Monday, November 3, 2008

The Spider

Upon crawling from her egg, all she could do was stumble around. Spiders are said to have a certain grace about them, but not her... she could only bumble about trying to get from one place to the next. Her young body had yet to grow accustomed to itself and it therefore found no control. She scrampled from one side of the nest to the other, hoping to find some of the food mother had left behind. She must have left something. Perhaps a fly or even a mosquito. It mattered not at all. The world was new and there was so much more than this constraining web. But it was not yet time to leave.

Oh, no, little spider, you're much too small; much too weak. You wouldn't last a day out there in the cruel, cruel world. So stay; stay here and enjoy mother's company while she provides. And that is what she does. She finds a spot in the corner of the web and rests there. It does not take much to tire out the poor little spider and she has found her limit. She takes all eight of her dastardly legs and huddles them together for fear of the coolness of spring. Ah, it has found them. Spring is upon them all and it promises to take them to summer's life and then fall's death. As glum as the ending may be, it promises to be an eventful and exciting life for our fair spider.

She thinks on ahead about her coming days. What will her life entail? Will she find a mate? Where will she build her web? Will it be nice? What kind of things will stick into her traps? She could only wonder and soon things could only happen. This is what she wants.

A short few days pass before she has gained her strength and is ready to move on. She leaps from the web and onto the tree. With little more than a hobble, she finds herself racing down the tree's trunk. All ahead full! All head is life!

The first thing she must do is find a spot in which to make her nest; her web. It would have to be perfect. The perfect webs were usually between two trees where a lot of flying insects could be trapped. But our spider knew that she would have to find someplace away from her family; away from where they prospered. Where they prospered, the prey did not. Our spider knew she must find somewhere free from their nests and webs, and somewhere open and unique. Alas, it could not be too far because then she would never find a mate. Such are life's problems, are they not?

But this spider wants to live at the furthest possible place. She wants to live away. Away, away, away. The forest simply was not her place to be. So, she scampers across the forest floor, avoiding prey and predators alike. Both could seek to kill her, but she is such a harmless affair. Our spider is still a mere child in a desolate world of needful murder. One could die at any second from the countless things trying to kill you, yet living in the forest offers a certain tranquility; a certain safety. The trees above protect the ground from the sky's wrath and the trees around protect from the outside invader. The system inside is brutal anarchy, but it is a working system.

All flourishes in this forest. It is a beautiful thing. Peace and even love comes from the creatures who help one another. Such is found in the bumblebee, who brings life to the flowers, and honey to his home. Anger and wrath is found in the hunting and killing for life. When prey is killed, there always seems to be some sort of understanding that the prey had just died for a reason. It is, somehow, a peaceful kind of death. It is better to die feeding another than to die of starvation, old age, or an accident. It is better to die for someone else. This is the beauty of the forest.

This forest is the beauty our spider is leaving. Some watch as their routines crack and wish that she would not go, but why should they stop her? Maybe there is another beauty outside. Maybe the beauty of this place is not enough for our spider. The only way to learn is to go. So she does. Without grace or poise, she troddles on. She is only a young spider with nothing at her back and everything before her. Go, young spider, go. Go!

The forest very slowly begins to fade away. The trees are further and further apart until she gets to the field. It's just a barren patch of dead grass that overlays before her. It will be simple to cross, she knows, so she does. All the while, she wonders if maybe she could somehow make her home here. But no, this place is wrong. She must be high. She must be high so that the flying insects would land and be trapped. And then be eaten. Such is life.

And then, through her segmented spiderling eyes, she sees a great structure. It looks as if a great deal of trees had laid down atop the other and formed a massive box. The trees were structures in the forest, they were buildings, but this was if buildings that had been combined into one bigger. This was a superstructure. And it was not unlike a rabbit hole or a beehive. There were two very large creatures moving things from a great steel beetle. They took the things from the beetle and put them inside the hive.

The beetle growled off before the new creatures sealed themselves away. Our spider lay still watching them very briefly before continuing. She kept onward to the strange pile of trees.

You can talk to the spider. Go on, ask it this question, “Why do you keep moving onward towards the strange place despite the danger?”

“Best to be the moth, who burns in glee, than the cicada who sloths away until he simply disappears. If this place is the death of me, I will have died venturing. To die venturing is to die doing so much more than my kin has done in a very long time.”

Try another. Ask this, “Where are you going?”

“Wherever spontaneity will take me. It is either grave death, great life, or nothing. I want to take this chance. I want to live having ventured. I will climb up the wall on this artificial structure and build my web there. It shall be my home.”

