Copyright 2020 by Lew Goddard
begun gathering on the mountain tops back in the first part of
September, now in late October my job was finished for the season.
During the summer I had spent most of my time at high elevations.
Avenues for electrical transmission towers were being prepared and I
worked in the forefront helping to clear the forest and anything else
that could make it easier for the heavy equipment to install the
towers. Often I would roll up in my sleeping bag that was provided by
the company that employed me rather than take the arduous trek down
the mountain, find a ride to the nearest town and bed down in my
sleeping bag behind a motel or spend my own money for a motel. I
hadn’t rented any apartment or bed and breakfast so the daily
living allowance I received stayed mostly in my pocket. Food was
brought to us on a daily basis in the wilderness.
pack contained essentials such as a few extra shirts, socks, under
shorts, insulated overalls and jeans. Shaving was intermittent but I
did have a safety razor along with my tooth brush. In addition there
was a 44 Caliber hand gun that the company suggested we have in the
event that we encountered a wild animal that we needed to fend off.
We were told to shoot in the air and not at the animal or we and the
company would be in big trouble. I had never fired it but had taken
the short training how to use it. No one said anything about
returning it as I left with my final cheque. It was enclosed in a
nice looking flat wooden box with a brass colored latch. My sleeping
bag was hanging below my back pack on two gold braided quarter inch
ropes. It was quite heavy but it didn’t bother me because my
job had built up my muscles better than I had ever had before in my
twenty five years.
at the bank that I had been dealing with over the summer and cashed
my cheque and closed the account.
left I decided that I needed a warm winter jacket. In shopping around
I found a well insulated black parka with a fur trimmed hood. It was
a lot more money than I had planned to spend but the future did not
indicate where I would be spending the winter. As I put it on I
slipped my cell phone into the holster and clipped it on the inside
of my jeans at the middle of my back. It would be well hidden now but
still there if I needed it. In addition I withdrew a couple of
hundred from my wallet and put that in my left front pocket. The
wallet then went into the zippered inside pocket of the parka.
It was my
intent to reach the closest large city that was located some two
hundred fifty miles east. I asked a number of my former co-workers if
they were heading in that direction but had no luck. Well, it looked
like I would have to hitch hike. I had saved just a little over two
thousand dollars but I wasn’t inclined to spend any of that on
a bus or train. Hitch hiking had always appealed to me and had been a
large part of my travels so I headed out to the highway. I chose a
spot where there was an intersection with another highway.
of hours later a pick up truck stopped. The driver asked me where I
was going and he said he was going in that direction but just sixty
miles. I accepted the ride.
later I was dropped off near a small town. There was a service
station and restaurant next to the highway and I walked over and
helped myself to a coffee and a piece of lemon pie.
the road a Lincoln slid to a stop and the male driver rolled down the
passenger window and offered to give me a ride. Again, I accepted.
to earn enough money in the near future to purchase a vehicle like
this one. It didn’t drive down the road: it floated. It was so
quiet inside that the sound of other vehicles was not discernable. It
felt like the orchestra was playing a classical tune right in front
of you on the stereo. Perhaps I should get a job advertising Lincoln
asked me my name.”
thinking I answered, “Simon.”
not my real name but for some reason Simon seemed suitable under the
“How far are your travelling?”
far as you want to go,” he replied with a chuckle.
next city would be quite acceptable.”
aren’t you lucky then, that’s as far as I’m going
continued, “Do you have a job there?”
thought for a moment and replied, “Yes, as a matter of fact,
I’m going to drive a city transport bus.”
made me think that because I really didn’t have any idea what I
was going to do? I planned to look for a job but it may not be in the
city. Perhaps I could find a job in the oil fields somewhere in the
province. I really didn’t have any definite plan.
you ever thought of getting into real estate?” he asked.
you work hard and long hours you can earn a considerable amount of
money. Look at what I drive it cost nearly sixty thousand dollars.”
time it was nearly dark and I noticed that we were travelling at
about 130 kilometres per hour. I had to admit that it didn’t
seem that fast and I was not really concerned.
until he reached into an inside pocket and brought out a Mickey sized
bottle and took a huge swig.
at me and offered the bottle. I refused and asked him if that was his
practice to drink alcohol when he was driving.
he scoffed and said that he was in full control of his faculties. He
held the bottle up and related that it was still a quarter full and I
had nothing to worry about.
that he had consumed something like six ounces and he still believed
he was in full control. I wasn’t so sure.
travelled for a few more miles and it started to snow. The first at
this elevation indicated that winter was on its way. My driver never
slowed down though and I was becoming concerned and thinking of
asking him to stop and let me out.
