The streets were icy and the snow deep. Pointed icicles hung dangerously from rooftops. Few people trudged through the drifts at this early morning hour as I stood outside the metro station. I was bundled up in layers of scarfs, boots, gloves, and my long heavy wool coat. In one hand I clutched a huge bag full of blankets. In the other one --- breakfast and a thermos full of hot tea. I scanned the street up one side and down the other and then I saw them. Penny with Melody on a leash.
"Hey, over here," I hollered.
Penny glanced up, waved, and put her hand in the stop mode. "She's pooping."
I waited and watched. Even in the deep snow, Penny scooped up the pile Melody had left, put it into a plastic bag, and tossed it into a trash can. She picked up the small dog and crossed the street.
Melody was shivering.
"I brought some things for you and---,"
"You got a minute?"
I nodded. It was Sunday and my purpose was to make at least one person comfortable before I could return to my cozy, warm home.
"Follow me." Penny wrapped her unzipped jacket around Melody.
We shuffled through unplowed alleyways, past overfilled garbage bins, around a corner, and then I saw it. The shack Penny had mentioned during our previous meeting. A brown shingled, dilapidated structure that tilted.
"Come in," Penny said as she hoped up the two rickety steps.
I must have looked skeptical.
"It won't fall," she chuckled as she eyed my bags. "I smell food and we're starving."
Please don't let me see a lit fire in there, I thought as I edged in sideways through the small opening. Much to my relief there wasn't but what I did see I could never have been prepared for. A circle of eight, including one small child, to other dogs, and Garth, huddled around an electric heater.
Garth jumped up.
"Well, fancy meeting you here."
He took the bags from my outstretched hands. I searched for the electrical outlet powering up the heater.
"How on earth---,"
"Don't ask," Garth volunteered as he pointed to a disheveled, older man. "Meet Victor. Our retired electrical engineer."
To be continued next week.
Behind Every Window Lies a Story. Find out what some of the stories are in this circle of friends.
Remember the homeless. Don't judge them, for you know not their story.
www.ckalber.com Author of The Promise Series.
Overnight the snow had blown as a full force blizzard, leaving behind drifts that snow plows hadn't yet cleared. I couldn't help thinking about my homeless acquaintance from the day before and wondered how he would manage to stay warm. I trudged my way to the metro station and down the steps to wait.
Three trains passed on my side. My breath came out as frosty huffs of air. I tapped my foot nervously and peered around the lady beside me.
"Got a light?" A brown tattered glove waved in front of my face. She clenched the cigarette between chattering teeth.
"I don't smoke."
"That a thermos you have there?" She eyed the container I clasped between gloved hands.
"I'll bet it's tea." She smiled. "Hot tea."
"Yes it is. I brought it for a ---,"
"A friend? That would be me. I'm now your best friend." Both hands came towards the thermos.
She must have thought I would say no to her request.
"I'm so cold," she added.
I unscrewed the cup and poured. She took off her gloves and wrapped her hands around the warmth of the cup.
"You're an angel in disguise. My name's Penny." She blew into the hot steam and sipped.
"Penny, are you homeless?" I dared to ask.
"I live in my car but this morning it wouldn't start. Melody's in there hoping I bring back some food."
"A child is in your car? Alone?"
She caught my surprise and laughed. Her eyes were a beautiful green.
"We go everywhere together. No shelters for me if I can't bring Melody too."
"What happened to you, Penny? You're not too old to find a job."
"And just where do you think I'd leave Melody?" Her eyes narrowed into slits. "I was married for years and had a couple of kids. When my husband left me and divorced me, he took everything."
"You must have family you could call."
"Nope." Her eyes widened. "No one must know I can't make it on my own."
"But it's dangerous out there." I pointed towards the tunnel.
You'd be surprised how many of us there are in the same situation." Penny sighed. "We help each other when we can."
Tears welled on my lashes. I swiped at one as it fell.
"Hey, don't worry about me. Everything will work out in the end."
The corners of her mouth lifted in a smile.
"Several of us have built a shack. One room but now we've stocked it with blankets. It'll keep us warm when the weather's like this." She glanced at the beamed ceiling over the tracks. Maybe thankful the roof was sturdy and dry.
Penny rose and outstretched her hand with the thermos. "Here."
"Keep it," I encouraged. Maybe you could fill it with hot water from one of the fast food places."
"Yea, sure," she smirked.
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. "Food for Melody and maybe some left over for you."
"Thanks." Penny pocketed the bill. "Come see our shack some time. It's over there."
She pointed to the tunnel, as Garth had done to indicate where he lived. Maybe they knew each other. Maybe not.
I sat in awe long after Penny left. Homeless people. Our own and what do we do to care for them?
The names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the characters.
Remember some of our Veterans are homeless too. Volunteer at a homeless shelter if you can.
Read more about author C.K. Alber and The Promise Series at: http://www.amazon.com/author/ckalber
The first day I met Garth was in the metro station. He sat beside me, rose twice, paced, picked up a cigarette stub from the floor, and puffed away. He plopped back down a little too close and I scooted to the edge of the bench.
"I make you nervous?" He asked in a gruff voice. "Name's Garth."
I shook my head.
Not easy to pinpoint the age of this man. Gaps where teeth were missing in his mouth. Bleached hair, tanned skin, about a week's worth of dark beard.
He stared. I felt uneasy.
"Got any spare change?'
I fished in the bottom of my bag where coins jingled. I wanted to give him a bill or two but knew it was unwise to pull out my wallet at this point.
Numerous coins lay in my palm.
"Can't even buy a cup of coffee with this," he complained.
"You have wallet in there?"
I inched closer to the edge. He chuckled.
You're gonna fall off and then what?"
I shrugged, got my wallet out and gave him five dollars. He pushed the bill inside a dirty jean's pocket.
Stretching to see around him, I searched for my train.
"It's the weekend. Longer wait." He flicked the stub to the tracks. "Live around here?"
I shook my head.
"I'm stayin over there." He pointed to the inside of the tunnel.
A frown surely crossed my brows.
"Yep. Got out of the service, couldn't find a job, and that's my roof for now."
My curiosity piqued. "You live under the metro station?"
Someone sat on the other side of him.
He turned. "Got a dollar to spare?"
His price had increased.
"Doesn't the military take care of you?"
"Got PTSD. They see me. That's about all."
Everyone knew these days about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And most everyone knew how the Vets were left out of the equation after they returned from the war they were fighting.
"Have you tried to find a job?" I was hesitant about delving into his private life.
"Nah. Don't much care to take orders from anyone anymore."
I spotted the lights of my train coming through the tunnel and stood.
"Nice meeting you, Lady." He stuck out a grimy hand. We fist bumped. "Maybe see you tomorrow? Same time?"
I checked my watch. "Sunday? Maybe." And I knew in that minute I'd be back to hear the rest of Garth's story.
Garth's story will continue the following Monday. The names in this meeting have been changed to protect the characters' identities.
Remember our Vets and volunteer to help the Homeless.
To learn more about C.K. Alber, take a look at the Romantic Suspense she writes at: