Fuzzy Dave retches violently in a nearby alley as a random passer-by plunks some coin into the rust corroded Campbell’s soup can in front me. I remind myself that Fuzzy Dave doesn’t really exist. Did generous stranger exist? One way to find out. The rough texture of the can digs into my hand as I grip and empty the contents into my waiting palm. Three pennies and two nickels. Someone is real. And they’re stingy.
I didn’t always live on the streets like I do now. I have a upper-middle class suburban background. I never see my face on the milk cartons they pass out in the shelter’s though, so it doesn’t matter. It’s a boring story anyway, not like now. I’m part of a vagrant tribe. There’s only three of us, but Little Beth says once I finish my vision quest we’ll attract more followers. I believe her, especially after New Orleans. Plus she’s real. Not like Fuzzy Dave.
Back then we only escaped because I had a gut intuition, some of the lucky few vagrants to get out before the storm hit. We hole up in Mississippi now. We need to move on soon though. The generous ones dry up faster the longer you stay. I put the soup can down. It’s me, Fuzzy Dave (not real), Scruffy Dave (not real), and Skinny Alex (real) on collections duty today. Little Beth works right now, until she cocks it up and gets herself fired again. She has it easier than Skinny Alex and I. The women’s shelter lets her stay long term. Skinny Alex and I fight every night to get a cot in any shelter that will take us. If they don’t take both, we sleep outside. Skinny Alex says the tribe sticks together. I think he’s just afraid of strangers. He’s forty-two and afraid of talking to people. No judgment.
I’m blown out of my gourd on mushrooms lately. I think the Dave’s are a product of that. I don’t know where Little Beth gets the magic caps from. I don’t ask. She’s a mean sort. She says you have to be mean to run the tribe. I remind myself to ask her why I can’t run the tribe, since I saved us from the storm. I bet she’ll have no answer for that. I also bet it won’t change much.
Fuzzy Dave comes out of the alley. He’s done retching. For a figment of my imagination, his vomit sure smells something fierce. Like cinnamon rolls. Nope, that’s not Fuzzy Dave’s vomit. Stranger holds out a cinnamon roll to me. They say something. Sounds like “Are you hungry?” I smile and thank them. I split the cinnamon roll with Skinny Alex. If Little Beth could see us, she’d curse and holler. Foods is supposed to be split with all members of the tribe. I lull myself into a daze, staring off, ignoring the Dave’s. Plunk goes the can. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.
Skinny Alex tugs my arm. The tugging becomes more insistent. The Dave’s disappear. There’s nothing more sobering than the police. We stand up and walk off as casually as possible. The police don’t like vagrants. We don’t like the police. I’ll suggest we move along to the next town when Little Beth meets up with us. I don’t know why we call her Little Beth. She’s fat.
Apropos of: This Prompt
Post Scriptum: Sorry folks, I’m a day late with the update, got distracted yesterday and went to bed without updating.