It was too
late, the next hill showed a curve of the road at the top. He
miscalculated and we started to skid sideways. The edge of the road
on my side came closer and closer and too close. The car bounced over
something at the edge and reverted to a straight forward motion but
we were sliding down a steep bank. Small trees were snapped off and
flew through the air but the bigger ones started to bugger everything
and the air bags blew forcefully into our faces. We stopped but the
motor was still roaring. I was able to look over and see that he
still had his foot on the accelerator. The thought of fire made me
grab his leg and yell at him; “You stupid ass this is what
happens when you drink and drive.” At that point I tried to
open my door. It was jammed and I couldn’t figure out how to
open it so I leaned back and kicked with both feet and it moved. By
throwing my shoulder against it I managed to sneak through the small
opening into the fresh air.
suddenly dawned on me that he had been yelling at me while I was
me, my leg is jammed under the dash and I can’t get out,”
Hell with you,” I yelled back, it was your entire fault, you
figure it out.” And I turned and started up the incline. He was
halfway to the highway, I turned and looked back at the rising steam
from the broken radiator silhouetted against the black trees in front
of the car. The tail lights were still on. What if it caught fire
and my conscience started to bother me so I went back to the car on
the path that our descent had created. His door wouldn’t open
and I yelled at him to help. Finally, we managed to get the door
fully open and I bent down to see what trouble he was in. His left
leg was bent back to his seat and his knee was jammed up under the
part of the dash that had been pushed inward.
we can free your knee, I think that we could get you out. Is your
right leg free?” I asked.
answered that he could move it.
I tried to
pull the broken material away from his knee but even though it was
mostly plastic I couldn’t move it far enough.
you open the trunk so I can get your tire iron out?”
think so,” and he reached somewhere and in the quiet of the
country I heard the sound of the trunk opening.
still power in the battery as the light showed me where the spare
tire was and by removing a side panel I was able to obtain the tire
back to his door and pushed the sharp end under the dash and pried.
He cried out in pain. I tried another point and finally on a third
leverage his knee sprang free as if it were on a spring. He still
wasn’t totally free and I suggested that he lean the back of
the seat back and I would help him slide up and over. With some
struggling and a few swear words he was safely out and on the ground.
you walk?” I asked.
don’t think anything is broken, “he replied.
obvious that he was no longer under the influence of alcohol and was
get back to the highway and see where we are.”
limp and I helped him up the slope and he sat down at the side of the
of a town were visible and no vehicles at the moment. I made my
decision and told him that I planned to go in the direction that we
had been travelling and that he could come along if he wanted.
don’t really have any choice,” he said and stood up.
Now we had
a good old fashioned blizzard on our hands. I was glad I had
purchased the parka. He had a long winter over coat and no hat. He
vehicle passed or met us.
like we walked for miles but in reality it was probably no more than
two when we saw lights of a town. I thought that we would never get
there I was so tired and I knew that my “friend” was
exhausted. Some of the time I had to virtually drag him.
for the nearest of two motels and staggered into the office. A
graying man of about fifty with dark skin eyed us from top to bottom
with his black eyes.
“We would like a room with two queen beds in the no smoking
have credit card?”
I don’t but my “friend” has one.” And I poked
him in the arm.
yes, I have a credit card, here it is.”
through the process of checking in and the man gave us two metal keys
and told us which room.
your car/” he asked
a ditch back on the highway.”
say anything just gave us that misjudging stare.
was reasonably comfortable and warm so I stripped and took a hot
shower. He lay on one bed fully clothed and was soon snoring.
forced me out of the room and I ventured into the blizzard to a
service station restaurant a half block away.
do you order when you’re in a strange town but a hamburger? Yes
I’ve heard about E. Coli but with the amount of charcoal I
received I’m sure it was murdered. The ketchup was good though.
the motel I surrendered to a deep long sleep that saw me waken about
seven the next morning. My “friend” was up and in the
shower. The blizzard was reduced to light snow.
