Ted’s Mother

27 October 2017

I saw Ted’s green upturned hat, then saw his boots sticking out from behind a column of the church. When he came into view I said, “Good morning, Ted how was it staying with your mother?”

“It was okay, I got her in to see the doctor. He fixed her up with a puffer and a pump to get the fluid out of her lungs. She’s still as cranky as ever. Did I tell you she smokes from five to eight packs of cigarettes a day. I’ve been trying to get her to cut down to three. It’s hard for her since I smoke too. I should give it up.”

“Did you catch any racoons?”

“No, I didn’t see any around. I’ve got a trap set. I’ll leave it there until the snow falls, then I’ll be able to see if there are any tracks.”

“How long does it take to go to your mother’s place.”

“About forty-five minutes. I take a bus to the outskirts of town then take a taxi from there.

“Today my worker is going to take me to the Salvation Army warehouse to pick out my furniture. They have free delivery. It’ll be good to have a real bed for a change. I get sore sleeping on the floor.

“I was panning in front of the hotel last night and this East Indian guy stopped and gave me a bag of food from a restaurant. It was delicious. I love Indian food. This morning a guy dropped me a twenty. I went to the pizza place and ordered a breakfast sandwich with egg and sausage, home fries and a coffee. I’m still full.

“I met a woman the other day. She’s slept at my place for the last three nights. She’s really nice, tidied my apartment, cooked a nice meal and did the dishes afterwards. It felt homey. I’ve missed that. She’s not like most of the women I’ve been involved with lately.”

“She sounds like a keeper.” I said.

“Maybe, we’ll see how it works out.”

“You didn’t give her a set of keys, did you?”

“No, I’ve learned my lesson there. Richard stayed over one night. I had to kick his ass to wake him in the morning. He said, ‘Just let me sleep a little while longer. Can you leave me a key?’ I said, ‘No way! I’m going to work and you should as well. Don’t bother coming back because I won’t let you in.’

“I’m not going to stay here too long. I’ve got a bitch of a headache. I’ll buy some Advil on my way home.”

 



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Sidewalk Conference

 

26 October 2017

Lost in thought, listening to music on my ipod, I heard, “Dennis! Mate!” It wasn’t anybody I work with since they were coming from the wrong direction. Without my glasses I could barely make out the figures of a big man walking beside a small man. As they approached I recognized Bearded Bruce and Little Jake. I hadn’t seen either of them for about a month.

I reached out to shake Bruce’s hand, but he said, “I don’t want to shake your hand, come here give me a hug, brother. Don’t hug Jake, he’s contagious. Jake and I were just saying, ‘We haven’t seen Dennis for a while. We should go visit him. Have you got a minute to sit and talk?

“Sure, I said, “I’d like to catch up on news from the street.”

Bruce continued, “I’ve got cardboard for you to sit on so you don’t get your pants dirty.” We sat and Bruce put his empty paper coffee cup out for donations.

“How have you been? I asked.

Jake spoke first, “Not so good. I have a blood infection. I’m taking medication for it.

“The last time I saw you was on the bus, wasn’t it?”

“No, I was waiting for the bus and you came up to me. You weren’t feeling too well. You said, ‘I’m walking around in a fog. I don’t know where I’m going.’ ”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

I asked, “Have you seen anybody around that I would know. Does the gang still meet at the park?”

Bruce answered, “No, since Wolf died, Jacques doesn’t come around. Everybody else is dead. That sounds harsh but it’s true. Wolf mentioned to me he missed the conversations that he had with you. He didn’t like most people. I see Little Chester near the mall. He’s still annoying. It drives me crazy to be around him. The two gay guys have Wolf’s dog Shaggy. You remember them. They used to bring Wolf a half dozen eggs and a loaf of bread. They showed me a picture of Shaggy. She looks like she’s doing well.”

I asked Jake, “Do you have your furniture yet?”

“Yeah, it took two years, but I’m set now. Have you been to your cabin lately? Duck season is opening soon. Do you hunt?”

“No, I don’t hunt, but I get scared during duck season. I saw a couple of guys armed with shotguns in a boat. It looked like they were shooting at me.”

“Do you hunt?”

“No, my brother does. Since my mom died he’s living in her house. He bought my share. I don’t go there any more.”

Bruce said, “Jake and I were heading to my spot near the restaurants and bars. Here doesn’t seem to be working for us. Maybe you’re too well dressed.”

I replied, “Ted says I’m good luck for him. He always gets a few drops when I’m sitting with him.”

Bruce said, “Luck is luck. I’m superstitions. I always have my lucky penny, and bear token in my cup.”

Several colleagues from work walked past. One smiled, one frowned and the others ignored me. Bruce yelled at them, “He’s just visiting. It’s just me and Jake that are panning.”

It’s been seven years that I’ve known Bruce and Jake. I always look forward to seeing and talking with them. When I first met them they were both living in a cardboard box near the dumpsters in back of Starbuck. Now they are both housed and their alcoholism seems to be under control. Bruce limits his drinking to two beers a day. He got up and reached out his hand to help me to my feet.

I said, “I’ve got something for you.” I reached into my wallet and saw that I had two twenties. I handed one to Jake and the other to Bruce.

Bruce said, “Are you sure you can afford this? I always ask that of people. We saw Jenny last night. She had been drinking and was laughing. She reached into her pocket and pulled out some bills. She handed me a fifty. I don’t want you to think that I’d take advantage of somebody who was under the influence. I asked her, ‘Are you sure you can afford this?’ She replied, ‘Yes.’ I saw that she also had a twenty and a ten in her hand. I asked, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to give me the ten?’ ‘No, I’m sure.’ she said. So, I’m asking you again,  Are you sure you can afford this?”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve given money to any street people. They simply haven’t been around. I thought about what other things I would use that money for. Nothing of any consequence came to mind, however with it Bruce and Jake would be able to go to Bruce’s place for supper. They would have made their price for the night.  Their alternative would have been to sit on the cold sidewalk for six hours until the bars closed and the streets emptied. It gave me great pleasure to be able to have a positive effect on their lives. I consider them my closest friends and looking at Jake I didn’t know if I would see him again. I said to both of them, “I’m sure I can afford this.” We hugged and went our separate ways.

