People Dying All Around Me


After stepping off the bus I saw a familiar face. It belonged to a man I once referred to as St. Nick since he prepared sandwiches and delivered them to homeless people sleeping under bridges, in parks and other places that were not publicly known. This he did from his own money collected from panning on the street. I said, “Hi, Nick, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“Yeah, I was out of town for a while then came home for Anne’s funeral. Trudy is also sick. I’ve been on the streets since winter. I’m on my way to see my worker. I’ve got liver disease and colon cancer. I need an operation, but they won’t arrange that until I have a place to stay. I’m going to tell her to get off her fuckin’ ass and find me a place. I’m really pissed off that she’s taken this long to do anything.”

“Take care, Nick. I hope that everything works out for you.”

Later I saw Ted.

“Hi Dennis. I’m kind of pissed off this morning. Ria stood me up last night. I talked to her this morning. She said that a friend came into town with four hundred dollars and they partied. I guess I would have done the same thing. Instead, I bought a bottle of vodka and polished that off.

“Did I tell you that when I was fishing the other day I caught a beaver. I was dangling my feet in the water and saw this little thing swimming towards me. I thought it was an otter, you know how friendly they are. I quickly reached down and grabbed it by the neck. I was surprised to see that it was a baby beaver. They really have sharp teeth. I held it a while, rubbed its belly, felt its tail then let it go. I was thinking of taking it home and putting it in my bathtub. I could have put in some poplar branches and kept it for a pet. I thought better of it and let it go. It would have been illegal anyway.”

After work I was waiting for my bus when I heard someone holler, “Dennis, over here!” Seated on a piece of cardboard was Bearded Bruce. He asked, “Do you have time to sit for a few minutes? Here, I’ll move the cardboard so you can rest your back against the brick wall. So, What have you been up to?”

“Same old, same old,” I said. “How about you?”

“I’ve been thinking of moving on. I’ve got bed bugs in my place again. They’ve sprayed once and will be coming back to do it again next week. That’s a real pain. I have to cover everything. When they’ve finished I’ll have to wash dishes and anything that’s been exposed. I washed all my clothes and dried them on high heat. That whole mess has got me down.”

“Where do you plan to move to?”

“I’m not sure. I might just travel and work for a couple of weeks. If I’m away for more than a month I’ll lose my apartment. It’s crazy, if I went to prison they’d hold it for me, or guarantee a place when I got out. I’ve got a one person tent that weighs three pounds. I need a big eight or twelve gallon back pack. I may go to the Niagara region to pick grapes and tend vines. I may go to Leamington to pick tomatoes. I’ll just have to find out what’s ripe for picking and where. It could be apples, peaches, strawberries or other berries.

“I’m pissed off with this Brexit situation. I was born in Scotland, but if Britain separates from Europe I’ll need a passport to travel out of the country. I have a friend in Ecuador, he says there are plenty of harvesting jobs there.

“I guess I told you that Debbie died. That hit me hard. It seems that everyone around me is dying. I want to go somewhere that people are living.”


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