Tony Barrows lived in a basement bachelor apartment on Spence Street. This area of Winnipeg is well known for its poverty and high level of crime. Tony fit very comfortably into his present living situation.
This young man was heavy, but his excess weight was more than compensated for by the significant amount of muscle mass in his upper body. Tony had wide, powerful shoulders, strong pecs and bulging biceps. He liked to show off his upper body mass by wearing and assortment tank tops and skin -tight T-shirts. For his daily attire, Tony favored the color black as it emphasized his upper body mass and deemphasized his slight beer belly.
Tony was very proud of his impressive upper body strength, but he had come by it honestly. He didn’t have a great deal of self-discipline, but what little he had he applied to his physical training regimen.
Tony did not like doing housework or cleaning. There were more important things on which he wanted to focus his time. As Tony lived in a basement apartment, noisy heating and plumbing pipes hung from the ceiling. Although the ceiling pipes made his apartment appear even more dumpy than it already was, this cosmetic defect did not really bother Tony.
Tony was twenty-five years old, but he didn’t really have goals or ambitions that
society would hold in high regard. The last few years Tony lived in the present, one day at a time. This expression would have made Tony laugh as ‘one day at a time’ was a slogan used by most twelve step groups based on the original program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tony walked over to a small kitchen. The walls were covered by faded strips of a sickly shade of light green paint.
Making himself a smoothie was the way Tony liked to start his mornings. He, of course, had to begin his routine with a large cup of strong Tim Hortons and a few hits from his vaping pen. Tony had sold some weed to one of his friends in exchange for a high -quality nicotine vaporizer. As far as Tony was concerned he had succeeded in quitting smoking tobacco, although he still loved his cannabis.
Tony really didn’t care that much about following strict healthy lifestyle. He wasn’t one of those guys who wanted to live to age eighty. Forty years of age would satisfy Tony if he could enjoy all the forbidden pleasures of life. He only stopped smoking when he concluded that heavy smoking was contributing to his long and frequent bouts of bronchitis. When Tony suffered from a serious upper respiratory infection, he usually had to put his weight training regimen on hold for two to three weeks.
Tony had watched part of a documentary on the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and vaping. One day his friend Ron showed Tony the new vape pen and he bought at The Toke, a store that sells both tobacco and vaping supplies. Rod had a sepia colored vaping pen that produced a huge cloud of vapour. When his friend demonstrated how his new nicotine delivery system worked, Tony was immediately impressed.
It sounds like you’re living a very unstable life right now,” Roger observed. “How did you get addicted to opiates?”
“It all started in high school. I think I was around fifteen years old at the time. Opiates are not the first drug I ever took. I’m no angel. When I was twelve my friends and I started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Sometimes we’d even steal some of our parents’ prescription drugs.
Then, at a party I met another girl and got into a physical fight with her. During the fight she pushed me down stairs leading to the second floor of the house. I fell all the way down the stairs until I landed on my back in the stair well. I lied there and don’t remember how long I remained unconscious. When I finally ‘came to,’ I was lying on a hospital bed. I could see a doctor and a nurse standing over me.
When he could see that I had regained consciousness, the doctor began to speak to me. He was an older man, probably in his mid-forties. His hair was short and was a salt-and-pepper color. He wore dark rimmed glasses.”
‘You are very lucky girl,” he said. “You took a very bad fall and could have been seriously injured. There are a lot of nasty contusions on your shoulders and back, but there doesn’t appear to be any paralysis or permanent injury to your back or spine. I will be sending you for some x-rays just to be on the safe side. How is your pain?’
“I tried to move and let out a scream of pain. ‘Very bad,’ I told the doctor. He took out a prescription and wrote me a prescription for OxyContin. As soon as I took my first OxyContin I felt wonderful. The pain was still there, but I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I didn’t have a worry in the world. From that point on I was an opiate addict,” Glenda said. “Roger, do you mind if I go outside for a smoke. A cigarette might help me to calm down.”