 



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Bernard is Back

13 October 2017

I saw Ted’s green upturned hat. When I approached he appeared to be asleep. I was about to walk past when I saw his eyes open. “Good morning Ted.”

“Good morning, Dennis, I drank four tall boys already this morning, so I’m a bit wasted. I’ve had a fever for the past two days. Yesterday I stayed in my sleeping bag. I pulled it over my head and that’s the way I spent the day. My face is frying. I must have some sort of infection, maybe in my teeth. I need an Advil or something.”

“Did you buy a new bed?”

“No, I used the money to exploit women. That’s the way I am.”

I said, “Maybe you should go to a walk-in clinic, or do you have your own doctor.”

“Doctors! What do they know.

“I read that in Australia they’ve had their worst ‘flu season in ten years — a hundred and seventy thousand cases so far this year. Two and a half times more than last year. They’ve already had seventy-two deaths from the ‘flu. From the flu! I’d go get a shot, but I can’t while I have this fever. Make sure you get yours.

“Have you seen Bernard? I told you he gave me a twenty towards the money he stole from me. I was really drunk last night, but I briefly awoke to see him going through my wallet. I just rolled over at the time, but I remember. He’s a slimy bastard. I told you that when Rhea pulled the fire alarm he said he had to leave because the police were coming. I think he’s a pedophile. I’ve never asked him about it. He’d lie anyway, but he did go to prison shortly after he was with Rhea. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

I asked, “Will you be here on the weekend?”

“No, I don’t do well on weekends. I don’t see any of my regulars. I’ll go fishing instead. I’m going to leave now. I’m going to the pharmacy to buy some Advil and a new pair of glasses so I can read the newspaper.”

“Did you lose your glasses?”

“Well, yes and no. I know exactly where they are — at my fishing place. I put them a few feet from where I usually sit, so I can reach them when I need them.”

 

 



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Mom has Dementia

11 October 2017

“Good morning Ted,” I said, “the weather is getting colder. There’s a frost warning for tonight. How late in the season are you allowed to fish?”

“Trout spawn in October and November so the season is closed for them, but for all other game fish I’ll be fishing right through the winter. I need to get some new equipment. For sinkers I’ve been using nuts and bolts and I broke my rod. I had it in my backpack and forgot to duck when coming through a door. I caught one fish my last time out. It was a good size for eating so I gave it to somebody I met by the river. I was so drunk I fell about a dozen times, in the water three times, I was soaked up to my chest. The rest of the times I fell on the rocks. One time I didn’t think I’d be able to get up. I was sure I had broken a bone, but everything was moveable. I decided then to go home before I killed myself. Look at the scratches on my shin. My knee was swollen the size of a grapefruit. I’m still having trouble bending it.

“I spent the last week with my mother. She’d like me to move in, but I can only take so much of her. She’s getting really bad, watches wrestling all day long. When we were watching together she asked me who won. I said, ‘Ma, you were watching. You should know who won.’ She said, ‘I must have turned away for a minute or fell asleep.’ Half the time she’s watching vintage wrestling from twenty years ago. Who does that? We had a power failure, she sat in front of the television for five hours waiting for the wrestling to come back on.

“My brother and sister want to put her in a home, but she’s against the idea. She has trouble getting up and down steps. When my dad was alive we had an elevator that went up the circular staircase. It cost about five thousand dollars. She sold it for twelve hundred. I can’t imagine what they cost now. On the main floor we have a bathroom and an extra room that was used as an office. I said to her, ‘Mom, I can move your bed, your dresser and all your bedroom furniture down here. You’ll have access to everything you need.’ She said, ‘No.’ Also, she can’t keep herself clean. There’s shit all over the floor. I can’t deal with that.”

I suggested, “You could hire a Personal Care Worker. They would help her wash, dress, go to the bathroom, even cook her meals.”

“No, she wouldn’t want that. She’s very independent and bossy.”

I asked, “Have you caught any more raccoons, lately?”

“No, I didn’t see any. Her neighbour told her to stop feeding the birds because it was attracting the coons. So she stopped feeding the birds. We have six big bags of bird seed in the garage, she’s been doing this for years. I don’t know if raccoons were eating the seeds, but they’re garbage eaters. You never know.”

“Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, Ted.”

“I’ll probably be here.”

 



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I Know you, but I Forget Your Name…

 

2 October 2017

Standing at the bus stop, reading The Dain Curse by ‎Dashiell Hammett on my Kindle, a man approached me. I didn’t look up. He didn’t say anything. I lifted my head to see who it was, I recognized Little Jake. I gave him a hug and said, “Jake, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

He said, “I know you, but I forget your name.”

I said, “It’s Dennis. How are you. I’ve spoken to Bearded Bruce lately.”

“Yeah, he just threw me out. I’m walking around in a fog. I don’t know where I’m going.”

I said, “You’re looking good.”

“No, I’m not.”

I reached into my wallet looking for a five to hand him.”

“I don’t want your money. I don’t want anything.”

I said, “I was sorry to hear about Wolf passing. He was a great guy.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be my turn next. I’m not interested in money. I’m not interested in anything.” His blue eyes started to tear. He patted my shoulder then shuffled off down the sidewalk. I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to do. I just watched him drift away.

 



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