came out with a towel wrapped around his waist. He looked a bit
bedraggled but didn’t appear to have a hangover.
should introduce myself,” he said, “although that
probably won’t change your impression of me. Anyway my name is
Delbert Foster, AKA Del.” And he held out his hand.
his hand meant that I would forgive him for placing my life at risk I
guess. Of course I’m a nice guy and I shook his hand.
decided that breakfast was the most important item this morning
before he made arrangements about his wrecked car.
was quite deep when we trudged to the same facility I had attended
the night before. Bacon and eggs and strong coffee were quite
are you going to do about your car? I asked
have to report it to the police of course. I’ll ask around to
see if there any tow trucks but I’m pretty sure we aren’t
very far from the city. Do you want to wait until I get that settled
and arrange a ride to the city?”
in no hurry if you can get me a ride.”
I’ll phone Danny and he’ll probably come and get us.”
were called, the paperwork completed and Danny was called. We were in
the city by three that afternoon.
me where I wanted to be let off and I said downtown. He handed me
his business card as I exited the car.
was bothering me when I turned my head, it would block one eye and
that was annoying. The sign right there said Richard’s Men’s
Wear. I came out with a faux fur hat similar to what the RCMP wear
and it was warm. I could keep my parka hood back now.
mission was to find a hotel and have a delicious hot shower and sleep
for eternity. No, I didn’t mean that.
I chose was old but appeared to be well kept and once in my room I
was satisfied. The shower was delicious and so was the sleep. My
intention was to stay two nights and decide where to go from there.
took me to the hotel restaurant where the steak that I had longed for
turned out beautifully. From there I ventured into the bar and
ordered a beer. I positioned my self at the end of the L-shaped bar
against the wall. After a couple of beers I discarded my parka and
hung it over the back rest on the stool. It was sooo comfortable I
had another beer or two or three. Mother Nature called and I escaped
to the washroom. When I returned I threw my parka over my shoulder
and headed for my room.
morning I made the decision to deposit the rest of my money into a
bank account. A TD Canada Trust was within easy walking distance and
I entered while reaching for my wallet. It wasn’t in my parka
pocket! Oh yeah, it’s probably in my hip pocket. NO! I searched
all of my pockets and all I came up with was just under two hundred
dollars. What the Hell happened to my wallet? I leapt out the door
and raced back to the hotel room and searched every corner. Nothing!
The front desk staff advised that no one had turned in a wallet. They
said that the lounge would re-open at eleven, in fact in about twenty
minutes, The lady called the lounge and asked if I could enter to
look for my wallet.
inspected where I had sat and no wallet. The bartender said that no
wallet had been turned in and he looked under his counter and
wherever wallets might be held. I sat down where I had been the
previous evening. What a fool I had been enjoying multiple beers and
the ambience I had left my parka hanging on the stool when I had gone
to the washroom. Some sharp eyed gringo had gone
pockets and all my money was gone.
meantime the bartender had called the police and he advised me that
they would be in the bar in about ten minutes.
were empathetic but agreed that my theory was probably correct. One
of them commented that given the circumstances it was probable that
the thief had taken the money and credit card and discarded the
wallet in the nearest garbage bin. Sure enough the police searched
and my wallet appeared in the hotel bin right near the top of the
former days waste. They took my wallet to check for fingerprints but
promised nothing. And I knew that nothing would happen.
have been a detective how easily I had figured it out. Damn!
Being in a
foul mood as a result of my stupidity it did not seem to be a good
day to start applying for jobs that I now needed badly. I could
research the papers and perhaps the library would have a computer I
could use to look up help wanted ads.
my room was paid for another night.
of the day was spent reading newspapers and sitting in the library.
charges were on my credit card but without the card in my hand I
could not extend my stay. I checked out and telephoned a few
companies that were looking for help. Two had hired and another two
still needed help. Both of these said just come in the door and we’ll
look after you. I did so and left to wait for their call. Being into
winter there was less infrastructure repair and development. I didn’t
have any major qualifications for construction so my work future
work I had a real problem and that was where to spend the night. A
television weather forecast in Walmart advised that it was going to
be in the neighborhood of minus 11C for the night. My sleeping bag
was rated for minus twenty five so should be comfortable overnight. I
consumed a hamburger for the supper meal and went searching. The
underside of an overpass appealed and I found that just under one end
there was a flat area large enough to accommodate my sleeping bag. It
was too early to settle for the night and worked my way into the
I noted a
number of males were not moving from place to place and I assumed
that these were what everyone called the homeless. Join the crowd I
thought. I am now homeless. What if I asked some of them where they
slept at night? No, that didn’t seem like a good idea just now.
