I going to put down that I’m a hooker…

14 November 2017

Work was over for the day. I was standing at the bus stop, my bus pass in one hand, my Kindle in the other. I was reading Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander series Book 2). I’ve been watching it on Netflix, but I’m understanding more by reading the book. I heard someone holler, “Hey, old man,” I looked up and it was Bearded Bruce. He said, ‘That was funny, I called ‘Hey, old man’ and immediately you looked up. I hope you know I didn’t mean any offence. So, are you back from your vacation?”

“No,” I said, “we’ll be leaving Sunday and will be gone to San Diego for a week.”

“Oh, I thought it was last week. So where were you last week? I stopped by to see you a couple of times. Where were you?”

“I was in my usual places,” I said. “Maybe I left work early a few times. That may be why you missed me.”

Bruce continued, “I wanted to let you know that everything is in order now. I saw my worker and he offered me and my girl a place in their housing program. Only one hundred and ninety-one people have been chosen. He told me that I could claim my earnings as tips because panhandling is illegal. Now, I have to figure out what job I’m earning these tips from.”

“Have you decided on an occupation?”

He replied, “I going to put down that I’m a hooker, or a stripper, working part time. They’ll accept that but not panhandling. I had to tell them about my situation. People tell me that ‘It’s a problem being an alcoholic,’ or ‘It’s
a problem being addicted to drugs,’ I say, ‘It’s not a problem for me. It’s you people who see it as a problem.’ The guy asked me, ‘Are you depressed,’ ‘Depressed?’ I said, ‘The only thing that depresses me is you guys cutting off my money.’ He asked, ‘How does that make you feel?’ I said, ‘It makes me want to blow people up, No, I was just kidding. My girl says that I’ve been cranky lately.’ I said to her, ‘If you don’t like it then get out.’ She went to stay with her cousin for a week. She’s back now. She told the guy some things about her past, but not everything. It’s looking good. We’ll know by next week if we’re approved. We’re feeling positive.”

“That sounds great, Bruce. I see my bus coming, so I’m going to have to leave. give my best to Loretta.”

She said to me, ‘So, you’re going to talk to Dennis, your bitching post.’ She didn’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that I wanted to tell you our good news. It feels better when I talk to you. You really listen.”

“Take care, Bruce,” I said. When I found a seat at the front of the bus — I always sit at the front in case the bus lurches and I fall down. Sitting across from me was Chris with his cane and a pack of beer, eight tall boys.

“Hi, Dennis, my backpack was stolen this afternoon. I was panning and walked across the street to the hotel to take a piss. When I returned, my backpack was gone. I was really upset. It had my bus pass, my bank card. In the summer when I used to wear shorts and a tee shirt I’d attach my keys to the backpack. Lucky for me I have lots of pockets now and had my keys with me. I would have been in deep shit if I came home without my keys. I guess I could have phoned my landlord. He could have come down and let me in, but he wouldn’t have been happy about it. I have an extra key in my apartment. My birth certificate and my health card were at home. I got a new bus pass. It won’t be valid until three thirty tomorrow afternoon. The guy didn’t even charge me a fee for the new card and he gave me two bus tickets so I could get home. I cancelled my bank card. They’ll send a replacement in the mail. I always request that they send me a card without a chip. If it’s got a chip and it gets stolen it would be too easy for someone to drain my account. I’ve only got a hundred bucks in there, but it’s the only money I have.

“I hope there’s someone in my building who can lend me a backpack. It’s too hard carrying beer otherwise. I feel naked without that weight on my back.

“Anyway, my stop is coming up. Take care, Dennis.”

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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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Bear Hunting

 

 
31 January 2017

“Good morning, Ted.”

“Hi, Dennis. I had a good day yesterday, collected about $70.00. Have you heard what Trump’s doing now? He’s building his wall.”

“Yes, I heard that. I can’t see how that is practical. He could use that same money paying for additional border security officers. If he’s trying to keep out the drug cartels they have access to planes and have been using tunnels for years.”

“He’s also going ahead with the oil pipelines. That’s got to be good for Canada. It will provide jobs and perhaps cheaper fuel.”

