A quick drive to Old Town and I was soon there. The homeless lined up for a hot meal and chatted with each other about the menu. Today was an all vegetarian ticket and more than a few were upset.
Among the faces burnt red by the sun and wind was one that I knew. It had been a long time but I would never forget his eyes. It was Reggie, aged a thousand years. The last time I saw him was at a funeral. He was crying and cursing the skies. I think he had been drunk or maybe on drugs but I don’t know if that even mattered. The girl in the casket was the love of his life, Tiffany, age fifteen.
The memories hit hard of that kid dying alone. And of Reggie, back then, wearing his ripped leather jacket. He had painted “The Clash” on its worn back. He had also owned some runt of a dog that he took wherever he went. It always kept pawing and barking at me whenever I got too close.
I remembered when he came to me, not sure if I could be trusted. Tiffany was really sick but “she was a stubborn little bitch,” as Reggie had put it to me that night. By the time we got to the dank smelling SRO, it was too late to do any good. Her lungs had rotted and she had stopped breathing. So much for her “bad little cold.” She just laid there dead on the stained mattress as the dog kept yapping away.
Reggie smiled and said “hello” with a wave. He even gave up his place in line. “Hey, Dudek” he said and gave me a hug. It felt a little weird. “Where’s your dog?” I asked. As the words left my lips I prepared for the answer. It probably wasn’t going to be good. Hit by a car. Maybe even stolen. I wondered if it had even survived. “Dorothy? You remember Dorothy?” he asked. “Yeah, of course. That dog was even uglier than you.” He laughed at my response and, as it happens, it was alright. Dorothy was alive and well. “The bitch even had puppies” he added.
Small talk aside, I asked how he was doing and if he still saw the rest of the gang. Some of the other kids hadn’t done as well as the dog but most were hanging on just fine. One even had a good job at the bakery.
We said our good-byes and I slipped him a twenty. He wasn’t about to decline. He might spend it on booze or maybe drugs but it wasn’t my place to say. I waved one more time and walked away. I had an appointment to keep.
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