I wandered and watched until I was tired and decided to go back to
pieces of concrete had to be cleared so that I had a smooth albeit
hard surface to lie on. Inside my bag with my parka on I became warm
and comfortable until a big truck rolled over top. I realized that I
was at the extension part of the bridge and it was not going to be a
quiet night. Is it ever quiet in a large city?
in increments. The city started to re-awaken at five A.M... So I did
money that I had bought breakfast at MacDonald’s. I strolled
downtown where most of my new buddies gathered. Most of them looked
at me but very few made motions to really acknowledge that I was one
of them. That wasn’t uppermost in my mind to become one of them
face to face with a tall older man with a scruffy beard. The hair
growth was what really attracted my attention. There were blotches of
bare skin through the tangle of wiry looking beard. The other
attention getter was that he was well over six feet. He had one of
those old style caps that my Father used to wear with ear flaps. The
rest of his clothing was dirty and tattered.
countenance said you better stop, I own this area.
your name?” he asked without hesitation.
his stare for a short while, “Simon.”
Simon my name is Huey and I’ve noticed you around here the last
couple of days carrying what appear to be your total belongings.”
thing I noticed about him was that his speech indicated intelligence
and he sounded well educated.
I said, “That’s about the size of it right now.”
interest me,” he stated, “Let’s sit over there on
that bench and get to know each other.”
appear dangerous and for some reason he intrigued me as well. We sat.
me what brings you into these surroundings. You have expensive
clothing and if I’m right, that sleeping bag is what I would
refer to as an Arctic Sleeper.”
right about my sleeping bag except that it’s not called an
Arctic Sleeper but it the equivalent,” I responded.
must be out of money and a job,” he commented.
and I lost what money I had. It was stolen before I could get to the
bank. It was sheer stupidity on my part that I didn’t go to the
bank as soon as I got into town. I have applications in at a few work
places but haven’t heard anything yet.”
to know about my qualifications and what type of job that I wanted. I
filled him a little on what I had done during the summer and how I
dissertation I noticed that he wore an expensive looking wrist watch
above his ragged cuff and I asked him if it was.
He took a
while to answer, “Yes, It’s a Rolex. It’s keep sake
from a former life.”
don’t talk about that any more but I will tell you that it was
a long fall from a CEO of a large prosperous company threatened with
extortion, by women and most of all by drugs. and alcohol. The only
way I can go now is up.”
short verbiage he had presented his life story like no other.
hands and parted.
next couple of weeks days passed much the same as the day before and
I expected that this was not going to change for some time. Ear plugs
helped me to sleep. Huey and I met some times and I spoke with a
number of my fellow unfortunates.
evening as I trudged toward what I called my overpass, I encountered
a man who was obviously living on the street. He snarled at me and I
tried to avoid him physically.
snatched my hat from my head and laughed.
seen you flaunting that fancy hat and now it’s mine,” he
looked at him and quietly said, “You shouldn’t have done
advanced he backed up and reached into his jacket and produced a
knife. The blade flashed in the street light and he growled, “Come
and get it sucker.”
point he sliced the air close to me and I realized that he had cut
into my parka on the left.
really pissed me off and rather than backing away I quickly moved to
him and caught his knife arm in both my hands, reversed so that my
back was to him, slung his arm over my right shoulder and jerked with
all my strength.
