Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Homeless Sweet Home

This had to be the worst job of his career. Stuck here, outside, in the cold and the rain...could it get any worse? He hunkered down, remembering to keep his distance from the other men, scattered around, several yards away. They were so damned territorial...mustn't infringe upon the other guys' space...or the women's. Jeez, they were rougher than the guys sometimes. Only yesterday, some old bitch had backhanded him when he'd stopped to pick up a piece of crap that had fallen out of her cart.

"Thief!" she'd shrieked even though he'd been trying to give it back to her, whatever the hell it was, something soft and slimy, totally gross.

Now here he was, five days in, squatting under one of the bridges that spanned the San Diego River. It had been raining for the last two days, just to add to his misery. God knows, they needed the rain, and a lot more of it. But why now, for chrissakes? He stuck a hand into the pocket of his ragged coat and pulled out the burger he'd begged for outside McDonald's. The two young girls, secretaries from the local financial building most likely, had looked at him with more disgust than pity. One of them had thrust her wrapped sandwich into his hand with a breathy, "Ew", before teetering on too high heels back inside to replace her lost lunch. When this was over he'd have to seek her out and thank her properly for her sweet charity.

As he bit down into the greasy bun he was alerted to the clamor of raised voices from deeper in the dark tunnel. Nothing unusual from the sounds of it. Very few of the homeless he'd encountered were into camaraderie. Typically they were loners, and anyone getting in their way or treading on what they perceived to be their territory would be screamed at or even beaten up, if anyone had the strength to be that aggressive. Even living with the threat of the recent murders didn't seem to make these people band together -- for a safety in numbers kind of thing. His attention was distracted from the ruckus at the sight of a tall, slender figure heading his way. Even in the half light cast by the lamps on the street above them,  he recognized him.

"Are you nuts?" was his greeting.

The man knelt in front of him. "It's been five days...five nights. I have needs, so do you."

"I repeat, are you nuts? Look at me. I'm filthy, I haven't even washed my hands and face for two days, and you're saying we have needs. To do what? And look at you, you're soaked to the skin. You'll get a chill. Go home, Simon."

"Just let me hold you. I am cold, you can warm me up."

"Go home and get warm."

Simon ignored the instruction and pulled him into an embrace. "Just hold me."

He felt the need then, the arousal as he inhaled his lover's clean scent. Their lips met in a long searing kiss. The noise from deeper under the bridge grew louder, a scream rent the humid air.

"What's that?" Simon whispered.

A scraping sound nearby had him lurching to his feet and pushing Simon off to the side. He saw the glint of a knife blade and a shadowy figure lunging at him. He grabbed his assailant's wrist, his police training surging to the fore as they grappled. The man grunted with pain, the knife falling from his almost paralyzed hand.

More shouts and screams, the pounding and splashing of feet and Simon was tugging at his arm. "They're yelling about a flash flood!" They were surrounded by a terrified stampeding crowd of tattered men and women, some still clutching at their few but prized possessions. A wall of water followed them. He joined the stampede, one hand clasping Simon's firmly, the other he used to drag the would be murderer behind him. They reached the river bank in time to witness the frothing water swirl by them carrying tree branches and ragged bundles in its wake.

He rummaged in his coat's deep pockets for his handcuffs and cellphone. Simon stood beside him, shivering, as he cuffed his attacker then called for a squad car.

"Glad you came?" he asked as he and Simon watched the murder suspect being marched away by uniformed officers.

'Yeah." Simon linked their arms. "I get to do a good deed tonight. Take a homeless man home."









6 comments:

  1. Okay - so your protagonist was an undercover cop, lying in wait for a murderer?

    Trust you, JP, to get both a mystery and a love story into what has to be about 1000 words!

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  2. As Lisabet says, a multi-layered story in a compact space. The atmosphere and setting are as beautifully handled as the story line.

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  3. Descriptive and atmospheric, while succinct. Great job! You must live in a big city, to be able to relate the details of a life we'd all rather avoid, so well.

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  4. Thanks guys, the background to this story actually happened - some years ago after torrential rain, unusual for San Diego, a flash flood took out a homeless community under one of the bridges. As far as I know there wasn't a cop there that night!

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  5. You really had me there, JP. As others have already said, you sure packed a complex story arc into this little gem. Thanks for the read.

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  6. Yeah, I want to know a whole lot more about the back story of Simon and the protagonist...

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