“No. go right ahead. Glenda, do you like dogs?
“I love dogs,” Glenda answered.
My old dog Buddy is in the backyard. He’s a very old black Labrador retriever, but he still enjoys going for a walk. Would you be able to take Buddy for a walk while you are having your smoke break?”
“Absolutely. I’d love to. I didn’t know that you owned a dog, Roger. I could hear some barking outside, but I assumed it was a neighbor’s dog,” Glenda replied.
“After your walk you can bring Buddy in the house. He is a little shy of people he doesn’t know, but after you’ve spent a lot of bit of time with him, he’ll love you. Especially, if you take him for a walk,” Roger said getting out of his Lazy Boy chair.
“You don’t need to get up. I’ll find Buddy on my own and I’ll take him for a walk.”
“Buddy’s leash is hanging up on a nail on the back door,” Roger said settling back down into his chair. Glenda grabbed the leash and opened the back door. Buddy looked up at her and began to bark. Glenda had owned a dog when she was living with her mother and was very good at handling shy dogs. She found a box of dog treats on top of Roger’s refrigerator. Glenda took a few treats out of the box to give to Buddy. She slowly walked up to the old black lab, spoke very gently to him and gave him a treat. Buddy took the treat very readily and Glenda didn’t have any problem attaching the dog’s leash. Buddy wagged his tail to indicate that he was more than ready to go on a walk with Glenda.
“I really appreciate your offer, Peyton. Sounds like your plan might work, but I have some concerns. What if some of the other players on Rick’s team blame Rick for the incident?” Misty asked nervously. brushing some snowflakes from her hair.
“Got that one covered too, Misty. Godzilla will let Miles Meyers know in no uncertain terms that if he tells anyone about their little conversation that they had behind 7-11, he will pay Miles another visit. During this meeting Miles Meyers can expect enough of a beating to keep him out of action for the rest of the season,” Peyton explained.
“You would actually do that for us? Peyton?” Misty asked
“Absolutely, you and Rick are two of our best friends. I’d do anything I can to help,” Peyton answered.
After their conversation on the park bench, both Peyton and Sabrina walked Misty home.
Misty arrived about ten minutes late for her afternoon gym class. She was finishing her cigarette at the smoking pod behind Maplewood Collegiate and was talking to a new girl who had just enrolled in the high school that day. While they were talking Misty lost track of the time. When Misty arrived at the lockers about five minutes late, the other girls were already in the locker room getting changed. Misty waited outside the entrance to the locker room and could hear the other girls talking. The girls’ voices were loud enough that Misty could overhear what they were saying. The dominant voice that drowned out the rest was that of Linda Saunders. Linda was a strong personality that attracted her own group of followers. At this very moment Linda was holding court with a group of four other girls. She had just overhead one of the other girls singing the praises of Rick Miller.
“Rick is such a great goalie. His play is the only reason that our hockey team is still competitive. I just hope that his injuries don’t keep him out of the line up too long. The Cougars have some key games scheduled for the next two weeks,” Sandra said.
“That’s for sure,” Tristan said. “I hate to say it, but I don’t have much confidence in Miles Meyers’ ability to lead the team.
Sandra and Tristan were so busy talking that they hadn’t noticed that Linda Saunders had walked up right behind them.
Misty could guess what the term, ‘hockey wives’ meant and was not sure that she liked the implications. She could not imagine her prime identity as a hockey player’s boyfriend. As she watched the first period of the game she was not sure that she even liked hockey. She wondered if some of the other girls felt the same way and only attended the hockey games because they loved their boyfriends. Misty also thought that for most of the girls being attached to a hockey player was an important part of their identity. For them being a hockey player’s girlfriend was an important status symbol. The women’s liberation movement was starting to make some head way in the sixties, but it seemed to not have had much impact on the majority of Canadian females. To these women dating a hockey player was critical to their self esteem and placed them in an elite group at high school.
