June 12, 2021

“I sympathize with this woman, whose meagre life is little but hardship.”

An excerpt from “Trouble and Strife,” by Johanne Levesque


            Walking home from the grocer, I am ever so careful not to step on any cracks.  I pass a store front with a sign on the window saying, “For rent for any kind of business.”  A ragged blind man sits on the Yonge Street sidewalk playing an old accordion.  I reach into my purse and drop my last nickel into his cup.

            I walk by my poorest fellow citizens sleeping on park benches, denied work and a place to sleep.  They will be facing another cruel winter without employment and without the prospect of it.  What will become of them?  The other day Eugene told me that twenty-four men were arrested for sleeping in C.P.R. passenger coaches behind the old Union Station on charges of trespassing and vagrancy.  He said, “It serves them right, the lazy bastards.  Why don’t they pull themselves by their own bootstraps and get a job!”

            What a disgrace that human beings are reduced to this condition in a city full of empty churches, parish halls and Sunday school buildings.  Why even cattle have a roof over their heads.  I find it hard to sleep comfortably in my bed, knowing of the unfortunate plight of these men sleeping in the open, on the cold earth covered with newspapers.

            I walk home and wonder who will be the deserving one today.  I soon spot her, sitting on the sidewalk, her shoulders bowed too soon with worry, hugging her two children, the young woman with the dishevelled brown hair, deep brown circles under her eyes and a gaunt pale face.  She has the typical exhausted face of a homeless woman of twenty-five, who looks forty, but her expression is the most desolate and hopeless I have seen so far.

            I know her!  She is the one who came by for stew the other day.  The poor lady’s husband committed suicide last year, and she can no longer afford the rent for the apartment in Eugene’s building.  I can’t believe Eugene evicted her.  I squat in front of the children.  The blue lipped girls shiver in their mismatched scarves and hats and threadbare jackets with missing buttons.  The dear little kiddies have shoes but no socks.  Two pale faces peer over their mother’s shoulder with an attitude of wide-eyed appeal.  I can’t help thinking that their plight was brought on by my husband.

            I smile at the children and say hello to them.

            They hug their mother tighter.  The woman looks up at me with desperation in her eyes as I pull a loaf of bread out of my bag and offer it to her.

            “God bless you.  You are a beautiful human being!” says the mother as she quickly breaks a piece for each of her children.

            Eugene would be horrified if he knew my secret little hobby.

            A loaf of bread is only nine cents; he’ll never miss it.

            I walk on feeling guilty.  I sympathize with this woman, whose meagre life is little but hardship.

If you liked this excerpt from Trouble and Strife, you can buy the book at any of the following links:

Austin Macauley Publishers™ (my publisher)
Barnes & Noble