She tells the truth. Our spider trolleys her way to this structure, which is in actuality a house, and finds her way to its edge. Such as it is a simple affair to a spider, she climbs the walls and searches for a place to start her web. It would have to be somewhere like in a corner, where it could be strung together. At last she found such a place. It was perfect. It was an inlay in the structure, roughly in the shape of a rectangle. From this place, she could see inside the structure and the creatures inside. But something transparent, like the wings of a fly, kept her from going in. Curious.

Our spider climbed her way to the top corner of the inlay, which is a window sill, and begins her web. She starts to spin the silk from her back and strings it across, forming a bridge. And then she criss-crosses it to make that familiar shape of a spider's lair. Within the hour, the web is complete. The spider is tired from all her day's work. She takes a spot at the top and rests herself. It has been a long and tiring day, but a worthy one. Perhaps her new life will offer goodness or perhaps it will offer despair. Who can say? It has only just begun.

The next dawn creeps over the sky. Our spider awakens, surprised to find herself in her new home. She is used to seeing the forest all around her, but instead she is on this strange structure in the clearing. It is comforting to her though. She somehow knows that there is little danger here; that anything wanting to kill a poor, young spider is deep in the forest. She is safe and at peace. But eventually she notices the emptiness in her stomach. She will need to be fed soon.

For some reason, fortune favors our spider. A lonely fly sees the window and mistakes it for an opening into the house. It streaks towards it and then fails to notice our spider's web. The body of the poor fly hits the web and it is stuck. Our spider sees him struggling and screaming. His wings and legs are caught; there is no escape. The spider rushes over to him and knows exactly what she must do. She comes to the fly and it is screaming.

It is screaming.

Screaming for freedom, screaming for life.

As our spider grabs his struggling body, he yelps and cries. She bites down into him and injects her deadly venom. His hollers are silenced and he dies; fades from his meager existence. The fly is no more.

The spider wraps him up to preserve his body; to make it last. After that, she sucks away his juices and replenishes her energy. She is fed and she is once again content. With her belly full, she tires again and decides to sit in her web and watch the day go by. At first, she looks out into nature and sees an animal or two by, not aware of the lonesome spider observing them. Our spider laughs at them in her mind as she ponders them. Other creatures are so strange to a spider.

She wonders why none of them settle down in webs or even hunt. The world is such a hostile place and it is so much better to stay put in safety. To leave one's web is face certain death. It cannot be worth it to venture. After all, one's life is worth more than one's experiences, since experience is nothing upon death.

Soon, however, the spider turns inward to the window. She looks inside and sees a world she knows nothing about. Literally nothing inside is recognizable. It is all so alien. You can probably picture it in your mind. The window where the spider rests is the bedroom of a sixteen-year-old girl. The walls are pink and a bright, pale green; colors our eight-legged friend rarely sees. If the room's occupant is there, she is talking on her phone. The spider suspects she is making some sort of mating call, but to what?

In her mind, she makes notes about this strange thing. It has four legs, like a raccoon, but it has no tail. It moves about quickly and hordes things like a squirrel, but it is much larger. It is constantly making some kind of racket, like a cricket, but it sleeps only at night (and, of course, the spider could never hope to fit this creature into her web). It is large like a deer, but somehow doesn't seem to be quite as stupid (though she could be wrong). The creature molts multiple times a day, which is unlike any kind of insect or arachnid. The only fur on this strange thing is on its head. Put simply, our spider has found herself a mystery and a fascinating one at that.

The very next afternoon, after our spider had eaten a few gnats and repaired her web, something unexpected happened. The creature came to the window, saw, the spider, and made a very peculiar shriek, “Ew!”

The spider moved not at all; only watched. What was she to do?

But this alien creature moved in closer to the window with a curious eye and finally sighed, “You're gross, but I guess you can stay.” Naturally, the spider couldn't understand a word of this. It was all just mindless babble to her, yet at the same time, she understood that the girl was trying to communicate and made a reasonable guess that she was friendly. “How long have you been in my window?”

The spider twitched in her web, as if to say, “Go on; I am listening.”

“For a spider, I guess you're not so horrible,” the girl sat down at her desk, which faced the window. She leaned in to get a closer look at her arachnid find. “Well, if you're going to live there, I should give you a name. Do you have any ideas?”

The spider pondered what it heard.

“How about Katrina?”


“That's stupid,” she sighed. “I'll just call you spider. Is that okay?”

More than okay. It's a spider.

“You're so lucky, little spider. You get to sit out there and do whatever you want all day long. You don't have to worry about boys or make-up or your parents or anything. All you have to do is sit out there and eat stuff.”

If the spider understood this, she would object.