I heard a
tearing in his arm and shoulder that sounded like ripping open a
paper bag and that was blocked out by his scream in my ear. The knife
dropped to the ground.
away, I kicked the knife further down the concrete and reached for my
cell phone. The 911 operator asked the usual questions and I told her
just to send an ambulance and the police and hung up.
picked up my now soiled hat and walked away. He was still whimpering
on the edge of the sidewalk.
ambulance and police arrived as I watched from around the corner of a
of the back pack and sleeping bag was becoming cumbersome. I could
throw some stuff into the garbage when a thought struck me. Inside
the pack was a pair of work overalls that were thermally lined. Wear
them because the climate was becoming colder. Why hadn’t I
thought of that before? What became a necessity was that I had worn
my socks and shorts for so long that the odor was unbearable even for
me. Periodically I would venture into Walmart grab a bunch of wet and
dry paper towels and hide in the toilet cubical to wipe most of the
slime from my body. There was no point in shaving and my beard
darkened my face at about a half inch. It also helped to keep warm.
up behind me on the street and told me that the guy I had fought with
told the police that I had attacked him.
can be assured that the cops will be on your doorstep in the near
future. They will question you and pat you all over. Of course, they
will search your back pack and sleeping bag. Do you have anything in
it that could be considered restricted or unlawful? He asked.
What could I do with it? Hiding it created other problems. So I
answered Huey with a simple no. I didn’t want him to know. I
didn’t want anyone to know.
Huey liked to talk so we sat for some time and we moved on.
been falling for more than twenty four hours and walking was
difficult. I was complaining to myself until I saw a young man in a
wheel chair. He struggled along the street and I caught up to him at
the next intersection. Stopping behind him I asked if he wanted to
cross the street. “Yes,” he said. With me pushing and him
rolling the wheels we accomplished the crossing with little
name is Simon,” I told him.
you live around here?”
up at me his eyes glassy, “I don’t have any place to
live. One guy told me that there’s a place called Helpers
where they serve meals to street people and allow them to get
warm. That’s where I was headed.
you know where it is?” I asked.
sure, but it’s supposed to be two blocks west of what they call
have never heard about it and I’ve been here close to month so
let’s look for it.”
more like three blocks but when we entered it was definitely worth
the trip. A large well provided kitchen covered most of the wall to
the right of the entrance. The rest of the room contained tables of a
mixed shapes and sizes and construction. There were twenty or so men
sitting quietly around the room
proceeded to the counter with trays and asked if we could have
something to eat. They questioned both of us to determine that we had
no place to call home. It was unusual to see a man in a wheel chair
and they were skeptical. They were indeed skeptical as they observed
my parka and work overalls. The man advised that he was the manager
and said that he would feed us this time but he admitted he was
reluctant. A very tall woman stood beside him and gave us the once
ham, potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables. The latter obviously
purchased in frozen condition from the store. It was an amazing meal!
long have you been on the street?” I asked Warren.
yesterday after the owners evicted me from the apartment I was living
in. They are converting the building to condos and they did give me
ample warning but I’m having difficulty finding a place. My
name has been on a list at a number of places but no one has accepted
me. It’s probably because I’m handicapped and the
government allowance is not very much with the way that the rents
have been increasing, he related.
He told me
how much he could afford and that he had a reference from his former
landlord. Delbert Foster came to mind.
finished our meal and two cups of coffee, I rose and went to the
washroom. The call to Foster was answered by his receptionist and he
came on the line. He said that he was glad to hear from me. When I
explained why I had called, he said that he would definitely see what
he could do and asked for my telephone number.
I left and I suggested that he come to Helpers the
day at noon. I knew that they would feed him again.
before five my phone buzzed and it was Foster. He had arranged for a
bachelor suite in a friends apartment and Warren could move in any
time. I thanked him and told him I would call at noon the following
day where I was meeting with Warren.
Foster was most helpful because he arrived at noon and sat with us.
He helped Warren into his big new Lincoln and they drove away.
back in and ordered a cup of coffee. The manager said it was on the
house because he had witnessed me helping Warren. In fact, a
delicious meal arrived with the coffee.
name is Charlie,” he announced and I told him my name.
Simon, you look like you are quite fit and wondered if you would
volunteer to help here one day each week unless you are in the
process of getting off the street?”
am looking for a job but no luck so far.”
how about every Friday you arrive here at 6:00 A.M. and stay for
twelve hours? That will include two full meals, he advised.
good to me,” I responded. “What do I have to do?”
just look after our clients when they come in and clean up after they
see you the day after tomorrow.”
