Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Joseph was out baying at the moon, last night. I expect that everyone in town got themselves woken up by the wailing and gnashing of teeth. He was drunk, as usual, and staggering from wooden bench to wooden bench, falling over in the newly painted light blue flowerboxes planted by the town and holding on to the rusting drainpipes of the old houses as he went. Some of those drainpipes are as old as the houses, I imagine, and he must've fallen over more than once, as they gave way, pulled from the stone walls. I hope he has his tetanus injections up to date.

It seems his mom died. How he even knew that she'd died is anyone's guess. He hasn't spoken to anyone in his family, nor they to him, for years and years...they're fed up with him because of his alcoholism. They live out of town in an old, crumbling farmhouse, and he sort of wanders from place to place all over town. I'm betting that he'll be out cold on a bench at funeral time, because he must realize, in the depths of his stupor, that he won't be welcomed inside the church. Perhaps that's the real reason for the wailing.

Not that he's homeless, mind you. The social services have always managed to find him a place to stay when he hasn't managed to bully some poor socially-inept person into letting him in to trash their apartment. Mostly, though, he doesn't last long wherever he goes, as the other people in the lodgings soon get tired of a sick, drunken, argumentative, piss and shit-stained smelly old man sprawled on their furniture and in their hallways.

He was actually married for a time, a few decades ago, and has grown children by the marriage. But that didn't last. After his marriage, the young couple lived with the bride's family, which included the mother, the father, and the mother's lover...a trio which has held up better than the young married couple, as the two elderly drunken men are still up there, living with the little round lady who only ever wears a blue and grey housedress. I'm actually not sure which one is the lover and which one is the husband...but maybe after all these years, it doesn't really matter, anyway.

The bride finally went, and Joseph stayed in the marital bedroom, coming out only to wobble his way down the hill into town down on his little moped to the local bars for wine. Changed from his farmer blue shirt and trousers that passes for what, in the US, would be overalls, put on his one-side half broken, one-side taped together eyeglasses, traded his wellies for shoes, and than be found arguing about anything and everything in any of the local cafes.

Joseph dresses up in his motheaten best suit whenever there's a fete or a spectacle in town and then goes to grabbing the microphone and trying to pass as the MC. It doesn't generally get past the first few lines before he gets kicked off the stage. I recall the time when, during the Catholic school's annual fete, he got up on the stage to do the lotto and kept referring to the school as the public school. The headmistress soon saw Joseph helped down from the stage and placed over by the bar tent to keep himself otherwise occupied.

A few years back, Joseph finally got kicked out of the marital bedroom, some fifteen years or more after the divorce. He took it hard. I don't think he was too sure what to do about it. So he'd get himself drunk and fall over on the street and someone would call the ambulance service and they'd come to get him and take him to the next town, where there is a hospital, and leave him there. Then the hospital would keep him til he sobered up and let him loose and Joseph would somehow get the fifteen or so kilometers back to town and do it all over again. This went on for several weeks.

After a while, the ambulance service would refuse to go and pick him up from wherever he was, lying on the road. It got to looking bad, what with the tourists and curists and all....I mean, had it been winter it would've just been the townspeople, but a drunken old man on the roads and lanes of the town when the tourists were around....it got so that it was the tourists insisting that something be done, and the Mayor was beginning to look bad.

Even I tried. I found him out cold in the little park in front of the house and called the ambulance. They just laughed. So I roused him up and took him into the Mayor's office and sat him on the bench there and was having a rather animated discussion with the receptionist about how it was a shame that we had no shelters in the town to place him in and how it was a shame that a local boy was going to be the town's first death by exposure come the winter and....and Joseph quietly tipped over on to his side on the cushion of the bench in the office and then peed all over himself, and the bench.

Well. THAT got a reaction. The receptionist called the ambulance service who came and yelled at me. Then they dragged Joseph out of the office, down the big old wooden staircase and out the door. And left him on the less comfortable stone bench, outside. Then they yelled at me, again, and went away. So I went home, too.

Joseph must've known when he'd found a sucker. He was back, passed out in the park in front of the house the next day. This time, I tried a different tack. I phoned my doctor, who suggested having him committed into the psychiatric hospital all the way in Pau, a good 70 kilometers away. Only I had to get a referral from Joseph's doctor, so as not to mess with the professional courtesy thing that doctors have. It wasn't too difficult to convince the doctors of the town that it maight be a better idea to have Joseph 'out of sight, out of mind'. It helped that I dragged smelly old Joseph into the offices of the doctors and sat there, til the papers were signed.

The only hard part was to convince the ambulance taxi service to take Joseph all the way to Pau, as they weren't too sure that the trip would be refunded by social services...plus, they were sick of having to clean the car after each ride that Joseph took. The only snag was that the hospital had no bed for him until the next morning, and NOBODY wanted to take him in til then. I put a mattress down on the floor of my front room and put him to bed. But first I took away his eyeglasses so that he didn't escape before they could come for him, as I didn't want to have gone through all that humbug and him doing a runner.

I won't do that, again. He was up all night. Asking to be let out to pee, having nightmares, asking for water. And the house stank of drunken old man and shitty trousers. In the morning the taxi actually did arrive (I'd had doubts that they would), equipped with large diaper-like pads for the carseat, and took him away. Whew! I felt as if a good deed had been done, and I'd done my bit for society for the day.

When I stopped by the taxi service that afternoon, the owner was just on the phone with the social sevices in Pau. It seemed that the hospital had let him go as soon as the taxi was out of sight and had even given him a bus ticket back to town. He's still around, still drunk and passing out, but not at my house.

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