Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My Brother’s Keeper - 11


Roy and Jerry raced down the almost deserted street. Behind them the sound of footsteps from their pursuers echoed off the walls of the buildings.

“Almost…there…” Roy managed to gasp out as he grabbed his brother’s arm to help him keep up. Or pull him along. He wasn’t sure which but it didn’t matter as long as it got them both to their destination before Daws and his gang caught up with them.

The light at the crossing turned yellow. They ignored it, dashing pell-mell across the street. Horns honked angrily but they made it without being hit. Roy shoved open the door to the bus station. Seconds later they both collapsed on one of the benches, heedless of the stares from the people in the waiting room.

Roy glanced back the way they’d come to see Daws glaring at him through the plate-glass window. He was almost tempted to flip him off but decided there no reason to add more fuel to the fire.

Jerry started to cough and Roy quickly dug the cough syrup out of his backpack.

“Next time, we hide better,” Jerry grumbled once he’d taken a big swing from the almost empty bottle.

“Definitely,” Roy agreed as he checked to see if Daws was still standing outside. Not seeing him, although he knew that didn’t mean anything, he turned back. As he did he saw a kid he knew from the streets huddled on one of the benches across the room talking to a young man. The kid said something and the young man turned his head. A smile lit his face and he started towards Roy and Jerry.

“Now what,” Roy muttered with a sigh as he tensed, ready to defend himself and his brother if necessary.

“I’ve been looking all over hell and gone for you two,” the young man said as he stopped a few feet away. “My name’s Tad and I’d like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.”

“Doing some research project,” Roy asked while he looked Tad over with a jaundiced eye. “Whoever dressed you did a piss poor job of it. You match.”

Tad looked down at what he was wearing. As far as he was concerned his clothes looked ratty enough. Then he caught what the young man meant. “Yeah, guess I do, compared to you anyway. Who’s your tailor?”

Roy frowned, and then chuckled. “Good one. Okay, why do you want to talk to us?”

“Not for research, or some newspaper article. May I?” Tad nodded to the vacant seat next to Roy.

Monday, April 16, 2018

My Brother’s Keeper- 10


Tad took one more look in the mirror. He turned slowly to make certain he hadn’t missed anything. While he knew he didn’t look as rough as most of the people who spent their days living on the streets, he hoped he’d be able to pass as a newcomer, not a total fake. The only thing he had on him was his driver’s license and his cell phone. Both were tucked inside one well-worn boot.

Satisfied, finally, he grabbed the jacket he’d picked up at a near-new shop. He took his keys from the hook by the front door and let himself out of the apartment. When he got down to the second floor he knocked on the door of a friend who knew what he had planned.

When the door opened, she looked at him appraisingly. “You’ll pass,” she said and then changed her mind. “Your hands are too clean.” She stepped back to let him inside. “As luck would have it I was just about to empty the vacuum bag. Guess who gets the honors now.”

Tad laughed. “Lucky me.” He followed her into the kitchen where the vacuum stood beside her trash basket. After a second’s thought he dropped his keys on the counter, went to the sink and dampened his hands first and then emptied the bag. “Better?” he asked, holding out his filthy hands for inspection.

“Wipe some of it off. Right now you look like you’ve been playing in a mud puddle.”

With an exaggerated eye-roll he obeyed. Finally she was satisfied.

“Everything else is good. When will you be home?”

“I don’t know but if it’s too late I’ll call you first and you can leave the key to my place…umm, under my doormat. Thanks for doing this.”

“Not a problem. Just be careful.”

“I will be, promise.”

He left the apartment building without running into any of his neighbors, for which he was heartily glad. He didn’t want to have to explain why he looked like a vagrant. He had decided to start where he’d last seen the two young men and work his way out from there. He honestly didn’t expect to find them back at that particular dumpster—not after what had almost happened to them there—but it was a place to begin.

Two hours later he was wondering if this was an exercise in futility. He had wandered half the alleys in the downtown area and seen sights that made him wish he had been able to bring his camera along. But the two young men had not been in any of them. He had even stopped at some of the soup kitchens where, much to his surprise, he had been treated like a normal person despite how he looked. For some reason he’d expected to be lectured or forced to listen to some religious spiel. Neither of those things happened.

It was nearing midnight when he got to the bus station. From the research he’d done online he knew that the homeless often used it as a place to get warm until they were kicked out. He stepped inside, paused to look around, and not seeing them he turned to leave when a hand landed on his shoulder.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Guardian Angels - If It's Fated… (13)


