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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She said she was 27


29 September 2017

“Good morning Ted,” I said, “you look comfortable sitting in the sun. It was a cold night.”

“Morning, Dennis, I saw Bernard this morning. Said he’d been in jail, that’s why he hadn’t been able to pay me.” I said to him, ‘Your check should have arrived. Everybody else has theirs.’ He said, ‘I’ll go to the office and check.’ When he got back he said, ‘Mine hasn’t come in yet, but I’ll give you half of the money I have.’ He pulled out two twenties and gave me one. I said, ‘I thought you didn’t get your check. Where did you get that money?’ He said, ‘Panhandling last night.’ Yeah, right, you don’t get two twenties panhandling. He probably blew the rest on crack and weed. He has a real problem with that stuff.”

I said, “The last time I saw Bernard was in December.”

“I remember exactly the last time I saw Bernard. You know he was sleeping at my place. On Christmas day I was approached by a woman who said she was new in town, had no money, nothing to eat. I said, ‘If you’d like, I’ll walk you to the Mission, they have their big Christmas meal today.’ She didn’t want that. I said, ‘I share a small place with another guy who sleeps on the floor. If you want you can spend the night, but I’ll need to see some id first. She said, ‘I’m twenty-seven.’ I said, ‘You don’t look twenty-seven, you look under twenty-one.’ She had no id. We went to my place, Bernard was there. At night, I gave her some blankets. I crawled into my bed. I don’t know where she slept. I heard strange noises in the night, but didn’t pay it any mind. In the morning she was arguing with Bernard. I don’t know what it was about. She was pissed. She went out, slammed the door then pulled the fire alarm. Of course that brought the police. By that time she and Bernard were long gone. I made a statement to the police and told them she said she was twenty-seven. The cop laughed and said, ‘She isn’t twenty-seven.’ He asked where he could find Bernard I said, ‘He could be anywhere.’ They seemed to know Bernard, maybe he had some priors. I didn’t ask.

“I hope to do some fishing tomorrow then I’ll be going to my mothers to catch more raccoons.”

“Enjoy your weekend, Ted.”

“You too, Dennis.”


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No, I’m Not Going To Split with You!


27 September 2017

Ted was reading a newspaper as I arrived at his SIDEWALK panning spoT. I asked, “Are we involved in a nuclear war yet?”

“Hi, Dennis, no we aren’t at war, but it’s coming. That Kim Jong-un needs to be straightened out.

“I’ve been doing a lot of fishing lately, but haven’t had much luck. I hooked a big muskie, about four feet long. The world record is sixty-nine pounds, eight ounces. That was back in 1949. The government has netted some twice that size. They weigh, measure then release. I was drunk and down on my belly trying to grab for him. They have a huge mouth with rows of razor sharp teeth. I was looking down his throat. I nearly had my fingers in his gills, but he jumped and snapped the line. I also caught a big pickerel. facepalm You know that I’m a commercial fisherman. I’m ashamed to even talk about this, but I made the most rookie mistake. I felt him strike, but didn’t set the hook. You know, jerk the line to embed the hook deeper. I started reeling him in. There was a lot of weight. He came straight up from the bottom, opened his jaws and spit the lure at me. Did I ever feel foolish.

“My mother had another racoon. She got my brother to put out a live trap three days ago and he was supposed to check on it regularly. Mom phoned me to say that a raccoon had been caught. I asked her if my brother had taken care of it. She said he hadn’t. I asked if it was still alive. She said that it wasn’t moving. I phoned my brother. I said, ‘You stupid asshole. You put out a live trap three days ago and you didn’t bother to check it. We’ve been having a heat wave. Can you imagine how much pain that animal must have suffered with no shade and no water? That’s the worst way to die and it’s the most inhumane thing I’ve ever heard of. Get over there, dig a hole and bury it.

“My mom also wants me to move a tree for her. It’s about twenty feet high. I remember when it was planted. A trench will have be dug all around and underneath. Roots will have to be cut, then I’ll have to pull it down with a rope, move it twenty feet and replant it. That’s a big job.”

I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to just chop down the tree and buy a new one to replace it?”

