The park was nearly deserted; strange since the weather was perfect. Little Jake, Wolf and his dog Shaggy were the only ones there. I saw an empty plastic crate, so I pulled it over. Jake handed me his jacket to sit on.
“You’re welcome. Do you want to know why nobody’s here. Because our crew is a bunch of assholes. That’s why. Do you know what I did yesterday when I got my check. First I paid all my bills, then I lent the rest of my money to friends. Do you see anybody here to pay me back? No! I did it just to see what would happen. Now I know.
“I gave Jacques two hundred dollars. I saw him this morning and he gave me back fifty. He said he’d give me the rest back Monday. ‘Monday!’ I said, ‘how am I going to get through the weekend with only fifty bucks?’ ”
Wolf said, “Jake, he was doing you a favor, You know he’s good for the money. You got two bottles, you got cards to get meals, you got your pot. What else do you need?
“I was panning at Weasel’s old spot. You wouldn’t believe how people were rushing around. One woman ran across a red light, nearly got hit by a car, just to get to a cubicle in some government building where she’s probably worked for twenty years. She risks her life just so she won’t be three minutes late? Maybe her boss is a real asshole. How would I know? It just seems so ridiculous, cars are edging through red lights and where’s it going to get them? To the next block so they can do it all over again.
“I worked for twenty years, but that was construction. We’d work one place for a couple of months, then we’d move somewhere else. There’d be no work in the winter, so it’d be pogey until late Spring. It wasn’t so bad. We sure didn’t rush like I saw this morning. Crazy!”
I asked Jake, “How did the cooking go at Bruce’s place? When I talked to you yesterday you were discussing recipes.”
“Yeah, well, Inuk was over there. At around midnight Bruce and her were going at it, so I said, ‘I can see that you two want to be alone, so I’m outta here. He lives in the outskirts. I’ve been walking nearly twenty-four hours.”
I asked, “Did you walk straight here, or did you get lost?”
“Oh man, I got lost three times. I zig zagged all over the place, up one street, down another. I started out going the wrong way. I’d walked nearly out to the edge of town. Hell, I’d walked half way home to Deep River. I asked a bus driver how to get downtown. He said, ‘Fuck man, you’re going the wrong way. You’ve got a lot of walking to do.’ It was the last bus, so I couldn’t even get a ride.”
“So, after you got your directions straight you walked directly here?”
“I think so. No, I went to my place and had a cup of tea, then I walked down here.
“See my ear? Danny did that to me. I was at Shakes place. Danny seems to be taking over. He has everything tidy. He’s running Shakes’ life! Anyway, I was talking to Matches, Danny was going on about something, so I told him to fuck off. Next thing I know he’s punched me right in the ear. It’s still bleeding. I can take a punch to the jaw, but to the ear? That’s just wrong. Anyway, I told Bruce about it. He’s going to take care of Danny.”
Wolf said, “I’ve known Danny a long time. I’ve never heard about him acting like that.”
Jake said, “I even apologized, but you know the way I get. I can be a bit of an asshole sometimes.”
I said, “We know Jake, you’re an asshole right now.”
“Dennis, fuck off! I think that’s the first time I’ve told you to fuck off.”
“I’m sure it won’t be the last time, Jake. You mentioned Deep River. Do you plan to go home anytime soon?”
“My mother said I couldn’t come home until I got a haircut. Well, I got a haircut, so there’s no excuse there. The bus is only fifty-five bucks, but I think I’ll hitch hike, just because of the freedom. I’ll meet people. Maybe I’ll get dropped off at Arnprior and have to get another ride there. Who knows?
“I went to the food bank this morning and picked up a few things. Because I’ve got AIDS I get to go to the Living Room. I can go once every two weeks. They give me really good food there, bags of it. Problem is I can’t carry very much. When Shark goes there He brings a friend with a truck. They gave me a choice six eggs or a half pound of hamburger. I took the hamburger. They said if I wanted I could have a can of beef stew instead of the hamburger. What would you have taken? …The hamburger, of course. I love hamburgers.”
Wolf said, “It’ll be cold cuts for me. Tony came by this morning and gave me some bologna, sliced chicken and turkey, potatoes, broccoli and a red pepper. He’s really good to me — comes by once a week.
“Six up, behind you.” Jake hid his open bottle of sherry between his legs. Two uniformed police officers rode up on bicycles. One asked, “What are you guys up to?”
I said, “We’re just chatting, enjoying the nice weather.”
One walked over to Wolf, “Is that can empty?”
Wolf said, “It could be. I could dump it.”
“Can I see some identification?”
“Yes, officer, you sure can.” Wolf handed him his health card.” The officer wrote a liquor violation ticket and handed it to him. He then picked up the open can and turned it over.
“What you got in that bottle, I assume it’s apple juice?” Wolf didn’t say anything.
The officer said to his partner. “You can write-up Jake for the bottle between his legs. How much is in there, Jake?”
He held up the bottle of sherry. “Fuck,” he said, “you’re not going to make me dump this whole bottle are you? Shit!”
Wolf said, “Jake, the officers are just doing their job, so be nice.”
The officer said “One swallow, Jake, then dump the rest.” Jake tipped the bottle and began to chugalug.
“So, it’s going to be that kind of swallow is it?”
Jake started coughing, then threw the bottle over the railing. “That was my last bottle and I’ve got no money!”
The officer said, “If you hadn’t thrown the bottle away, you could have cashed it in for twenty cents.”
Wolf said, “He’s right Jake.”
The officer said, “We see you’ve got another bottle in your bag. We’ll let you keep that. Just try to be a little more discreet, Jake. Have a good day.”
They left. Wolf said, “It could have been worse. I’ve still got beer in my bottle, you’ve got a bottle and some pot in your bag.”
Jake said, “I’m going down to get that bottle I threw. I bet there’s still some left in it.”
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