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by dub W
5/28/2007 / Short Stories
He sat on the edge of the bed holding his face in his hands. The mattress rested on a plywood sheet balanced between cement blocks - spaced around the base; and where sheets once protected the surface, now only a torn Army blanket graced the yellow stained surface.
He once owned shoes but those like his life were stolen sometime in the night. His feet were covered with the remnants of once white socks and dirty red toes protruded from the threaded openings.
"Oh, God." His moaning plea verified his pain.
A lone cockroach looked up, and then scurried to a darker corner.
Smoky plastic sheets flapped in a missing window frame and somewhere a distant train whistle added to the music of the room.
"Oh, dear Jesus." His voice was more prayer than expletive, yet a veritable concert in the hollow space of his soul. He hadn't thought about God or Jesus in a decade. The closest contact he had was the bowl of soup at the mission. The mission was a distant memory now.
He brushed a mop of hair from his eyes and tried to focus on the brown paper sack resting on a folding chair in the middle of the room. The chair back was stenciled "property of Golden Haven Hotel."
"Why's that there?" He had no recollection of time or space; his presence in the old hotel room was more due to accident than planning. He rose and attempted to move but the vitamin E deficiency made it difficult to stand and focus his gaze. Parts of the room began to spin before his eyes. He held onto the rotting mattress, then stood, and balanced against the wall. With one foot sliding forward he took a step and waited for the world to catch up. One hand attempted to grip the wall. Pieces of dried wallpaper crumbled between his fingers. He rocked back and rested a shoulder against the wall.
"Where are you now doc?" he yelled into the empty room. The doctor at the clinic gave him a shot and a piece of paper. The shot was free and he felt better immediately.
There had been promises of help, the agency phone numbers were written down for him; but he lost the paper. He didn't have a telephone and he didn't need literature to tell him that his end was near; but if he could reach the sack, perhaps the end would be easier, and sooner, than later. "Thank God for small favors."
Somewhere a siren echoed through the streets, he cocked his head and a blur of hiding places tumbled though his mind, then he remembered he was not on the street, he had crawled into the old hotel sometime in the night. Purpose and direction had little meaning. He had no idea how he found his way to the current room.
Another step. "Maybe crawling is better."
He sunk to his knees and tried to put a hand down on the floor, but missed and his palm slipped out beneath him and he bumped his chin on the cracked linoleum. "Auggg, Oh, God." He rolled over on his side, dazed by the fall. A searing pain in his stomach made him double up in a fetal position. "Augggg." A tear ran down his face and dropped onto the floor, a curious red swirl snaked through the liquid.
He thought he saw something move across the room and reached a hand to grab it, but only air was in his grasp. "Rats, rats for company; a fitting arrangement." He tried to laugh at his humorous analogy. His laudanum gaze only focused on the splintered haze.
Just the remnants of abandon spider webs hung in the filtering light. A banging sound momentarily distracted his attention.
Somewhere outside of the room voices were shouting, or fighting, it didn't really matter. More strangers in the darkness moving about caused dust to fly.
"Shut-up!" he shouted toward the empty wall. "They don't care." He shook his fist. "Nobody cares." He coughed and held his stomach, then thrust his hand and arm into the air.
He waved his hand about until he managed to stretch to the chair and with his fingertip he touched the leg. "Aw, please," he begged toward the chair.
Finally, he worked his other hand free and pushed his body forward, his arm rocked the chair. The chair tipped then with a loud crash collapsed onto the floor. The sack fell with the chair and a strange shaped plastic bottle fell out and bounced on the linoleum. An ounce of brown liquid splashed out. With another loud "Augggg," he thrust his hand through the sticky liquid and then licked his fingers. A flash of the doctor's warning blinked in his memory. "Who cares?" His shout bounced off of the vacant wall.
The voice startled him. He rolled from where he lay and searched for the source. An image silhouetted in the window opening was standing with open hands. "I care."
He tried to lift his head. "Who are you?"
Somewhere in this the recesses of his mind he remembered a God of old, stories of Angels. These things he thought he believed in during his youth. He remembered the white washed church, the families gathering on the lawn. He remembered the touch of people, of love, and life; and he remembered his belief, and the stories of faith. "What happened?" he heard himself say as he heart answered, "help me Lord, is it you Lord?" The anguish twisted his face as he cried, "forgive me Lord."
"I care." The voice repeated.
The article in the next day's paper read "Demolition workers find body of transient man in closed hotel. The soon to be destroyed vacant Golden Haven Hotel was known to be frequented by the city's homeless and others. Police are searching for relatives."
"dub" is a freelance Christian writer, best known for his straight forward approach to common issues. His 38 year professional writing career gives him keen insight into successful reporting. To contact dub email [email protected]
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