I said, “A lot of my First Nations friends are upset because it will violate sacred burial grounds and will increase the possibility of oil polluting the land and the water. For some in British Columbia fishing is their main source of income. An oil spill could devastate them.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that as well. I just see it as providing jobs and hopefully, cheaper fuel. I don’t drive a car now, but as soon as I’m able I’d like to buy an old beater to get me around. I wouldn’t mind having the same access to hunting and fishing that aboriginals have. They’re even allowed to spear pickerell in the shallow spawning beds. They also spear more than they can eat. I’ve often been offered pickerel for sale when I’m near a reserve. I only shoot as much as I can eat and I eat every part of the animal. I’ve dragged a 300 pound bear out of the woods. Mind you, I was pretty stupid about it. I’d left my hunting platform and my ammunition. I was watching a bear cub reaching into a container of donuts. There was a roar nearby, a bigger bear was in the area. The cub ran away. A large male may kill and eat a cub. The bear spotted me and came running. I had my shotgun lined up, but instead of squeezing the trigger I pulled it and the shot tore off his front foot. I only had two shots left The three legged bear was enraged and chased me up a hill. I found a crevice in the rock where I was protected. I fired another shot, but still didn’t kill it, only made it more angry. I got out in the clearing and as the bear came closer I took careful aim and brought him down. I’d never leave a wounded animal in the bush. If I had to track him 10 miles I would. Now I stick to bow hunting. It’s more of a challenge and the season is longer.

“I need to get back on my medication. Last night I found myself crying for no reason. I felt foolish. My worker has all my paperwork sorted now, so I’ll be able to go to a doctor.

“There’s a pizza place where I pan in the evenings. Restaurants don’t give food away, something to do with health regulations. At 9:00, just before they close up they walk right past me carrying about ten boxes of pizza and throw them in the dumpster. I wait until they’ve gone then dive in after the pizza. I freeze most of it, so it can last me about a week. I don’t know why they don’t phone one of the shelters, they’d send a truck over to pick up food that would otherwise go to waste.”



 
 
 
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Butthead

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jake

8 July 2013

Joy was smiling when I greeted her this morning. “How have you been doing? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve just been chillin’ in my apartment. I didn’t feel like coming downtown.  Last Wednesday I had a fight with Magdalene, so I didn’t stick around. Butthead was over once.”

“Which Butthead was that? Jake Butthead or someone else?

“My Jake, he reeked. I told you he gained a lot of weight in prison because of his bad hip. First he used a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair.  I asked him, ‘Babe, don’t you ever take a shower?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I had one yesterday.’ I said, ‘You need to take one every day, being stuck in that chair. You smell like piss. Have you been pissing yourself? He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘You can take a shower here if you like.’ He said, ‘No,’ so I left it at that.

“When he was ready to leave I went out to the hall to get his wheelchair. I could smell it from ten feet away. He had a folded blanket to sit on. I asked him, ‘Where did you get this blanket?’ He said, ‘The Sally Ann.’ I asked, ‘Was it clean?’ He said, ‘No.’ I haven’t seen him since then. Maybe I hurt his feelings. I don’t know; I don’t care. He phoned once and asked if he took the bus to my place would I push him up the hill. I said, ‘No, dude. You’ve been in that chair long enough, you should be doing wheelies. I can after all the time I’ve been in a wheel chair, for my broken ankles and my fibromyalgia. You really need the exercise.”

“Is he still drinking?”

“After his piss test, he drinks as much as he used to. That’ll never change.

“I’ve been picking away at the stitches in my head. Sometimes I’ve scratched some hair out — they didn’t shave my scalp where  they stitched me. Mariah was looking at my head the other day and said, ‘You’ve got a bald spot!’ All day long she was calling me Spot.”

I said, “I’ve got a scar on my head where I had eight stitches as a kid.”

“Yeah, “I’ve got a scar from my forehead right to the back of my head. My sister pushed me down the stairs on a stuffed lion. I’ve got another one on the side where Buddy hit me with a crowbar. My scalp isn’t a pretty sight. It’s like a road map. There’s no way I’m going for that shaved look.”

