Angels Come In All Forms“Tim Joe!”
I look up from my work. I’ve got my Old Schwinn in the stand and I am carefully and diligently applying my personal secret chain lube formula to the chain. It ain’t easy and I have to concentrate but who was that?
Wasn’t me, said the Voice.
OK, there it was again. It has a Brooklyn accent. The only entity I know who has a Brooklyn accent is the Sun. Looking out the open window, I see him. A scruffy guy standing at the wrong gate calling out my name. He is standing at the Blonde’s trailer calling for me and “Now What?” I think.
“Hey!” I say, in my firm ( maybe friendly, maybe not) voice that I use around the Park. These people are of a type who begin with an inch.
“Oh, there you are.” Who is this fucking guy? “What are you doing over there?,” he asks, as though I were up to something, or trying to somehow pull a fast one.
“I live here. Who are you?”
“It’s me, Tommy C. You know, Jo’s friend. I was at your house a couple weeks ago for the ribs.”
Oh. OK. This is what I get for trying to have a cookout without Uncle Bill.
My New Side Job“Oh yeah, Tommy, come on over.” He seems disoriented and I go out the door and stand at my own gate. “Over here, dude” He crosses over and I open the gate to let him in. As he comes in the dogs start their dance of joy and gladness and jump on him and Toby the Trouble Puppy stands up and pushes him. I’m working on Toby but he is half Pit and half Jack and all Trouble.
“Get off me, dog!” says my new guest. Strike one. Plus he stinks. Not body odor. He smells like jail. “Hey, Bro, Jo had to work and she said I should just come hang out over here until she gets off.” I look at the clock. Miss Jo won’t be coming home for five hours. Five hours. I instinctively reach for a beer but there isn’t any. I ran out of beer half an hour ago. Toby starts trying to hump Mr. Tommy C’s leg. “Get OFF!” he says, giving Toby a little kick. I don’t want a dog humping my leg either. But this apparent baby-sitting session is not beginning well.
There Will Be Beer“So, Tommy, what’s up? I was just getting ready to go for a bike ride.” I glance over at me Little Darlin’ hanging there in the stand. I look at my two darlin’ little dogs, sitting side by side and smiling and open to the conversation and happy and willing to take a bullet for either one of us. I look out the window at this damned Trailer Park that could be a different kind of thing; it could be a secret enclave of artists and musicians. It could be a quiet and serene final-days hideout for the elderly. It could be a lot of things that would be cool and groovy but it is not. It is a trashy, worn out and filthy haven for the two-legged refuse that has no where else to be. This is their place. It is where they belong. Them and me.
“Ah, man, you know I had to check into court for sentencing on the 23rd but my Public Defender got fired or quit or something so my new PD got me a continuance. But I already sold all my stuff and got into a fight with my old lady and she threw me out and now here I am with no place to go and no money and no gas and I’m hungry as hell.” Of course you are, Tommy. Of course you are.
“Well,” I say, “First we need some beer. Why don’t you hang out here while I pedal off to the beer store. It will only take a minute.”
“Can I take a shower?”
“Good idea. There’s a clean towel next to the sink. I’ll be right back.”
A Little Preparation Goes A Long WayI take my bicycle off the stand and grab my Goodwill messenger bag. Tommy C is a rough character, covered top to bottom with jailhouse tattoos and covered top to bottom with that general aura attained by those who have spent so much time in jail that they have become confused about what is the right place to be: inside or outside. Me, I am not confused. I take my bike and park her outside the gate. I listen for the shower to start and I quietly go back in. I take my laptop and place it inside the tool drawer on my workbench. I lock the drawer and then I gather up the puppies and take them next door to the Blonde’s trailer. I lock them inside. I don’t know how the day is going to turn out; but any collateral damage will be limited if I can help it and no innocent little dogs will be hurt. I can’t promise myself the same about any not-so-innocent two legged dogs but I have run with bad packs before and can pretty much predict the end of the story.
WWTJD?I have friends who are followers of Christ and so am I, after a fashion. Every man I meet begins as my friend and anyone who comes to me frightened, hungry, friendless and with no where to go will not be summarily turned away. But I am old. I have lived a hundred lifetimes and I have learned the painful learning that these lost souls are usually lost for a reason and that reason sometimes ain’t pretty.
But What of That? We Have Heaven!Outside! Man I love the outdoors! I hit a lick on the pedals and for a moment I am free and there is nothing going on but me and my bike. I have started riding a lot more with the advent of Spring and me and the bicycle have once again become a combined thing of wheels and steel and soul and flying. I hit a lick on the pedals and Ol’ Tommy C and his confusion about freedom and what freedom means are at my back for the moment; the dogs are safe in the Other Trailer and the only two things I own are my laptop and my bicycle and they too are safe; I am coasting fast to the beer store here in Old Hawks Park.
Hail the Pioneers!Hawks Park is a village named for its founder, Florida Pioneer Dr. John Hawks. But as though drawn here by some magical force of name-recognition this place is alive with birds. And hawks. As I fly to the store there is a beautiful red-wing hawk hovering nearby, then another. This is their place. The day is so bright that it hurts just to look at it and if only we could show this to everybody…but not today. Today, these hawks have a place to be and so do I and I am grateful for that. Sometimes in my deep darkness and inner sickness God sends over a soul for my enlightenment and edification and for a chance to see how lucky I am.
Meanwhile, Back At the Trailer Park…“Man, Tim Joe. Thank you so much. I needed that shower. The cops are after me, I think.”
“Have a beer, my brother. Why are the cops after you?”
‘That’s just it. I don’t know.” (They never do.) “Maybe it was the door frames.”
Tommy C is one of this growing breed of desperado metal junkies. All the World is covered with scrap metal and it is becoming more valuable and guys like Tommy, once they figured out that any old piece of scrap steel or brass or copper or aluminum could be traded for the price of a pack of cigarettes or a pill or a six-pack or whatever the heart desires (in small portions); once this truth became apparent they started scrappin’. When I see Tommy gazing in admiration at my old Schwinn I know he isn’t looking at a beautiful freedom machine. He sees a crack rock or an Oxycontin or a couple gallons of gas.
Mis Jo needs a stern talking-to about this baby-sitting stuff.
“You got that right, Voice. Now shut up, I’m busy being munificent and wary.”
Crooked AngelsSo me and Tommy C spent a half-assedly pleasurable afternoon together drinking a case of cheap beer and me listening to him talk on his cell phone, making dastardly plans for his escape and his next scrap binge and cussing out the various people who may or may not have been involved with why the cops came to his girlfriend’s house this morning, looking for Tommy and rooting through the trash cans out back and asking a lot of questions.
Me, I’m just waiting for Miss Jo to get done with her Day Job so I can hand over this tattooed and screwed waif-ape and go get my dogs out of the Other Trailer and maybe catch a Sundown Ride along the River and maybe catch a glimpse of a Hawk or a Sailboat or some other Winged Creature. I fed Tommy C some hot dogs and chili; I shared my beer and a moment’s sanctuary and if God sent him here for me to Do Something About It, I hope I did.
Hawks Park Trailer Park and Orphan Recycling Center