“Yeah, that would be the easy way, but there’s no reasoning with Mom when she gets an idea in her head. I’ll see what I can do.”

“I went to my doctor yesterday. He says I need to lose weight. I know that. I told him, ‘I walk about fifteen miles a day.’ He said, ‘That’s no good. You’ve got to elevate your heart rate, get breathing heavy and raise a sweat. Walking is hard on your joints. You should ride a bike.’ I said, ‘I can do that.’ I rode yesterday afternoon. When I came home my tee shirt was soaking. I’ll have to buy a lock. I had another bike that I left leaning against my building. By morning it was gone.

“The next few days should be good for me. Most of the panhandlers will have gotten their checks and won’t be on the street. I was in front of the hotel last evening with Richard. He had an open bottle of beer in front of him and a bag from the liquor store. People don’t want to see that. One woman handed me a takeout box of Chicken alfredo. It was really good. Another guy dropped me a five. Richard said, ‘I’ll take half of that.’ I said, ‘No you won’t. I didn’t ask you to sit and pan with me, so, no, I’m not going to split with you.”

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Even More Racoons


22 September 2017

“Hi Dennis,” said Ted, “I’ve been staying at my mom’s place for the past five days. Caught three more racoons. One was a big bugger, about forty pounds. I didn’t like it though. I gave up trapping years ago, swore I’d never do it again. The problem was I set a live trap and my brother was supposed to check on it, which, of course, he didn’t. So, I had to take this animal out of the cage and kill it. It hurt me. What am I going to do?

“My mother is really going batty. She asks me the same question over and over again. What is that?”

I said, “My wife used to work with clients who had dementia or Alzheimer’s. It could be one of those.”

“I saw a program on tv, a scientist said that the brain doesn’t deteriorate. That’s why these rich guys have their head and spine removed to be frozen and brought back to life some time in the future. I guess you can’t always believe what you see on tv. My mother watches the wrestling channel. That’s the only channel she watches. I went in the yard for a few minutes, when I came back in I asked her who won that last match. She said, ‘I don’ know.’ She could watch the same match over and over again and never know the difference. My brother and sister are talking about putting her in a home. I was helping her clear her attic. I hauled down five boxes of boots and shoes. Some had hardly been worn. She has two extra bedrooms upstairs. I found bundles of dresses and blouses, still in their original shop bags, still with the labels on. What’s that about? Is she just acting like a big shot, showing people how much she can buy?”

I said, “I can’t explain women and shopping. If my wife and I have an invitation for dinner, she’ll ask me what dress she should wear. I’ll pick out something and she’ll say, ‘I can’t wear that. I wore it last time we visited, a year ago.’ I’ll say, ‘They probably won’t remember and what’s the harm if they do?’ I can’t figure it.”

“Katrina visited me a few days ago. Al, the guy she’d been staying with had beaten her up something fierce. What is it like when a person has schizophrenia?”

“I’ve known a few people who’ve suffered from that. Seeing, hearing, or even feeling things that no one else can. Difficulty with memory or paying attention. Disorganized thinking, such as trouble organizing thoughts or connecting them logically.”

“That’s her alright. She’s on powerful meds, but can’t remember to take them, so she gets shots once a month. She’s pregnant again. I asked her, ‘What’s this bulge?’ She said, ‘I’m having cramps.’ I said, ‘No you’re not, you’re pregnant.’

“I gave her half a tab of speed and she wouldn’t shut up. It was driving me nuts. Did I tell you that she has these long scars on her legs and arms because her veins collapsed. That happened because of shooting drugs. It looks like Frankenstein. She wanted to stay at my place, but when I told her I wasn’t going to give her money or drugs she walked out.

“I went fishing again — caught three pickerel. They were too small so I used them for bait, but I didn’t catch anything. Did I tell you about the muskie I nearly caught last week. I was sitting on a two foot wall beside the canal, dangling my toes in the water. I caught a decent sized pickerel, three or four pounds. It would have been good for eating, but I embedded three hooks in its belly and threw it back in, letting it sink to the bottom. After a while I got a giant tug on my line. I fought that fish for fifteen minutes. I was alone and drunk and had a hell of a time trying to get it out of the water. At one point I even had my fingers underneath tickling its belly. That calmed him a little, but I couldn’t get a good hold and he snapped my line. The world record is fifty-eight pounds. I don’t think this one was that big, but close. Do you know how much fishing line costs now? Seventeen bucks, and a large lure costs nine. That’s ridiculous!”

