“Doddi”, she would say, “that’s my name without the e”. So she became “No E” to the folks under the Torrant Street Bridge, our home away from home, so to speak. It was not really a place to call ‘home’ but it was out of the weather and protected from the prevailing winds. It’s where we slept most nights.
Since we could not be seen by John Q Public (unless they really tried), we were safe from police harassment. Some cops, not Gestapo by nature, would even bring by food and clothing.
The winter months could be brutal. Folks from the downtown mission would come by every Wednesday with hot food. Wednesdays were the best. Even these volunteers, though, learned to leave “No E” alone. She tolerated few people. She was always armed with a sharp knife and a sharper tongue which at a moments notice could be accompanied by the wail of all the banshees. The woman had a war cry to put all the Scots to shame.
Her dog, “Fido”, she said, “was actually short for Federico de Medici. That was fine until he urinated on your leg. You might say he was overly protective, or that he believed in preventive action. We dubbed him “Pisser”. No E didn’t like it, but it fit and so it stayed.
One day No E and Pisser were with a few of us waiting for “the jug man” to open his Liquor emporium, Earl’s Jug Store. He would often do “trades” for things we had found for a jug of his finest head banging swill. Filing behind No E were James the Coot who seldom drew a sober breath……unless there was no other choice and Mabel Norman, no, not the old silent movie star, but a guy we called Mabel because he hated the name. We were like that. I was also in the group but stayed well back. I’m inured to most things but the stench was……well, horrific. Pisser seemed to be in his element.
It seems Earl was a no show, but our door banging did bring the local beat cop, Lard Butt (our name for him and I’m guessing not his mother’s), running up behind us. “Hey now, what’s this kerfuffle?” “Get back, you!” Mabel, the Coot and I cowered in his wake, but Doddi continued her whacking on Earl’s door. And, Pisser, well, he turned on Lard Butt with a snarl.
Lard Butt was all tact as he kicked at the cur and yelled at Doddi, “Woman, if you are one, get back from that door before I run you in!” Surely, this was the wrong approach, for Doddi had worked up quite lather in her noisome quest for swill. She turned on Lard Butt in her highest dudgeon. “You loathsome creature,” she wailed, “be gone you vile thrall.” “I’m on an errand of mercy for me and these quavering relics of mankind. We require our nectar of the gods.”
Lard Butt brandished his baton, Pisser went mad and Doddi, with a great squeal leapt at the officer. The Coot was whining in fright, Mabel had scarpered down the alley and I pleaded with Doddi. “No E, please stop, let it go!”
And she did, for at that moment the baton struck he skull and she collapsed in a heap at Lard Butt’s feet. He then hit Pisser a mighty blow and the poor dog died then and there. Lard Butt kicked the poor dog’s body out of the way and bent over Doddi. He called for an ambulance on his body mike and told me to “Beat it, now!”
It was two days before we could find out what had happened to No E. It turns out she had family in town who had been notified of her condition, a terrible concussion. They kept her in the hospital for three days. She recovered somewhat. Then we heard the family took her to a sanitarium, probably to dry her out.
Months later (I think it was months for seasons had passed) I thought I saw her on Main Street with a dog that looked just like Pisser. I followed her until she turned suddenly, looked me in my good eye and said, “Is it you? Am I No E? Then please, take me with you.” And I did. A sweeter No E and Pisser II are with us to this day.