As I left
I felt that a load had been taken from my shoulders and searched for
a spot to take a nap on a bench. I found that this was standing
operating procedure for most of my buddies likely because they didn’t
sleep much more than I did at night.
was shining and the temperature was near 0 degrees C. I pulled my hat
over my eyes and was soon asleep.
someone poked me in the arm and said wake up. I squinted at him in
the bright sunlight. It was a cop.
your name Simon?”
two uniformed police officers facing me and a dreaded thought passed
through my mind; I still had the gun!
up,” the first cop said.
thoroughly patted down and what little I had in my pockets was spread
on the bench. They missed my cell phone but I guess it didn’t
matter anyway; it’s not against the law to have a cell phone.
you have identification?”
into my inner parka pocket and at the same time noted that both of
them had their hand on their gun butts.
don’t see the name Simon here,” number one said.
moved to my back pack and sleeping bag, “Haven’t seen you
around here before. Been here long?”
a month.” I was robbed the second day I was in the city and the
theft was reported.”
made a note of that.
was going through my pack. Everything was strewn on the bench and the
ground. He held up the wooden box and I stopped breathing. I am in
big trouble. I wonder if it would mean a jail sentence. In slow
motion, as it seemed to me, number two slowly opened the box. Inside
he found grey foam shaped to hold a 44 Calibre hand gun and enough
ports to one side to house a clip and a dozen and half bullets.
NO GUN! I
was relieved and shocked at the same time. Number two asked me a
question twice before I came back to reality. He wanted to know where
the box came from.
from the company that I worked for in the summer------I kept the box
as a souvenir.”
think of anything else to say. Number two looked at me quizzically,
“Where’s the gun?”
don’t know where it is now,” and that wasn’t a real
lie, “I assume the company has it.”
my belongings scattered.
advised, “The real reason why we are here is that a young man
is in the hospital with torn ligaments and he said that you attacked
him. What’s your story?
immediately answered, “He grabbed my hat off my head and I
I first suggested as he was laughing that he shouldn’t have
done that and then he pulled a knife and I took that away from him.”
These people weren’t very talkative but they sure wanted to
know the details.
of backing away, I went to him, grabbed his knife arm with both of my
hands, turned my back and yanked his arm over my shoulder. It seemed
he didn’t like that so he screamed and dropped the knife. What
was I to do?”
them said “Oh.”
don’t know, the last time I saw it I had kicked it down the
went for a walk and came back with nothing.
sure that the officers had noted that a number of my street buddies
had gathered around to see what was going on and a couple of them
voiced opinions that my story was correct.
officer called them by name and asked them to come forward which they
over heard what number one said quietly to number two that they had
more important things to do.
them put both his hands on my shoulders and strongly advised that I
stay out of trouble. They left.
my two best buddies and sat down. I had trouble breathing. I had to
consciously force my self to relax.
materialized and looked at me.
saw what happened,” He said.
I’m not over it yet.”
right up in front of me and unzipped his tattered jacket. “Is
this what you are looking for?” He grinned.
He had the
gun at his waist in his beltline and he held out his hand with
several bullets in it.
you sleep sound and I didn’t make any sound it was easy to get
into your back pack. I believed that you had something hidden that
you didn’t want anyone to see. When I asked you about it, the
look on your face told all.”
up the wooden case and placed the gun, clip and bullets into their
respective places and closed the lid.
don’t know how to thank you.” I said. “You saved my
just say that it’s about time something good happened.”
And he strode away.
day I stopped at Helpers and paid for a coffee. My
running drastically low. The stage was set where I had to generate
some cash and find myself digging in the garbage or “Dumpster
Diving” as they called it. I knew that I had lost weight but
still retained sufficient energy to move around a large area.
was new to me but on impulse I went into the Engineers Department and
asked about employment. The senior gentleman shook his head and
allowed that the city wasn’t hiring. He turned and picked up a
you know how to operate a snow road grader?” he inquired.
that’s pretty well what I did all summer in the mountains.”
we have a driver that reported a family emergency and he thought he
would be away as long as a week. Could you handle it?
when do you want me to start?” I anxiously asked.
at six and he gave me the address.
was the day I was supposed to volunteer at Helpers so
returned and spoke with the tall woman volunteer. Her name was
Heather I found out and on the spur of the moment I asked if she
would fill in for me the next day.
owe me,” she said.
do a day for you sometime," I replied.
