if he used Percocet. He said, ‘Yeah!’ I asked, ‘For three percs would you buy me a Happy Meal?’ He said, ‘Sure!’ What he did was go straight to this big security guard and told him I stole some Percs from him.

“The security guard came out and tried to put his hands in my pockets. I wouldn’t let him and pushed him away. Another security guard came along and grabbed my arm. The other one kicked my leg from behind and broke it. It was sticking way out to the side. They put me in cuffs and phoned the police. I managed to squirm my way, with the broken leg, to a pay phone. With the handcuffs behind my back I was still able to pull myself up, knock the receiver off the hook and dial 911. I said to the operator, “This is Thomas Pelletier, I’ve been beaten by security guards and they broke my leg. I need an ambulance. The operator said they had already received a call and an ambulance was on its way.

“By that time the police had arrived. They wouldn’t listen to anything I said. One put his knee on my head, breaking my glasses. The other one took the pills out of my pocket and handed them to someone.

I said, “I have a prescription for those pills, just ask at the pharmacy. They didn’t even check. The cop said to me, ‘You’re nothing but a homeless, drunken indian. If you don’t shut up we’re going to take you out of town and bury you.’

“I yelled to people in front of the mall, ‘My name is Thomas Pelletier. The police have just told me they are going to kill me, take me out of town and bury me.’

“The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. They set my leg, put it in a cast and a brace. I was supposed to go for physiotherapy, but I’m an alcoholic. There’s no way I could sit in a room for three hours without a drink. Besides, it was on the other side of the city. I didn’t even have money for bus tickets. I hadn’t been panning, so I had no money coming in.

“I wore that leg brace for a year and a half. In the end it did help me. People are more likely to give money to a guy in a brace than one without.

“Ever since then I’ve been afraid for my life. I’m supposed to be part of a native group protesting the wind turbines scheduled to be installed on Thunder Mountain. They want to put them on sacred land. If the police see me, I’m afraid that one of them will push me in front of a car.

“I was talking to the Anishinaabe Clan Mothers at Maniwaki and in Cornwall. I explained to them that this protest could end up like the one at Oka. The young people wouldn’t remember, but I was there. Some of them wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying guns, but there would be guns behind them, protecting them.

“It was our Chief that signed over the land to the wind turbine company. I said to him, ‘It won’t be you standing in the front lines blocking the equipment. It’ll be me.’ I’ve served over fifteen years in correctional institutions and mental institutions. I don’t mind going to jail. In fact I would be proud to give my life to protect our sacred ground. It’s all we have.’ ”

“I have to go now, Tom. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”

Shakes asked, “Dennis could you spare some bus tickets and a Tim Horton’s card?”

“Sure Shakes.”

“Thanks Dennis, we’ll see you soon.”

 



 
 
 
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Snuffleupagus

 

 

15 April 2013

This morning was cold. Joy was wearing two hoodies, a jacket and a heavy sweater over top. Her legs were wrapped in a blanket.

“Hi Sweetie, I’m glad you’re here. I have to have a major piss and I can’t go into the pizza place. Will you watch my stuff and do your magic?”

I sat on her crate and guarded her cap with the change in it (the jingle). I smiled and tried to look needy, but nobody was buying it. I noticed the averted eyes. Some of my friends passed without saying hello.

Joy returned, I said, “I didn’t have any luck.”

“Mondays are always bad. I didn’t want to come out today, but I missed Friday and Thursday because of the weather, so I figured I better get out.”

“How did Tuesday go?” I asked,” Do you have your furniture?”

“No, and I’m really pissed off that they cancelled again. I phoned my workers at about 1:00 Tuesday, as I was crossing the bridge. I heard one of them in the background say, ‘If that’s Joy, tell her we’ll have to reschedule.’ She couldn’t even tell me herself. I said, ‘I’ve been waiting five fuckin’ months, this is insane! All my other friends have been taken to the warehouse to get furniture. Why is it that I have to wait so long!’ I don’t know what that woman has against me. If I gave her a shot in the head, they’d phone the police. I guess that wouldn’t be a good move.”

“The table and couch that Andre promised me — he gave them to somebody else.

“I’m not like some of these other people. I have no family to turn to. Mind you, I’d have plenty of places to crash if I lost my apartment.”

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“It was cool. I went over to Andre’s. Snuffleupagus was there, that’s what I call Hippo. He was whining the whole time. ‘I don’t have any money in my bank account.’ I told him that his GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund would be coming soon. His income tax refund would take a little longer. He’ll just have to wait like all of us. You can’t hurry the government; but he wants it now!

“Weasel is pissed with me because he invited me over and I haven’t been there yet. He had Little Jake over and split his eyebrow? I told Jake that when he mixes sherry and beer, like he does with his Jakenator, he flips out and becomes a real asshole. That’s what happened, so Weasel smacked him up side the head, chased him out the door and across the parking lot.

“Weasel said to me, ‘You know I’d never hit you, Joy!’ I said, ‘Why not? It’s not like I’ve never been hit before. Is it because I’m a woman? Well, I don’t punch like a woman, so don’t worry on that score.

“I passed out on the couch, Weasel was asleep in a chair and Andre slept on the floor. Andre’s sister was over. I like her. She’s moving into a beautiful place. It’s great if you can afford it. He’d been telling her that he want’s to get together with me, but that’s not going to happen. She’d look over at me with those questioning eyes, Why don’t you like my brother?