As Misty scanned the row of ‘hockey wives’ she noted that all were attractive young women. This seemed to imply that a member of the hockey team had to have a good looking girl at his side. If a player couldn’t latch onto a beautiful girl there must be something wrong with him, and he would be better off just being single just as Rick had been before this evening.
Eric’s girlfriend, Susan introduced Misty to the rest of the group.
“Don’t be nervous, Misty. We’ll all have time to talk after the first period ends. During that time the players go to their dressing rooms for fifteen minutes. It gives the guys a chance to rest and to get feedback from their coach. The girls then go to the concession stand to get a coffee or a Coke or maybe have a smoke. I think we only have three smokers in our group. Most of the players don’t smoke and they usually prefer that their girlfriends don’t either,” Susan explained.
As the girls headed for the concession stands Misty noticed that a couple of them were looking at Misty suspiciously. Marlene and Jackie told the others that they needed to use the washroom. Most of the other girls took this as a message that they would need to have a meeting among themselves before they started to socialize with Misty.
Lloyd Roberts was just waking up from a short nap he had after supper. As be reached for his pack of cigarettes, Lloyd could still remember the dream he had. He was in that zone where he was just coming out of the dream state, but was not yet fully awake. Lloyd was used to having many dreams while he slept, but there was something different about the ones that he had been having lately. His most recent dreams all seemed to have some spiritual or religious theme to them.
A few minutes ago, Rick had seen Jesus in his dream holding a little lamb in his arms. The other night he dreamed that he was sitting in a quiet peaceful location by a stream. When he turned his head he could see a man who looked like Jesus waving for him to come over to where he was standing. Lloyd scratched hic head before putting on his baseball cap with the Ford logo on it. He had started to notice a bald spot near the top of his head and thought that if he covered it up he wouldn’t have to think about it. What he was now thinking about was the significance of his dreams. His daughter, Sasha had been a Christian for awhile now, but Lloyd was wondering what kind of influence her new boyfriend was having on her beliefs. Lloyd expected Sasha would be home in a little while. He would ask her what she made of his dreams.
Lloyd had recently attained employment as a residential care worker at The Main Street mission. He found that of the many jobs that he had worked over the years this was probably one of the few that he actually enjoyed. Lloyd liked the street people that he got to know and was starting to feel that his life was finally starting to have some meaning.
Rick was beginning to mature as he entered his mid forties. The incident that happened at the rock festival had shaken Lloyd up. It now occurred to him that he had some serious responsibilities as a parent.
Norman Robinson was only nineteen years old, but he was already starting to take on the appearance of a homeless person. He was tall and very thin. Misty noticed that Norman had a missing front tooth. He had a large hole in the front of his navy blue parka that made it look like he had vomited on his coat. The hole was actually a result of Norman helping his dead remove a defective battery from his car. In the process of completing this task, Norman had gotten some battery acid on his jacket. The acid had burned the hole in it.
Misty turned to Rick and said, “Let’s take Norm over to my place. I think my dad might like to talk to Norman.”
“What makes you say that?” Rick asked, looking somewhat befuddled.
“My dad has changed a lot since the summer. I’ll tell you about it later, but he now has a job working at a homeless center,” Misty answered.
“Wow. Lloyd has a steady job now,” Rick said.
“Look you guys have done enough for me already. After I finish my coffee and smoke I’ll just walk back to the bridge,” Norman said.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Rick said. “You don’t have a place to go tonight, do you?”
“That settles it you’re coming with us,” Rick said firmly.
Rick, Misty and their new friend walked back to Rick’s car that was parked on a street next to Memorial Park. When Rick tried to start his car the engine wouldn’t turn over.
“Damn,” Rick said. “I just put a new battery in two weeks ago,”
“Open the hood Rick and let me have a look,” Norman said.
“In less than a minute Norman asked Rick to try starting the car again. This time the engine turned over immediately.
“How did you do that?” Rick asked. “It was just a loose cable. I was training to be an auto technician so I knew what to check first.”
“Wow, thanks a lot man,” Rick said, feeling both surprised and grateful.