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Wolf R.I.P.

14 September 2017

I was about to step on the bus when I heard someone calling my name. “Dennis, mate, hold on!” I felt a large hand on my shoulder, turned and saw Bearded Bruce. I waved the bus on. “I have some important news. I came down here especially to see you. Our friend Uncle Wolf is dead. It happened yesterday. My girl, Loretta and I were having a cup of tea and it came to mind that you’d have no way of knowing about his passing. Funeral arrangements are still up in the air. You’ve still got my phone number don’t you. Call me, we’ll get together for tea.

“Let’s cross the street where we can sit down. I’m not allowed to pan within so many feet of a bus stop. It’s called captive audience solicitation. Here sit on my bag. It’s not soft but there’s nothing breakable in it.”

I asked “What about Shaggy? Who’s going to look after her?”

“His brother came down and is taking the dog. There was somebody else there. I can’t remember. It’s someone I don’t like.”

“Was it Chris, maybe?”

“No not him. I’m still pissed about what he said after Weasel’s funeral. He knew we were and said, ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish.’ You don’t say things like that about the dead, especially to family.”

“Was it Outcast?”

“Yeah, that son of a bitch. He’s stolen from a lot of my friends and I don’t like the way he treated Little Jake. He’s a bully. I can’t stand bullies. In my book they’re just like rapists and wife beaters.”

I said, “Joy didn’t like Weasel, but after his death she said, “they’d had their differences, but she had nothing against him.’ Little Jake was in tears and she comforted him.”

“Yeah, Joy spoke her mind, but she backed it up. When she was living with Big Jake there were so many times he’d beat her. I said I’d take care of him, but she pleaded with me not to hurt him. When I was in prison five years ago I got him alone. I showed no mercy, wiped the floor with him. He was hospitalized for two days.

“Another person who was beat up is Magdalene. She really had the shit kicked out of her. She’d probably mouthed of, or stolen from somebody. I don’t hit women, but I’ve been tempted to tell her to shut up and then punch her in the face.”

I said, “Her boyfriend Alphonse was such a nice guy, before he committed suicide.”

“Yeah, I liked Alphonse. He was solid.”

“So”, I asked, “how have you been doing?”

I’m going through a hard time. Someone photographed me panhandling and now my disability has been cut off. I went to their office to see them and I nearly lost it. All I’m getting now is three ninety-five a month subsistence allowance. I said to the guy, ‘Where am I going to live on three ninety-five. The cheapest room in a boarding house cost four fifty. He said, ‘Well, you could quit smoking.’ I said, ‘I don’t smoke, at least I don’t buy them. Every once in awhile I’ll bum one. Could you live on three ninety-five a month?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If I was a prostitute you’d accept that as working, but if I say I’m a panhandler you won’t accept that!’ He said, ‘You’re right, panhandling is against the law, prostitution isn’t, as long as there is no solicitation involved.’ You see, if a high price call girl with her own apartment does tricks she can claim that as income. She even has to pay taxes on it. It’s a crazy world we live in.

“They should decriminalize panhandling, street prostitution and drugs. And I mean all drugs, heroin included. Methadone doesn’t cure heroin addiction it only lessens the craving, but an addict has to want to be cured. It’s the same as if you slapped a nicotine patch on a smoker. If they didn’t have a strong desire to quit it would have no effect.

“You see these new fancy bus shelters they’re putting up. The 10 installed shelters cost two hundred and three thousand dollars. Habitat for Humanity, with volunteer labor, can build a house for forty-seven thousand. Now why can’t the government build affordable housing?

I’ve been able to pick up a few jobs landscaping. That will be going toward my rent payment. Now I’m heading downtown to the bar strip. I stay there from eight o’clock ’till two in the morning. I leave then because that’s when the real rowdies come out.


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