A lady stopped to put some change in Joy’s cap. “Thanks, Sweetie, I haven’t seen you for a long time.” It’s true, I wonder if she changed departments or something.

“I’m still getting those headaches and dizzy spells from the concussion I got.”

“Have you seen a doctor? Do you have your health card yet?”

“I’ve been leaving messages with my workers, but they don’t get back to me. I’m hoping to see someone from the street outreach program . They haven’t been around lately either.”

Another lady stopped, smiled and dropped some change, “Bless you, dear,” she said.

“Bless you too,”  said Joy. “Have a nice day.”

Joy asked, “Have you been up to the park lately? I haven’t been keeping in touch with anybody.

“I hope Chester doesn’t come by. He’s been getting really cranky lately. I don’t like being around him.”

“I saw him Wednesday. It was after you had the fight with Magdalene.”

“Yeah, I went after her because she was harassing Chili, in her walker.”

“I was talking to Magdalene. She was drunk and nobody else would talk to her. I didn’t know the circumstances from before. Anyway, Chester asked me for some bus tickets. I said, ‘Okay, Chester, hold on, I’ll get to you.’ Magdalene was sobbing and talking about going home on the weekend.  I agreed with her and said it was a good idea. Then I went over to talk to Shark and Matches. Chester  was getting so agitated, he was shaking.”

“Magdalene didn’t go home. I’ve seen her since then, but she needs to get straightened out. I don’t know how old she is, but she seems like just a kid.”

I said, “She’s twenty-four. Alphonse is forty.”

“I thought she was young,  just like Sinead, who sometimes hangs around with Ricky. I think she’s twenty. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen her passed out in the bushes with her panties  around her ankles.  She probably doesn’t even know what happened while she was unconscious. I never let myself get that wasted. After I get a little buzz I go home.”

I asked, “Have you seen Shakes lately. Lucy has been staying at his place. Frank was worried that she’d beat  and rob him. I thought that maybe she had split with Daimon, but I saw Little Jake on the bus and he told me that he’d seen them together. They were both wired.”

“That’s bad news. Lucy told me they had their own place… Why would she be staying with Shakes? She’s smacking that stuff in her arm… I’m worried about Shakes.”

It was time for me to go to work, Joy said, “I’m off vacation now. I’ll be at the park for most of this week except for tomorrow. I’m getting a land line hooked up and cable installed. I’ll be human again. I’m tired of watching the same DVDs over and over again. Last night I watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” for about the hundredth time. I have all the dialog memorized. That Johnny Depp is weird.  Did you know that he based the Jack Sparrow character on Keith Richards? Now there’s a potheaded, druggie to have as a role model.”

 

 

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Hippo Trot

panhandlers-topper

18 June 2013

As I was approaching the park, Danny came running to meet me. “Dennis, I hate to ask, but could you spare me some bus tickets? Yesterday, Shakes jumped the bus and I was left walking, but it turned out for the best. I ran into a lady I know and she wants to buy two of my paintings. She offered to drive me to where I was going to visit a friend, so that worked out. When I got to my friend’s place, he wasn’t home, so I ended up walking the rest of the way.”

“How long did it take you to walk home?”

“About three hours, but I didn’t mind walking. I’m a fast walker. I’ve got a painting that I’m working on. I’ll bring it out” The image, outlined with a wood burning tool, was of an eagle in flight. “See the way its wings are up and his claws extended. He’s swooping. I’m going to put a rabbit over to the side here.  He won’t have caught the rabbit, but he will. That’s the way they hunt; they swoop and grab.”

Shakess said, “The same thing happened to me a few days ago. The bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus because I didn’t have the full fare. I walked to the mall and tried a few different buses.  I told the driver, ‘Look, I’ve only got $1.63 and I’ve got no other way to get home.’ Luckily one of them let me ride. I started at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 10:30.”

I sat near Joy. She was going through her purse, then called Chester over. “Have you got any money?” Chester checked his pockets and said, “I’ve got $3.60.” Joy said, “That will just make it. Hippo, can you make a run for me?”

“Sure!”