I had something different in mind,” she said with raised
eyebrows and a grin on her face.
foreman explained the region I was supposed to plow along with
another grader operator and I set to work. Saturday was a day off but
it snowed and I was called back in on Sunday. The next few days flew
by and the absent operator showed up on Wednesday. They promised a
cheque within forty eight hours and asked me back on Friday. Again,
it was a bit of a complication so advised Charlie at Helpers
that I would be a bit late on Friday.
day I was physically tired from driving the grader. Not used to work
in my old age. Wandering was at a minimum but I did adventure down a
side street. Big signs showing police cars and ambulances attracted
me and I found it was a commercial business of detailing vehicles.
Having developed curiosity with dumpster diving I searched through
the bin at the back of their property. It contained all sorts of self
adhesive bits and pieces of detailing. A lot of them were light
reflective and I chose two strips about sixteen to eighteen inches
long, one with gold and blue and one mostly gold. One was placed
adhered to the cut in my parka and one on the other side to match.
Well, I was on the streets and at night I would be more visible to
night Huey and a few others and I sat in a sheltered corner and
commiserated about our ordeals. Huey noted that he had seen my
reflections in the street and traffic lights at the end of a block.
He suggested that it looked like I had a streak on the side of my
fact, you have made quite an impact on our surroundings in the last
little while and I dub you “Simon the Streak.”
and thought no more of it.
picked up my cheque and took the bus back to Helpers. It
busy all day and I made the most of the free meals. I went back for a
second for the late meal. Charlie didn’t comment.
notice that a couple of the clients called me Simon the Steak.
the end of my shift Charlie said, “I’m going to retire as
quickly as I can; I’m tired out and I have a place to live.
“No, not on the streets.”
someone taking your place?”
I’ve spoken to a couple of people and advised the Board but no
one has taken advantage of the offer. Actually, that’s why I
told you. I’m pretty damn sure you would do well here managing
I don’t think so,” I responded, “It doesn’t
really appeal to me.”
think about it.”
That’s what living on the street has become. Christmas and New
Year’s have gone by the way. The temperature rises and falls,
snow just falls and the day light hours are a little longer. My
sleeping bag is becoming tattered along with my beard. Next Friday
I’ll cut it off in the washroom at Helpers. The
under my overpass is getting harder every night.
On the way
back to downtown I chose a side street one morning. Mostly apartment
blocks along this particular street. Some of them are not in very
As I came
abreast of one the door burst open and a young woman rushed out and
grabbed me. “He’s going to hurt my baby,” she
screamed and pulled me toward the entrance. I resisted but she kept
yelling at me that I have to help or he will hurt her baby.
Reluctantly, I let her guide me up to the second floor and to the
left where a door stood open. Moving as fast as we could I didn’t
see anything or anybody.
the bathroom,” she hollered.
I flung my
pack onto the floor and proceeded rapidly to the bathroom. Oh my God,
here he was on his hands and knees and he was holding a child under
water in the bathtub. With no hesitation, I swung my right fist at
his head and connected his temple. Without a sound he rolled back and
landed against the toilet and never moved. Having put everything into
the swing he was out cold and I realized that mind boggling pain had
shot up from my hand all the way up the side of my head. I reached
into the bathtub and my fingers on my right hand didn’t
function. Her little body was soaking wet of course her eyes were
open, but I couldn’t tell if she was breathing. Sitting on the
edge of the tub I placed her on her stomach and pressed with my good
hand on her back. I could feel her rib cage bending from the pressure
and I bounced her up and down. She was making little sounds with each
downward press and then she coughed up a small amount of water and
promptly puked down the right leg of my jeans. Carefully, I picked
her up and looked into her little face. She smiled as I put her on my
shoulder. I cried like a baby and held her.
came back quickly and the mother was keening behind me so I passed
the baby to her.
asking I went to the telephone and called 911. Mom had a little
difficulty telling me the address and I was told that an ambulance
and police were on their way.
time the guy was groaning and attempted to get up but couldn’t.
While he was down I pinned him on his stomach with a knee in his back
and a warning that he had better not move unless he wanted another
arrived, two of them, and they took over for me.
I slugged him because he was holding that little girl under water.
