safe 5

Here is the fifth installment in the safe series.  I know it’s been a bit since the last post about our homeless heroine.  Inspiration can be funny like that sometimes. This LINK will take you to the first post.

…..

He walked by, glancing her way only long enough to smile.  She knew what it meant, of course.  He wasn’t sure what to make of her so he smiled to let her know that he saw her and wasn’t going to make trouble for her.  That was good.  Most people who lived in these types of associations weren’t interested in causing trouble but every once in a while she would come across somebody who liked to make a scene.  They would call the cops and yell at her until the officers arrived.

She watched the man walk away.  It looked like he was headed for a different dumpster.  She would check it next to see if there was anything worthwhile in there as well but first she needed to finish the one she was at.  Carefully, she lowered herself into the messy depths and began to pick through the spoiled bags for the items of value.  Plastic, glass, and aluminum all held worth.

They would only bring her cents when traded in.  That was still cents she didn’t have, cents that would add up to a meal, cents that were worth more to her than the people who tossed them rather than trade them in.  She wasn’t complaining, though.  These recyclables that most considered trash, gave her the means for a bit more security.

She slung her bag full of bottles and cans over and out and then pulled herself out after it.  The young man who had walked by before was nowhere to be seen.  She looked towards the dumpster he had walked to and then down to her own lengthening shadow.  She didn’t have much more time before the plant would close and she wanted to turn in her haul today.  She had worked hard and didn’t want to worry about losing anything during the night.  Things had a way of wandering off in the dark even from her most secluded locations.

Her mind made up, she shouldered her bags and left the complex.  It was more important that she get the funds for what she had already gathered than risk losing it all for the little bit more she might find in the next trash can.  Besides, the afternoon breeze was bringing a chill in from the coast and she wanted to make the long trek while the sun was still warm on her back.  The seasons were changing and the warm nights were coming but, for now, it still wouldn’t be smart to head into the night already cold.

She left the association behind and made her way through the alleys and quiet streets she had come to know in recent years.  They were as familiar to her now as her home had once been.  The bags were heavy and she grinned at the thought of the food she would buy to fill her belly that night.  She would head to bed full and warm.  It wasn’t often she got to do that.

safe 4

Well, what do you know, I found some more to write in this safe series.  I’d say “enjoy” but I’m not sure that’s really the point…

…..

She had seen the patrol car pull into the parking lot and knew they were coming for her so she had already begun to walk away when the officer called out to her.  She was loath to talk to them.  Sometimes, most of the time, they just wanted to make sure she was okay but that didn’t make up for the few times where they hassled her, threatened her, and treated her like less than human.  Those interactions always left her worse off and she didn’t need that at the moment.  It had already been a rough week.

They called out a second time and she didn’t feel like she could ignore them anymore.  She hoped that the edge she heard in their voice was from nerves and compassion rather than nerves and frustration.  She turned towards them and smiled.  “Good afternoon, officer.”

“We received some complaints that you were harassing the customers here.”

That was a common accusation and she had learned of all the ways she could respond that silence was the best.  If she denied it, the officers would scoff.  If she admitted to it, they would scoff.  If she said nothing, they would usually take a minute to study her and then she would see what kind of officer they were.  The good ones would see she wasn’t a threat to anyone, including herself, and then would ask if she was okay.  The rest would threaten her with jail, put her in handcuffs, search her, or worse.  She didn’t like to think about the worst of the worst.

“You have someplace warm to get to?”

She breathed a sigh a relief, “Yes, officer.  I’m headed there now.”

“You want a ride?”

“No, thank you.  I like getting my steps in.”

The officer chuckled a little, seemed to study her for a moment longer and then shrugged their shoulders.  “Stay safe.”

“Thank you, officer.”

She turned away and carried on, not yet sure where she was headed.  She had options, of course, that was the only way to survive long term on the streets.  But, that didn’t mean any of them were good options.  That depended on the day and who else found their way to the various spots that offered shelter from the cold and the rain.  Sometimes the streets were safer because the people you didn’t want to meet found their way to the shelters when the weather turned sour.  She was cold, though, and would risk it for a couple hours just to get warmed back up.

Which one to head to, though, was the question.  She stopped on the corner of the grocery store parking lot and looked up and down the street, gauging her options.  The rain picked up and lashed against her face, driven by a brisk wind coming in from the coast.  Each dropped pricked at her exposed flesh like the tiny sharp icicles they were.  Still, things could have been worse.  The officer could have been one of the bad ones.

safe 2

This is a follow-up to “safe” and was written because Trent asked for more.  I don’t know if this will be the end of it or if I will continue to come back to this character.  We’ll just have to, as always, see where the words take us.

……………………………

She woke to the scratch of the sun on her hand, absentmindedly trying to brush it away with no success.  Her eyes cracked against the glare, to glare at the offending stray beam of light splashed across her flesh.  Scowling she withdrew her hand and curled away from the day but sleep would not come back to her and a few minutes later she sat up and took stock of her surroundings.

It was later than she had expected, which is why the sun had found her in the alcove of the now defunct store.  Not unlike the carts that used to be returned on a nightly basis, she found her way there most evenings to find her rest.  The world, people and cars, bustled nearby, visiting the shops that were still open in this dying strip mall.  Without the flagship, the others would close eventually unless a new grocer came in to fill the vacancies.  She had seen it go both ways before.

Her pack was where she’d left it.  She was grateful for that but had learned how to get by without her few possessions.  Her current pack, a purple and ragged affair, was not her first and would not be her last.  Things had a way of walking off in the middle of the night.  That truth was part of living on the streets.

Fishing a cigarette from her dwindling pack, she struck a match and pulled in the smoke, filling her lungs with warmth, before releasing it to the wind.  She watched the smoke disappear before taking another drag.  It was a nicotine breakfast kind of day again.  Her stomach hardly argued with her much anymore and this morning was no exception.  She had some coins rattling around in a pocket.  She’d see if she could find them a few more companions and maybe get some lunch in a bit, or maybe get a new pack.  Depending on how the rest of the morning went that could be a tough call.

Stretching, she crushed the filter of her now spent cigarette between finger and thumb, and then deposited the butt in the small pile of trash she’d move to a can when she walked away.  She liked to keep her space clean.  She didn’t see any sense in allowing her small nightly alcove to become cluttered with trash, especially when there was a can only a few feet away and she’d pass it on her way to the park.  Shouldering her pack, her muscles groaned her onto her feet, and she took a few timid steps until she found the strength and balance to stride onward.  Lunch seemed like it might need to win out over smokes.  Then again, the day was still young and almost anything could happen before she’d have the coins to get either.