Doug wasn’t interested. Not really. He’d seen way too many kids come and go, either through graduation or through graduation or because they were dropouts. Sometimes shit sucked that way and then you got use to it because it was the only way you were.

“Well,” said the girl, “Sorry you’re homeless.”

Doug chuckled at this. He’d never heard someone apologize for the fact it lived in a tent and tarp under the bridge under the apartment buildings, but still right on the edge of the swamp. It was a mudpit. Even if he had the money to do laundry every week it wouldn’t be enough. The mud simply smeared everywhere.

“Why’s that funny?” asked the girl.

“My sister wouldn’t ever give me an apology. Or my mother and father.”

“Do you I look like her or something?” asked the mousy haired girl.

“No,” said Doug. “You look nothing alike. My sister–well, last time I saw her was much more mainstream than you are.”


“Yes,” said Doug. “She’d never get her hair short or wear a scarf like that.”

“Just because I cut my hair short doesn’t mean I’m gay, and just because I wear a scarf like this doesn’t make me a hippy.”

“I know that,” said Doug. He closed the book, closed the pages of What We Talk About when We Talk About Art, resigned to the fact that the young woman wasn’t going to let him read.

“You want a coffee?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“What do you like?”

“Just coffee.”

“There’s a lot of different coffees you can get.”

“Just get me something black,” said Doug.

“I’ll be right back.”

Mousy left and Doug sat back in the chair. Outside the misting of the town had turned an onslaught of larger water bombs and Doug turned his head in order to watch each one fall and slap the pavements. He liked to think he saw each one exploding there in the road, on peoples shoulders as they walked by. It was nonsense though. He couldn’t see shit. He could only see a static in his vision which was the rain coming down and making people miserable and he knew his tent would be filling up with water as he sat there and hopefully it didn’t rise the swamp level too much or head be out of luck for anywhere to sleep.

He turned and picked up the book again. The door opened and he looked up. It wasn’t Mousy. It was an older woman. Doug opened the book and began to read. He’d just gotten to some dialogue. Something worth reading. The part when Mel, the cardiologist says, The kind of love I’m talking about you don’t try to kill people. And that was when the door opened and Mousy came in holding to paper cups.

“I didn’t know if you liked milk and sugar, but most people don’t really like black coffee so I put a little of both in.”

“Thanks,” said Doug taking the cup she held out.



Doug fucked things up with family members because he wasn’t really good at things. He was good at being homeless, but that was about it. He wasn’t good at being a brother or a son. He’d thought of being a father once, he’d even had the chance, but had let that go because his sister had talked him out of it. Judith had never been the most encouraging sister. Now she didn’t really need to worry about him. None of them did. Last he had heard Judith had made partners at wherever, and his parents were hitting off on another cruise. They loved cruises. When he had been a kid they had gone on one and left him in charge and he’d thrown a party and some how, he wasn’t exactly sure how, his mother’s antique snowing machine had been broken. This had seemed impossible at the time as the thing had been weighty wood and heavy steel, an artifact of when they had made things differently.

Doug looked in at the knitting store. He’d thought making his own hat and close would have been a lot more cost effective than buying them, but when he’d first gone in there, to The Wool Ball, he’d found the knitting needles, the yarn, everything so much more expensive than just buying something from the Fred Meyers down the street. This was his corner, now that Brooks had co opted the on ramp. He’d never been one for cardboard signs. He thought that was disingenuous. It made it so he didn’t have to talk to anyone. He simply had an old mug he sometimes used for coffee after asking the people at the starbucks to wash it out, and he would wave and smile and hold out the cup to cars as they stopped at the light.

In the first hour he got fifty sense. It was Sunday and still early, so church hadn’t got out yet. He’d never bought into that stuff himself. He’d stopped going with his folks when he was 11 or something. It began to rain, not large drops, just the small ones–nothing like in Wyoming.

“Hey,” a girl in a red Jetta was stopped. She was holding out a dollar.

“Thanks,” said Doug.

“You have a rain jacket?” she asked.

Doug looked at her, she had to be one of the college kids. One of the girls who did those walks of shames and he saw going into Caps Tavern every night, or maybe she wasn’t even old enough, he thought.

“I got this,” he said, tugging on his sweater. He’d gotten it from the Goodwill but he hadn’t paid for it. He’d just put it on and walkout.

“That’s not rainproof,” she said.

“It’s wool. It keeps you warm.”

“You don’t sound like a homeless person.”

“I am.”

There was a honk from behind her. The light had turned green. She sped off without another word. And Doug suspected she’d not think of him ever again.