Look at my hand, I think a couple of fingers are broken,” and
that’s how I started to tell them what happened starting with
the young Mother grabbing me outside the building.
seemed like hours because I was feeling as much pain as the guy I had
hit, they agreed that the ambulance could take me to emergency and
have my hand attended to. That was after they had checked over the
little girl and her Mother.
officers gave me their precinct location and wanted me there to
finalize my statement. The Mother was being taken downtown too.
Mother’s name was Mariska and the little fourteen month old was
Faith. I told her that I would be back to pick up my pack and
sleeping bag and crawled into the rear of the ambulance.
and second fingers were fractured, X rayed, upholstered and tied
together. The Doctor gave me some antibiotics and prescription for
pain killers after he administered an injection of a pain reducer. He
suggested that I didn’t drive for the rest of the day. I said
that I didn’t plan to.
Faith and I were driven back to her place about 3:00 P.M. Our
statements were finalized and both us agreed to be witnesses at
belongings were still in the hallway. Mariska politely suggested that
I should launder my jeans because of the odorous vomit. In fact she
said that if I waited she would quickly go down the hall and wash
them. She gave me a small blanket to cover myself.
so sure that clean jeans would make me smell any better after a few
months on the street.
later in clean jeans and a cup of coffee laced with Baileys we
tears in her eyes, she thoroughly thanked me for the help. She was
particularly sorry about my hand. She seemed to be surprised to learn
I was living on the street.
related that the man that was in her apartment had been living with
her for about two months. He was fine until later and she suspected
that he consumed drugs and had talked to him about that to no avail.
He was jealous of the baby and said that he no longer wanted her
around because she wasn’t his anyway. They had just had a big
blowup prior to my intervention and that’s why she was so
afraid. Rightfully so.
after six and she apologized and labored in the kitchen preparing a
backed potato, salmon and vegetables. Then I couldn’t thank her
time I was good friends with faith who wouldn’t sit in her high
chair to eat. She decided that it was comfortable on my knee. I
decided the same.
asked Mariska if she minded if I called in once in a while to see how
she and Faith were doing. She thought that would be just fine. I left
for the streets.
following Friday I was back at Helpers. Charlie
immediately if I had thought of managing the facility.
that I had thought of it but really hadn’t made up my mind.
I haven’t told you everything. Come with me,” and he led
me back to a door at the rear of the big room.
on,” he invited.
door to the left were carpeted stairs with a large banister.
level was well appointed and gracious. A large living room with a
variety of furnishings offered a view to the front street with easy
access to the kitchen and dining room. Down a short hall there were
two nice sized bedrooms next to the bathroom. It was very quiet and I
felt immediately comfortable with the surroundings.
at Charlie and asked, “Do you live here?”
yes,” he said, “and free of charge. No rent and no
utilities. All part of payment for the management of Helpers.”
never mentioned this when you asked me before.”
he said,” it was my ace in the hole.”
handed me a check stub indicating his monthly income. “It’s
not a great amount but you wouldn’t starve plus the free
quarters must be worth more than a thousand a month.”
I had to
admit that he had me thinking seriously.
lie, I’m sure he asked me ten times throughout the day if I was
interested. As I left, I told him that I would let him know the next
week, I couldn’t think of much of anything else. Huey said that
he thought I would do a good job. My reputation as Simon the Streaker
spoke for itself. He said that all the guys on the street hadn’t
talked about anything but you saving of the baby.
following Friday I asked Charlie quite a few questions about the
operation of Helpers and I told him that I was
in his eyes he picked up the phone and said something I couldn’t
hear. Then he sat there and just looked at me.
respond until he pointed to the rear door and five people, three men
and two women were coming toward us.
happily introduced all five and explained that they were the
governing board of Helpers.
next couple of hours we got to know each other and the board offered
me the job with a slight increase in pay for a one year contract.
and they left.
stayed on for another ten days and during that time he moved his
personal belongings to his new home.
it has been a pleasure meeting and working with you but I want to
tell you that I will be making one large change after you leave.”
that?” he asked.
around next Friday and you’ll see.” I told him.
following week I removed the Helpers sign from
above the door
and replaced it with another.
story is fictitious and is not meant to represent any person or
location. No research or interviews were conducted of actual homeless
story is based totally on my perception of what happens and what a
person would have to do to survive on the street as a homeless
my perception of how I would survive.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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