Joy waved the money at him. He indicated that she should bring it to him. Finally, he came over to get it.  Joy said, “Look, if  it’s too much trouble, I can try to get in there myself.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“You say it’s okay, but you’re not moving.”

Hippo said, “What? You want me to run there? I can run.”

Gaston said, “Yes, show us the Hippo trot.”

Hippo said, “If you think I’m fat. Look at the guy coming down the sidewalk.”

Joy said, “It’s not his fault. He doesn’t eat much. It’s some kind of eating disorder.”

Gaston said, “Yes, it’s glandular.”

Hippo headed toward the liquor store. Joy said, “I swear, when he brings that bottle back I’m going home, alone. He’s been over four times in the last week. Sunday he came over at 4:30. I was already in my boxers, ready to settle in and watch TV. I was cooking supper and I’d only cooked enough for myself.  I hate eating when there is somebody looking at me, drooling, so I told him to help himself. That didn’t leave very much for me. I told him, “Look man, don’t come over at such weird hours.’  The next morning he came over at 10:30. I was just sweeping up. I said, ‘I really don’t want company now. I’ve got things to do.’

“I have a hard time affording food for myself,  let alone feeding someone else. He has his mommy to put money in his bank account, but I never see him then; only when he wants something.

“If  I weren’t waiting for Hippo, I’d be outa here. The cops are sure to come, especially with so many people and Frank being as loud as he is. Bearded Bruce came by earlier with  bottles of vodka, sherry and some kind of dark beer in a green can. He mixed them all together and called it a brucinator. Frank had most of it and you know how obnoxious he gets when he’s wasted.”

A cell phone started ringing. Jacques said, “That’s an incoming call! It shows that I’m important!” He spoke a few words then brought the phone to Joy, he said, “It’s Chili, for you.”

“Hi sweetie, how are you doing… What do you mean you’re a hop, skip and a jump from here… You’re at the mall?… Are you coming here?… If you are I’ll stick around, otherwise I’m leaving… I’ll see you tomorrow then… I better not see any smash marks on your arms and legs, or I’ll slap you silly. I’m also going to check between your toes… Okay, good-bye.  Stupid chick. There are three buildings there. She has her own apartment, but she has half the complex staying at her place. They’re all getting high.”

I asked, “Is she still in a wheelchair?”

“They’d put her in a walker, but she got fucked up again. She went to hospital and is back in a wheelchair.”

I asked, “What is the problem with her legs?”

“She doesn’t take care of herself. She’ll get a small cut, or damage an artery with a hypodermic needle. It’ll get infected, then she gets blood clots. If it’s not taken care of,  it causes death of tissue in the limb. It also affects the immune system.  The same thing happened to me. See this scar below my knee? It was a cut that got infected.  They gave me a powerful antibiotic and said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.’ That’s the position she’s in.”

“We’re you on crack then?”

“No, just on booze.”

 

 

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Panama

astor

 

I sit on a bamboo and rattan bar stool,
at the Monkey Bar overlooking the Chagres River,
drinking a glass of seven-year old Ron Abuelo rum,
sweet nectar that tastes like creme brulee
and slides down my throat like warm, spiced honey.

A breeze blows through the open bar
and with it the scent of Bougainvilleas,
Hotlips, Amaryllis and Holy Ghost Orchids.
Swaying and giving shade are Wild Cashew
and Geiger Trees, Banana and Coconut Palms.

I peruse a crocodile idly floating by.
A log with a purpose. In the distance
I can hear the squawks of Parakeets,
Toucans and the distinctive chirps
of the aptly named Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I am transported back to 1941.
I almost expect to see Humphrey Bogart
and Mary Astor plotting to save the Canal locks
from being torpedoed by Sydney Greenstreet
in John Huston’s Across the Pacific.

Next day we board Captain Jim’s pirate ship.
I share with my lover a Pirate’s Kiss,
while on deck swords clash, the combatants chase
each other around masts and rigging
’til the inevitable death scene … “Aargh!”

.

Footnotes:

A Pirate’s Kiss
is rum being poured by the pirate into the mouth
of one person who shares it with his or her partner by means of a kiss.

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