This is a sequel to Trinket, which was awarded an honourable mention in the July 2013 edition of Grit Uplifted.
Trinket was starving. His last decent meal was seven days ago. He wanted to get to the soup kitchen by noon. A hooded dark figure, he slushed through the rain with soaked feet and dampened spirit. With keen eyes he scanned the ground ahead. His black and gray backpack was drenched, as was his winter jacket. The rain also seeped through his hoodie, T-shirt and blue flannel shirt. It chilled him. His stomach groaned and he bent his right arm across it. His dirty whiskered face winced, and like a hooded monk, he continued along the rain-soaked sidewalk while the rain continued to fall.
He was ten blocks from the soup kitchen. He’d be there in about twenty minutes, too early for lunch however. He’d have to find a doorway to wait in, until the line formed, and the doors opened to welcome the people in. For lunch he’d have a bowl of hot homemade soup and a sandwich. A cup of delicious hot coffee would taste so good, he began to salivate. And for dessert? A large piece of cake and another cup of hot coffee. He would eat greedily and be grateful afterwards. He couldn’t imagine anything more important. A trickle of rain ran down his forehead, then down the centre of his nose to fall and splash on the sidewalk. It almost woke him.
He thought about the wind and the rain that pelted him. The rain made a shhhh sound as it hit the ground and there was that smell of soggy earth, or soggy bog on the wind. He recalled people saying, “May the wind be always at your back.” Heck, he said it himself. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen often enough for him; in fact, he faced the wind so often he began to hate the wind. At times the wind was at his back but his position changed, and soon, he was walking into the wind again. It didn’t matter: the damn wind, a friend on hot days his antagonist on other days.
Another two blocks were behind him. He began to feel warmer. The thought of hot soup and coffee pushed him ahead faster. Then another thought entered his mind. What would he do afterwards? It’d been four days without any get high. He didn’t have money so he would have to be…adventurous in acquiring his needs. He would have to find Frank. Frank would front him, maybe. He still owed Frank five dollars however.
He pursed his lips as he figured he was good for one more front. He was now five blocks away from the S.K. He’d be there in plenty of time. In fact, he’d have to wait: “Hey pal, you gotta wait in line.” Everywhere he went he had to wait in line. He waited in the soup kitchen line, the Ontario Works line, the clinic’s line and the shelter’s line. Everyplace has its line. Life is a line. He figured he was even in line to die. He turned the corner and saw the bus shelter at the opposite corner. He decided he’d stop and have a seat.
He would pass the time here and plan his day. He didn’t want another day under the bridge. He sat on a magazine that someone left behind. He searched his inside coat pocket for those “emergency butts.” Damn, they’re gone, he realized. A few seconds later, he recalled smoking them. He felt the aches all over his body. His stomach groaned so loudly, it hurt. His hands began to tremble. His eyes blurred. He whispered, “I’m only twenty-five for fuck sakes.”
He heard the words but the words sounded like they came from someone else. He bent over to put his forearms on his lap. It was more comfortable this way. He stared at the ground and he tried to clear his mind. He heard a noise. Someone was coming into the shelter.He raised his head. A dog stood at the entrance. A black faced dog with short wet fur. He shook the rain out and looked at Trinket.
“Hey, hey, hey, what’re you doin’, comin’ in here and gettin’ me all wet,” Trinket said.
The dog continued to stare. Trinket saw how thin the dog looked. Its black and caramel coloured fur looked ragged and aged. His bushy tail drooped and it was bent at a strange angle. The dog had long thin caramel colored legs and the tip of his right ear was gone. When the dog stared into Trinket’s eyes, Trinket saw the hurt and fear that lingered there. They stared a moment longer. The dog turned its head then quickly returned to staring. It slowly backed away from Trinket.
“It’s ok boy, I’m not going to hurt you. I think me and you have something in common.”
The dog moved as far away as it could then looked out the entrance.
“Hey boy, you hungry?” The dog’s shiny brown eyes stared back. But there was something else. There was darkness in the dog’s eyes. “Are ya tired boy? Ya tired, just like me?”
Trinket heard himself. He imagined: he was a tired young man, lean, angry, and afraid. He was angry at the world. He was angry because he was hungry and tired. He was angry because he had to sleep under a bridge. He was angry because he was homeless, hungry, and poor and he had to walk through the rain to eat. He was angry because he needed drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, and right now, he had none of those things. He closed his eyes and thought: I’m angry because no one cares. He looked at the dog, then his eyes widened. Something made sense to him.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m wrong! I’m wrong. I’m walking to a place that cares enough to feed me, to feed us. And, and there are others. There are other places with people who care. What I mean is, I see a strange dog, and I care what happened to it. I care what happens to me. We’re strangers, but I care. I’ve been wrong for so long boy.”
He stared at the dog. He slid slowly across the seat and whispering, “It’s ok boy, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m taking you with me. We’re going to the soup kitchen. We’re gonna eat till we laugh. Do ya want that boy?”
The dog stared at Trinket. “You understand me? We’re alike. I knew right off we were. All right…Trash, we’re partners. I look after you and you look after me. And don’t ya go sluffin’ off on yer end, hear?” Trash’s sad eyes looked back at Trinket. “That is, if you want to?” Trinket asked.
For some reason, only known to Trash, he didn’t run away, or try to bite Trinket; instead, he allowed Trinket to stroke his head. After a few strokes Trash moved to stand at the entrance.
“Well look at you, we just hook up to be partners and already you’re giving me attitude. One of us has a lot to learn.”
Trinket searched his backpack and found the long cord he carried. He looped an end around Trash’s neck, leaving enough room so it wouldn’t hurt him. “There ya go Trash, now this leash shows I care for you. I don’t want no debating the point either, it’s my way of showing I care. Besides, I think it’s the law. You want to get pinched? Huh, do you?”
Trash stared out the shelter’s entrance. “Ok Trash, I’m ready to go. I’ll introduce you to a few people. Now, if someone recognizes you, and knows you, you just give ‘em some attitude. You pretend you don’t even know them. You’re not going back to those that hurt you. Yeah, you just haul out that attitude, just flip ‘em the bird with your tail.”
Trinket rose and straightened himself. He looked around, spat, pulled up his pants and made up his mind.
“Now that I’ve got a partner, we’re gonna have to find better living conditions. After we eat, I’m gonna talk to Nelson. He knows a guy who may be able to help us. But, you’re gonna have to change Trash. You can’t be goin’ around with your bad attitude on display. You’re gonna get me into trouble. We got to change your attitude Trash. It could take a long time, it’s gonna be hard, maybe the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But if you want better, you gotta change that attitude. Ok Trash? Are you ready boy?”
Trinket and Trash stepped out from the shelter. Outside, the rain continued to fall.