“It’s not that I don’t like him, I feel about him like he is my brother. Nothing’s going to happen between us. I’ve been telling him that for two years now. Even when he and Weasel walked me home he had this pouty face and said, ‘Can I at least have a hug?’ When I did hug him he tried to kiss me on the mouth, but I turned my head and he got my cheek.” I said to him, ‘That’s the reason there’ll never be anything between us. The more you try to get closer, the more I’m going to push away.’ Then he said, ‘So, you want me to just leave you alone?’ I said, ‘Yes!’ Maybe he’ll eventually catch on.

“I’m still short $4.00. You don’t have $4.00 do you?”

“No,” I said, “I only use plastic — to get the Air Miles.”

“It’s okay, I see my Dutch guy coming. This could be good.”

A tall, well dressed man said, “Hello.” and dropped two quarters.

“Thanks, honey.” said Joy. To me she said, “That’s not good.”

I said, “I’ll leave you to work your charm.”

 



 
 
 
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St. Patrick’s Day

 

 

16 March 2017

The temperature has been hovering around the freezing mark, but the sun has been melting the ice on the sidewalks making the walking less treacherous. “Good morning, Ted, it should be a good day for you especially when the sun starts shining on you.”

“Yeah, last night was really bad. I came this close (indicating a space of about an inch) to getting into it with these two big guys. I’m six foot and I was looking way up into their faces, but it all worked out the end. Lately I’ve been talking to this native woman, Fay. She’s about 40, nice looking. Anyway, I was going into McDonald’s as a friend of mine was coming out. He had a massive black eye. I asked him, ‘Have you been in a fight?’ He said, ‘Yeah, a woman punched me in the face.’ I laughed and said, ‘A woman punched you?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘the one you were talking to last night.’ I saw my woman friend at the bus stop talking to these two big native guys. I walked up and started talking to her. One of them says to me, ‘Are you some kind of a fuckin’ weirdo?’ I stood right up to him and said, ‘Do I look to you like I’m some kind of a fuckin’ weirdo?’ He backed off because he could see I was ready to get it on with him. I talked to Fay for a few minutes. I said to her, So, you punched my friend in the eye.’ She said, ‘Yeah, I punched him. He was being an asshole.’ Everything was cool. I wandered away, but kept an eye on them. Soon after she starts yelling at these guys and stomps off. I breathed a sigh of relief because now she was walking alone.”

I said, “So you had a chance to talk to her.”

“Yeah, you could say that — 10 bucks. It’s the way I am.”

I changed the conversation. “Happy St. Patrick’s day.”

“Is that what today is? There are a lot of bars on this street aren’t there?”

“Yeah, Irish bars, Scottish bars, any kind you want.”

“I think I’ll be panning in front of an Irish bar. They’ll all be full tonight; the jails too.”

 



 
 
 
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Eviction

 

 

16 March 2017

“Good morning, Ted, how’s it going with this bad weather we’ve been having?”

“Not so good. Yesterday with the blowing snow nobody wanted to stop. I was up near the hotel all day and made about $30.00? Today’s a bit better, I collected enough to get one of those big breakfasts on a bun. The sun is out, the weather will be warmer.”

“How about housing. Do you have that sorted?”

“Well, I don’t know. They gave the 17 residents 120 days notice. That will take us ’till May 16. I talked to a legal advisor. She said the company is required to pay is first and last month’s rent, but in some cases they’ve been able to squirm around that. She said, ‘Don’t’ give them your key until the check is in your hand. Don’t listen to any of their excuses. Make sure your rent is paid in full so in court they won’t have a leg to stand on. Give them one of my cards so they know that you have representation.’ I’m not exactly sure what they’re planning to do with the building; they may gut it, they may demolish it. If they have tools in there they won’t want a lot of disgruntled tenants with keys to the side door.”

I said, “By May 16th the weather will be warm, no matter what happens.”

“Yeah, my worker is supposed to find me an apartment, but I don’t mind sleeping outside. I’ve done that before. We’ll see what happens.”

“Take care Ted. I may see you tomorrow.”

 



 
 
 
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Harrassment

 

 
9 March 2017

When I saw Ted he looked dejected, “I really got myself in shit with my worker yesterday. You know how it is when you meet someone and she’s overweight and not that attractive, but you can’t help having strong feelings for her? I bought this woman a dozen red roses.”

“How did she like them?”

“I didn’t include a card saying they were from me. I sent them to my worker’s boss. My worker said, ‘That verges on harassment.’ I just thought I was doing something nice, giving something to brighten her day.

“Anyway, I have another appointment today. Since I’m being evicted and they’re demolishing my building there are some legal details that she wants to discuss with me. I don’t know why she didn’t just tell me over the phone. I hope she’s not still pissed off.

“I had a pretty good weekend. I watched about 7 dvds. Some of them I watched twice. I don’t have cable service so I buy dvds from the pawn shop. They have good prices.

“I got so drunk on Friday that I couldn’t stand. I had to sit here a couple of extra hours while I got sober. I haven’t had a drink since. This big cop poked his fingers in my face and said he could charge me with panhandling. I said, ‘I’m not panhandling, I don’t have a sign, I don’t ask people for money. I’m just sitting here. Go ahead and charge me.’ I didn’t get a ticket. He eventually just walked away.”

I said, “Bernard used a sign saying I’M BROKE AND SEXY.”

“Yeah, that guy still owes me $200.00, but something funny happened, a little girl came up to me and handed me an envelope with $50.00, so I guess he’s trying to pay me back. You never know about people.”

“Did you hear about the cop who was charged with manslaughter. They had this guy on the ground and the cop kept beating him with his baton. It was all caught on video. The guy died.”

“Well Ted, I’ll let you get back to work.”

 



 
 
 
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