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Chapter 18: Scene 67: I got to eat.


ThinkLink: Did you ever get the feeling that someone was being friendly to you just to get money or something else out of you?

       Stilts groans and unfolds his long, skinny legs. "I got to eat." When he stands next to me, he looks down on me by six inches or more. "You ready to go downtown and dig up some eats?"

       "Well, I got to deliver this for Victor. He says it's on the way."

       "Jeez, I should've of gotten up earlier. It could've been mine." He pulls a black felt hat from under the cot and jams it down on his greasy hair. "C'mon."

       When we get outside, I squint into the sunlight. The air seems sweet after the basement.

       "I know a bakery. It's on the way to the Square. We can get some day-old rolls. You got some bucks on you?"

       I don't answer for a minute. Ten minutes and he's after money. "Not much. I don't get paid again until next Friday."

       "You got a job? Great, man. We eat." He stretches out his long legs and lopes along the sidewalk. I double-step every third or fourth stride to keep up with him.

       "Just weekends, but I'm going to find another job for weekdays."

       "You think. Six or eight straight guys line up for every job that comes open. What makes you think they'd hire us?"

       Not hire him, maybe. But that's not me. "I'll find something. You work?"

       He spins around and walks backward, talking as fast as he walks. "Sure, sometimes. Nothing regular. I clean up, like in a warehouse , for a couple of hours when the regular guy's sick. I sell blood two, three times a week. They don't even ask how old I am any more. Not had to sell myself out yet." He spins again and walks ahead of me.

       I jog to catch up. "How about halfway houses or foster homes , stuff like that?" Anything looks pretty good about now.

       "I gone way past that, man. I don't want no one telling me when to come and go. I'm on my own. And face it. Maybe we ain't so easy to have around. Who's going to treat us decent? Who'd even want to have us in their house?" He jams his hat down and speeds up again. I'm almost running to keep up. He starts up again, sounding like it's a speech he's given over and over. At least to himself. "On the street, we ain't the weirdos. The straights are. The streets is ours. I got used to the street, so I guess I'm no good for a regular life. How about you? You staying around?"

       "I want to go home, but now there's no place to go back to. You ever think of going back home?"

       "Like you say, no home to go back to. Maybe you're on the run, but lots of us here we're kickouts ."

       We walk along, not so fast now, not talking. A kickout. First time I heard that. We pass a little park, just one square block and I see the leaves on the trees are almost out now and there are flowers planted in big cement bowls. It's spring at the ranch , too, and wheat's probably up six, seven inches. It's like that. Fields all brown one week and all green the next. I catch up with Stilts. Can't think about the ranch. Or Mom or Nick or Lori. Got to think about making it here.

       "Victor gave me two bucks for delivering this envelope," I tell Stilts. "I'll give you half of it if you'll show me where to drop it off. We can buy some rolls at that day-old place. OK?"

       "Sure. If I got up in time, I'd 've of got the delivery, but it's all the same to me. This way, we both eat." Stilts slows down some and I catch my breath. "Hey, maybe we'll find some money laying on the sidewalk and we can buy a real breakfast."

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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