Dom dropped down on the other end of the sofa. "An old… I guess you could call her someone I once knew who…" He sighed, staring down at the floor.
"Now she's back?"
"In a way. She's…here on a job."
"For the same company you work for?"
Dom gave a sharp nod. "Yeah, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it."
"Ask them to send you somewhere else."
"That's not feasible at the moment."
Tim smiled slightly. "Good, because I'd miss you."
Dom cocked an eyebrow. "From the sound of it—from what you said—you have someone else now to keep you busy."
"I'm hoping that's what's going to happen. But I won't know until tomorrow. He might change his mind by then."
"I don't think so. I told you he seemed very interested in you when we were at the museum, and I gather you've seen him again since then."
"At the library today." Tim told him what had happened—in detail.
When he finished, Dom chuckled. "I can almost see it all as it went down."
"Sorry. I'm just…it's important to me. But…" He looked at Dom, frowning. "Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? I'm scared, Dom. This is the first time anyone's even seemed the least bit interested in me as more than…than an acquaintance, if you know what I mean. He could think about it tonight and decide he was stupid to ask me to lunch and—well..." 
"Tim, you have to start believing in yourself. From what you told me, he asked because he's interested in you. If you go into this thinking you're not worth his interest, he's going to wonder if maybe that's so. For all you know, he's as scared as you are. He's dedicated his life to Cherie, I suspect, and I'd be willing to bet that means not getting involved with anyone for fear it could cause… problems."
Tim frowned, thinking about that. "Problems for her if people found out he's gay? But you said he said he'd gone to Maxie's a couple of times."
"Don't forget, Maxie's caters to everyone, so if anyone found out, they wouldn't think anything about it."
"True, I guess. I wonder…"
"If she knows he is? Kids are smart and she's very smart, so it wouldn't surprise me if she figured it out." Dom grinned. "You said he told you she dragged him to the library today. What do you want to bet there was method in her madness?"
"She couldn't know I'm gay. No one knows."
"She really likes you, from what I've seen. Maybe she was playing matchmaker and hoping."
Tim sighed. "That definitely puts the pressure on. What if we decide we don't like each other? Could she deal?"
"Stop being so negative. Yeah, you barely know each other at this point but hell"—Dom reached over to pat Tim's shoulder—"maybe it's fated that you two are supposed to be together and she is just the catalyst."
"I don't believe in fate."
"Well start, damn it. You're a good, decent man who deserves to be happy. I'm betting Richard could make that happen, if you let him."
"If he decides he likes me."
"Would he have asked you to lunch if he wasn't attracted to you, at least on some level?"
"I…guess not."
"So go tomorrow and see what happens. I'm placing odds that by the end of lunch, the two of you will decide to have another date, and another, and in the end, he'll be more than willing to have you in his life—and Cherie's—on a permanent basis."
Tim chuckled. "What sort of odds?"
"A hundred to one?"
"That works." Tim started to get up then said, "If you want to talk about…."
"Not really, but thanks for asking. Now if I were you, I'd go get some sleep. You need to be bright and perky tomorrow."
Tim snorted. "Me and bright and perky is an oxymoron. Still, yeah, I probably should try to sleep, if I can."
"You will, and you'll dream of Richard and be doubly ready to see him tomorrow."
Tim rolled his eyes as he stood. "I'm already ready, thanks to your calming me down."
"Glad to have been of service. Just remember, I want all the details tomorrow night"—Dom grinned—"presuming you aren't out on a second date with him at that point."
"On a work night? Uh-uh," Tim replied as he headed to the door. "Saturday, maybe."
"Saturday works."
"Yeah, it does," Tim said hopefully, as he left Dom's apartment.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Brother’s Keeper- 9


“I really am feeling better,” Jerry said as he recovered from a hacking bout of coughing. He smiled a bit when Roy instantly handed him the bottle of cough syrup. After he took a gulp he screwed the cap back on and stuffed it into his backpack.

“I know you are, and you look better too, not so pale.” Roy looked out over the city from their perch on a park bench several miles from where they’d spent the night. He cupped his hands behind his head to lean back and savor the warmth of the sun on his face. “How about we move to, oh Florida or Arizona so we don’t have to try to survive the winter here.”

“I wish.” Jerry chewed his lip. “It would mean a lot of hitchhiking and if we got picked up by the cops…”

“You worry too much,” Roy said, smiling at him.

“Says the one who forced me to go to the clinic.”

“Speaking of which, we’re due to go back there today.”

Jerry shook his head hard. “I’m better and we’d be taking a chance if we did. Who knows who might have seen us there the last time and maybe told Daws.”

“Jer…”

“Roy…” Jerry mimicked. “Honestly, let’s not take the chance. Please.”

Roy sighed. “On one condition, if I think you’re relapsing then we go and to hell with Daws.”

“Deal.” Jerry slid off the bench to lie on the grass, staring up at the sky. “Phoenix maybe?”

“Maybe, or Tucson.”

“Or California somewhere?”

“No. Too many people, too many homeless like us.”

They continued discussing the options, both of them knowing it was a dream which would never come true.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My Brother’s Keeper- 8


“Mr. Cooper, my office, please, now.”

Tad jumped slightly, cast a worried look at one of his friends sitting next to him in the classroom, and then got up to follow Mr. Moore. Once the door was closed behind them, Mr. Moore actually smiled as he indicated Tad should take a seat.

“I would like you to submit your photographs of those two homeless boys to the arts committee. If they accept them, then they’ll be in the winter art show.”

Tad sucked in a deep breath. “I…thank you, sir. I’m honored.”

“They are excellent and I think you know that so stop being so modest.”

With a nod, Tad started to stand. A thought came to him and he asked, “Won’t I have to get their permission since it will be a public showing?”

“Of course that is the optimal situation. But if you don’t know who they are you are still legally allowed to show the photos. They were taken in a public place and thus the subjects have no legal right to privacy.”

Tad nodded. “I guess.”

“If it will make you rest easier, see if you can find those young men. However please do not put yourself in danger in the process. I would hate to loose such a promising student.”

“Thank you.” Tad felt his face turning red at the compliment from a man who was usually so reticent to give them.

“That is all, Mr. Cooper. Now go put together your portfolio and submit it.”

“Yes, sir.”

When he returned to the classroom Tad couldn’t help the grin that broke out. He sat down, leaning across the aisle to tell his friend what had happened. Melodie, who was two seats away, looked upset when he didn’t immediately come over to tell her. He saw her frown and sighed. Quickly he let her know as well, adroitly avoiding her attempt to hug him as she squealed happily.   

Now all I have to do is find them. No matter what Mr. Moore had told him, he didn’t think it was right to show the photos of the two young men until he knew that it wouldn’t cause trouble for them. After all, there had to be a reason they were living on the streets. Perhaps they had run away from a bad home situation or were orphaned.

This weekend, he decided firmly.