Tuesday, February 15, 2011

16th and Island - Chapter 4 - Operation Hope (Part Two)

This is a true story - some of the names have been changed.

          “After all this, all our fighting, and praying, and hoping, I can’t believe they aren’t even here!” I exclaimed in frustration. “Well, I hope they are ok.”                                                                             
           “Pretty ironic,” Pete laughed.
           "Well, we may as well not waste a trip down here. Why don't we pass out the rest of the water bottles in our trunk?"
           "We may as well," Pete shrugged. 
            We approached a group of four people at the corner a few hundred yards from where we had met Susan and Jeb. A homeless women, crouched on the ground against the wall, looked as wrinkled and worn as a seventy year old who had done hard labor her whole life, but I guessed she was no older than fifty. What is her story? I wondered. An attractive Asain woman, about twenty-five, was hanging on a tall, handsome man who kept taking swigs of whiskey out of a bottle hid in his black leather jacket. I hope he's not her pimp. A middle-aged homeless man, not nearly as well dressed or as clean, was yelling out his life story to them.
          "I've been homeless thirteen years. Been a drunk most of that time, but I got clean for a while when this one family let me live with them for a few months.. . "
         "Man, you are so f----ing stupid. Never admit you've been homeless that long. Say you've been homeless for three weeks!" said the man in the black leather jacket. The young girl cackled loudly.
         I squeezed Pete's hand, and he asked, "Are you guys thirsty?"
         The man in the leather jacket said, "That's all you got? Water! You think we want water! You must be some kind of crazy!" The young girl again cackled loudly, slapping her knees.
         "I'm thirsty" said one of the older women. She smiled and I noticed that her lips were deeply cracked and most of her teeth were missing. We give her a gallon of water, and the socks I had intended for Susan.
          "Oh look, Pete - there's Bob - their friend we met the other night. Let's go see if he has any information." I was relieved to move on.
         "Good idea - we can give him this other jug of water ..... Hi Bob," Pete held out his hand, "do you remember us from the other night? I'm Pete, and this is my wife . . ."
         "Oh sure, I remember you two." Bob took off his dirty blue baseball cap to scratch his head matted with curly gray hair. "I've made a lot of progress on my van, I think it is almost fixed."
        "Oh very cool. Hey do you want some water?"
        "Yeah, that would be fantastic. It's been warm working under that hood."
        "We were wondering if you knew anything about Susan and Jeb - the lady and little boy you were guarding the other night?"
       "Oh yeah, yeah. We moved their car around the corner because some nut kept yelling at them the other night. Just around the block, you will see them."
       "Awesome, thanks man." Pete shook his hand.
       "That's my bad hand - hurt it in 'Nam!"
       "Oh, I am so sorry!" Pete apologized. 
       I was smiling as if we had just won the lottery.

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