15 November 2017
I’d been looking for Ted’s upturned cap. From a block away I could tell if he was panning or not. As usual he was sitting on the concrete with his back against the stone wall of the church. He was reading the newspaper. “Hi Dennis, I was just reading that Justin Trudeau was slammed by the Philippine leader for asking about human rights. Trump congratulated Duarte, they’re best friends now.”
“How are you feeling, Ted.”
“Today I’m sore. I went to the dentist yesterday and he pulled four teeth. I’ve got two others with cavities. On the twenty-eighth I go again to have those filled, then I’ll have a partial plate made. I might as well since the government is paying for it. I thought the dentist was going to recommend that I have all my teeth pulled. I haven’t had them checked for about fifteen years, but no, he said I could keep most of them. One was really hard to pull. He worked on it for about half an hour. He clamped it with some kind of rod and would tap it with a hammer then wiggle it back and forth. He stopped for a while and I said to him, ‘If pulling that one tooth is so difficult why don’t you tie a piece of string around it with the other end secured around a door knob. Then you’d just have to give the door a good yank and the tooth would be out.’ He laughed at that.
“I’ve picked out some furniture: a dresser, kitchen table, some bedding. It will be delivered on Friday.”
“Will you be getting a bed?”
“No, I haven’t been able to find one. A new one would cost three hundred. There’s no way I could afford that. I was at Canadian Tire and was looking at an inflatable bed for eighty-nine dollars. What do you think of that?”
“I’ve had bad luck with air mattresses. They always get punctured and I end up on the floor.”
“I don’t think I told you, but I haven’t had a beer for thirty days now. At first I got really sick. It was like the ‘flu. I’d have sweats one minute then I’d be shivering my ass off. My kidneys shut down. I didn’t pee for three days. After four days I went to the doctor. I told him my problems. He said I was suffering from alcohol withdrawal. He said I could have died. I didn’t know that. He said I should have cut down to three beer a day for the first week, then two a day the next week, and one a day for the following week. Then it would be okay to quit altogether. I’ve had diabetes for the past ten years, so cutting out the beer will be good for that as well. I bought three bags of milk the other day, put two in the freezer. I was reading the ingredients. There is a lot of sugar in milk. I didn’t know that, but one cup of milk has a teaspoon and a half of sugar.
“I’ve stopped panning in front of the hotel. I’ve left that place for Richard. He’d always be offering me a beer or a slug of whiskey. In AA they emphasize people, places and things. I should stay away from Richard, stay out of places that serve drinks and avoid things that remind me of alcohol. I used to belong to AA but I haven’t attended a meeting for ten years. My worker wants me to start attending again. Ninety meetings in ninety days. I used to go for an hour each day at noon. I’m also trying to cut down on smoking. I now smoke six or eight a day. My worker said I should take it slow, baby steps at first. I guess he’s right.
“I do feel better now that I’m not drinking. I’ve been here too many times. It’s a cycle: panhandling, booze, drugs, homeless… I have to get off that wheel. Starting January I’m going to be looking for a job.”
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