A storm was on its way. Dark clouds were moving in. The air was heavy with humidity. The sun had disappeared from sight. I sat between Matches and Magdalene who said, “Everybody thinks that Matches is my father, but he’s not my father. My father is in prison for fifteen years, for rape and murder.”
“I don’t like that,” said Shakes, “rape and murder?”
I asked, “Has your father ever assaulted you?”
“No, my grandfather stopped him. I was raised by my grandparents. It happened when I was five years old. My father was drunk. He came into my bedroom and had his hand on my thigh. My grandfather came in and threw him down the stairs before he could do anything. It was a shock to me, a trauma.
“My grandfather has always protected me. He wants me to call him every week, but I don’t have any more time on my calling card.
“Do you know why I was born? One time my mom came home, opened the door and my father was fucking another woman. My mother jumped on her and punched her, then beat my father. Then she got a knife from the kitchen and she cut him from his right side up to his neck. He was just sitting there holding himself together.” She was going to kick him out, but he said, ‘I want to have a child with you. If you do that for me I won’t report you to the cops. ‘ So she let him stay. Nine months later I was born. She died giving birth to me. That is a reason why I’m here. That’s why I fight with men so much.
“I just got out of jail for beating up my husband. I was in there two weeks. I didn’t eat anything. I felt too sick. I just drank water and they kept feeding me pills.
“This morning I beat up three men. Alphonse just ran away. I just kept punching and punching them. See my knuckles, and the blood on my hands and shirt. When I catch Alphonse, I’m going to beat him for running away.
The three of us moved up the lawn to where Jacques, Gaston Chili, Little Frank and Loretta were sitting. Joy had brought her box to sit on.
I asked Loretta, “How is your recovery coming along?”
“It’s been five months now, but today is hard. I was helping my boyfriend with roofing, we had an argument and were shouting at each other. I just had to get away. He gave me ten dollars, I bought some cigarettes and two cans of pop, but I really wanted something stronger. I still do. I’m an inch away from taking a drink.
Jacques overheard part of the conversation, he asked, “Do you want a drink? I have some here… You don’t drink any more? I didn’t know… Five months? I should quit drinking.”
Loretta continued, “I finished my fifty hours of community service today. I have to go to court in two months. The prosecutor wants me to get jail time. My lawyer said that if I do extra community service it will look good when I go to court. Actually, I have fifty hours to do from two years ago. We figured that if I work one day a week, by the time of my court date, I will have it completed. If I don’t go to jail, I hope to go to secretarial school. Thanks for talking to me. I feel better now.
Joy said to Gaston, “You look hot in those long pants. You should have worn shorts today.”
“I’m going to work later. If I was to wear shorts to where I work, I’d be raped.”
Loretta reached in her bag and pulled out a bandanna that she gave to Joy. “Cool, this is great. I’ll wear it tomorrow. People must be getting tired of me wearing this same old one all the time.”
Chili said, “I know the store where they sell those. It’s on Rideau. Often they have racks of stuff out on the sidewalk.”
Joy said, “I know that place. I’ve snagged a skirt from there.”
Chili continued, ‘If you wear baggy pants like these you can get a bunch of stuff. I’m going to get two yellow scarves and one red one. I’ll sew them together like a flag. Brazil is my favorite soccer team. It’ll be like the Brazilian flag.”
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