|Ode to the most pretentious time of year ...
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|Author:||FrankGSterleJr [ Sat Jan 09, 2016 5:58 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Ode to the most pretentious time of year ...|
A 'tough old man': Inside the efforts to house a beloved homeless man in North Battleford
Allan Whitecap knows when to pick a fight. Winter has arrived and it’s cold in North Battleford [Saskatchewan, Canada].
Drunk, the 79-year-old yells and swears in a crowded hospital waiting room. A police officer approaches. Whitecap’s punch connects with his ribs. The elderly man— a beloved figure on the streets of downtown North Battleford—is a former boxer. But years of heavy drinking and living homeless have taken their toll. The officer gets the better of him.
As Whitecap’s led to a police cruiser, he tries to deliver another blow. Instead, he loses his shoe and falls.
Later, Whitecap laughs as he’s locked up. The officer asks if he picked the fight so he’d be put in jail, out of the cold. “Yes,” Whitecap responds, then shakes the officer’s hand and apologizes.
Days before Christmas, Whitecap is settled in at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
It’s not the first time he’s spent the holidays behind bars. He’s done it so often that some of his friends refer to jail as “Allan’s winter home”: “It’s a nice place,” Whitecap says, sitting on his walker near his small cell. “I don’t sleep outside, I eat good.”
Younger inmates sometimes fight each other, but Whitecap—sentenced to nine months for assaulting a police officer—says they treat him well. He has a knack for making friends in unlikely places.
Whitecap’s been a fixture on the streets of downtown North Battleford for as long as many there can remember and he’s missed back home.
Staff and clients at the Battlefords Lighthouse supported living centre, where Whitecap spent more than 120 nights this year, wonder what trouble he’s getting into—as do those who routinely chat with him at the corner of Central Park, where he’s often found gazing at the street, bottle in hand ... ... …
December 24, 2015, Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Improvised story ending:
During a brief two-day lull in the sub-zero freezing cold of North Battleford, Allan Whitecap decided to seek out an also-homeless old friend in Saskatoon via hitchhiking while under the mistaken impression that the continuous also-sub-zero Saskatoon weather had also subsided.
He’d made it only to the eastern outskirts of metro Saskatoon, but he still, as he did in North Battleford, sought out the usual free shelter and hot meals at the local police station, with its reasonably rough lockup bunk beds.
Walking through the snow, drunk as a corrupt judge, the only warmth he might immediately access was a donut shop, though it happened to also have a police cruiser parked near the front entrance.
Allan slowly made his way towards the entrance, when two police officers came out of the donut shop, each with a paper cup full of steaming-hot coffee.
Allan thanked his lucky stars for practically delivering to his feet those whom he needed most in such unbearable cold weather; and rubbing his mitted hands together, he grumbled out the most provocative insult that he could think up, however much of it being a cliché, to the police officers as he approached them: “I thought I’d find you public servants at the nearest donut shop. Are you about to take a brief ‘work break’ now?”
As he chuckled at the pair, they in return smiled widely at him before themselves chuckling and wishing the homeless man a Merry Christmas.
“Hey, wait a sec. I have something else to say to you guys,” Allan replied, somewhat bewildered by the pair’s good humour towards him. He took the three final steps to where the two cops stood, about a meter from their police cruiser, and immediately swung his fist at the one of them who happened to be closest.
Cleanly missing the targeted officer who’d easily avoided Allan’s fist, they lightly grabbed the drunkard by his dirtied ski jacket, turned him about and pushed him in the opposite direction. One then strongly suggested to Allan, whom both didn’t recognize from their locality: “Go find yourself one of the winter shelters where you can sober up and get some hot soup before bedtime, pal. There’s one place just two short blocks over that way.”
Not at all content with the officer’s recommendation, Allan demanded, “But, but you guys have to take me in—I mean, arrest me and then take me in. I know my rights!”
“No, there’s no reason to put you up at city lockup, at taxpayers’ expense,” said one, with the other concluding with, “We wouldn’t do that. Take care, big guy.”
Not at all expecting such an undesirable result, Allan insisted to the grinning officers as they climbed back into their car and shut the doors, “Come on, guys, take me in—you have to arrest me. It’s the law, isn’t it? Hey! Aww, come on, you two—take me to the lockup.”
Rolling down his driver’s-side window, the still smiling officer lightly laughed out, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses—I mean, for you in this town?”
As the police cruiser’s window closed, the homeless drunkard Allan Whitecap desperately protested their conduct towards him. Astonished and confused, he began to somewhat panic: “What the hell are you talking about, ‘prisons and workhouses’? What are ‘workhouses’? I’m not looking for work, or a house, for that matter; just your lockup.” And where have I heard that word, ‘workhouse’, before? he thought to himself, for it sounded familiar.
The police cruiser started up, slowly went in reverse, then forwarded out of the parking lot, with Allan all the while yelling in vain after them. As they drove away down the road, Allan bellowed at them, “Okay, then. Take me there—if not to jail, then to the workhouse. I’ll even do a little work. You know—in return for my sleep-and-keep. But you have to take me in, to your prison or workhouse or whatever. Hey, where in the hell are the prisons and the workhouses at, anyhow? Hey, I’m a staunch libertarian just like you, and I agree that taxpayers dollars are … that they’re … Hey! Oh, give me a f—— break, for f— sakes, guys!! … ”
Frank Sterle Jr
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