8 August 2012
Today at the park, the congregation included Serge, Shakes, Hippo, Shawn ‘Sausage Fingers’, Little Jake, Danny, Outcast, Chester, Joy, Scarface and his dog Dillinger.The first person to approach me was Joy. I hardly recognized her. Gone was her do rag, her hair color had changed from black to blond and was professionally cut and styled. She was wearing a loose cotton, black on white print blouse with gray stretch pants.
“Joy,” I said, “you look beautiful!”
“Thanks, I thought I needed to pamper myself for a change. Were you on vacation?”
“Yes, I was at the lake for a week. It was great, except for Saturday. I was working on the roof of my cabin and got a case of heat stroke. I had to be wrapped in cold, wet towels. I’d been drinking lots of water.”
Outcast said, “It was brutal here, one hundred and four degrees Fahrenheit. The rain we had just increased the humidity, but didn’t lower the temperature. I used up one of my inhalers. I have to go to the pharmacy today to get a new one.”
Joy said, “I still don’t have my health card, so I borrowed Albert’s inhaler. That probably isn’t a good idea, but it’s all I could do. I was hardly here at all last week. It was just too hot.”
I said to Joy, “I was so sorry to hear that Magdalene’s baby died.”
“I didn’t know that. What happened?”
“I don’t know any details. I spoke to her yesterday morning. I asked, ‘How is your baby?’ She said, ‘He died two days ago.’ I asked how Alphonse was taking it. She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Perhaps they aren’t together any more.
“I mentioned it to Trudy. She had seen Alphonse earlier that day, but he wasn’t talking to anyone.”
Joy said, “Trudy was by earlier, but she didn’t stay. She was acting funny. She probably knows something that she doesn’t want to talk about.”
Outcast said, “It sounds like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A baby can turn over in bed and suffocate. It happens a lot.”
I said, “If anyone hears about funeral arrangements, please let me know. I’d like to attend.
“I was talking to Shakes yesterday. He was at his daughter Hattie’s, for her birthday party on Sunday. She had been beaten by her boyfriend.”
Joy said, “That Kit, what a scumbag, beating a woman six months pregnant with his twins, their son looking on. Someone is going to take care of this. I see him every day crossing in front of our apartment.”
Shakes came over. I asked, “What kind of injuries does Hattie have?”
“Her face and ribs are badly bruised; beyond that, I don’t know.”
I asked, “Has her boyfriend been charged?”
Joy said, “We don’t do that. We wait until someone is nearly beaten to death, and left in a pool of blood to die, as I was; or like Fran, with her back permanently fucked. That’s the reason that Big Jake and Gene are in jail.”
Outcast waved at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Did you see that woman I waved to? She’s my boss. Two days a week I volunteer at the Salvation Army. She’s the Executive Director. She posted bail for me one time. I’ll always be thankful to her for the help she gave me. She’s not surprised to see me here. She knows that I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict… and always will be. I was sentenced to ten years, of course, I didn’t have to serve the full term.”
I sat down on the grass with Little Jake. “How have you been this past week?”
“I’m not allowed to pan, because I’m on probation. That sucks!”
“Have you had your court appearance yet?”
“That’s on August 30th. I’ll know what’s going to happen then. I fell off my bike a few days ago.”
“Where were you injured?”
“My knees and my elbows were scraped. I have bruises on my right leg. I was wasted. I don’t know what happened. They found my bike in the hedge. It was in pieces, so I threw it away.”
“You probably hit the curb. I’ve done that before, and have the scars to prove it.”
“Yeah, that’s probably what happened.”
“Riding drunk probably seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Joy said, “Everything seems like a good idea at the time.”
Shawn said, “There is such a thing as common sense, and everybody has it to some degree. Even people with down syndrome, or any of the syndromes, have it. I’ve had some experience with that, mind you, I have a mental disability and I’m getting a pension for it, but my mind has two settings; either I’m polite, or I’m all out crazy. There’s no in between.” He took off his shoe and said, “See how the middle three toes come up and down as one? I got three pins in them attached to another piece in my instep. They’re from jumping out of a three-story window. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I wish I had just put my hands up and gone with the cops.
“What happened was, me and another guy were in a hotel room making a drug deal. He left to get some more, and the cops followed him back. We were both standing there, at the table, the scales at one end, the drugs at the other, when the cops broke the door down. I backed towards the balcony, said, ‘I’m out of here!’ and over I went. I landed in the alley, which was concrete. It would have been nice if I had landed in soft earth or even some bushes. I was lucky to have gotten off so easy, but I still went to prison. I could have saved myself a lot of pain.
“Now when I go through a metal detector, at the airport, all the alarms go off. They ask me to take my shoes off. ‘No problem,’ I say. It happens all the time.”
I said, “I have the same problem with metal detectors. I have an artificial hip and a rod in my right femur from a motorcycle accident. Do you think it would help, for you and I, to bring an x-ray to the airport?”
“No, they want to see for themselves.
“On another occasion, I was at home listening to music. It was 10:30, I had the volume up. Then I heard this pounding and kicking at my door. When I heard that I figured somebody had come for a fight. I opened the door and this guy was screaming at me to turn the music down. I said, ‘No!’ I saw his fist coming up. I just reached over it and connected with his jaw. He took off, like a scared rabbit, down the street. I thought he lived next door. If he lived down the street why would he be complaining about the music. It wasn’t that loud. I yelled after him, ‘You can stop running now. I’m not going to hit you again.’ I did turn the music down. Some people — go figure!”