Nevertheless, “Life can be so hard in here. It's always about stuff you have to do. 'Clean your room,' 'wear this,' 'don't do this, but do that,' 'call him, don't call her...' ugh. Life would be nice if I was a spider like you. I mean, I'd be gross, but I'd be happy.”

The spider would only agree to half of this. She is certainly not gross, but definitely happy with her life. It was in these moments that the spider realized that this creature was not so much unlike her. The structure in which she lived was, in a way, like a web where she could be safe. At least something was there in which the spider could relate. Other than that, however, there was practically nothing. The spider, however, if it could speak, would tell you that it was in this moment that she considered this creature to be her friend.

“Well, I need to go. Nice to meet you, spider,” the girl opened the door and walked out. The spider cocked her head in fascination and then went back to her own life. Twilight crept onto the sky as the world darkened into the abyss of night. The spider pondered the day as she slipped into slumber.

The next day, at just past noon, the window opened. The girl peered out, startling the spider. She was obviously still disgusted with the eight-legged critter. In her hand was a cup, which whisked at the spider. From out of the cup flew a small grasshopper, which landed right in her web. The spider looked down at the desperate insect, who kicked for life, and then back at the girl. The mysterious creature closed the window and said, “There. Have lunch. On the house!”

The spider wasted no time and darting down to the grasshopper, killing it, and wrapping it for later. She looked back to the human and tried to find some way to thank her, but there was nothing.

“That's totally gross!” the girl exclaimed. “But at least you're happy, right?”

“At least,” the spider would say contently. She plunged her fangs into the grasshopper and had a taste of its succulent juices. The spider reasoned that such a meal is rare and that she should savor every bit of it.

“Have a good day, spider,” the girl moved to her bed and opened up a copy of Seventeen, something the spider thought dumb. Why would anyone watch such a flat thing for so long? So many things were peculiar about the girl. The spider actually came to the conclusion that, despite her kindness, the girl was gross. She was so squishy and soft.

But the spider was happy to have found a friend however great their differences.

The next day brought something dastardly. Clouds crept up across the sky and obscured the sun. They came darker and darker, warning of coming rain. The spider clutched her web, fearing what was to come. Suddenly, lightning flashed across the sky and crashing thunder followed soon. This was her first storm; she didn't know what to think of it all. All she knew was terror.

The wind blasted on her web. She swayed and whipped around, but her web held still. How long would it last? The worst was yet to come....

They came at first only very slowly. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter came the falling rain. One drop struck the web and then another, but it held strong. With patience, the rainstorm met a crescendo. It went from gentle droppings to forceful gallops. The spider, in futility, scurried about its web, trying to hold it together. It was to no avail. One by one, the strands snapped. She didn't what to do! All the spider could do was watch as her home crumbled in the falling rain.

At last, it snapped and came tumbling down. Her body slammed against the rain-soaked window sill, covered in the strands of her shambled home. With a fury, she brushed it off. The rain drops hit against her body. It was cold, so very cold. She shook. What to do?

She scurried about the window sill, hopelessly looking for shelter. She looked out into the forest and realized what a fool she had been. If she were out in the forest amongst her kin, she would be protected by the mighty trees or could at least find somewhere to hide. What a fool, oh what a fool. She sat there, soaked and weary. But she wouldn't give up. She stumbled about, looking for somewhere to go. Somewhere, anywhere.

And then she saw it. The window was open just a crack; a small one, but a sufficient one nonetheless. The spider made a mad dash for it and scuttled her way inside. She squeezed her way through, her rather large abdomen being a particularly tight fit, but she made it. In the dryness of the house, she shook herself to clear the water. With her tiny lungs, she gasped for air. She was relieved to be free of outside's hell.

The spider looked about in the room. Sitting at the desk was the girl, who looked up to see the spider. She cocked her head in curiosity. The spider raised her arm, as if to make a greeting, but the two only stared at one another. The spider was glad to be in the company and comfort of a friend. She would have smiled, but spiders can't do such a thing. Instead, she resigned to simply enjoy it.

It was then that spider remembered the storm outside. Now that she was safe, she realized she could enjoy the spectacle of the falling chaos. So she turned around to look out the window. It was so fascinating seeing the water fall and then the sky blazing with lightning. The thunder echoed all around.

Windows can also be a fascinating thing. On one hand, you can see out them and see the world beyond. Yet on the other, curiously, you can look into it and see a reflection of what is behind. The spider caught a glimpse of its reflection and what was behind her. She saw the girl, whose arm was raised in the air. In her hand, was her magazine rolled into a tube. Time stood still.

All the spider could do was watch as the Seventeen magazine screamed through the air. Down, down, down it came. The spider would have cried, if she could. It is fortunate, then, that the sky poured down enough tears for a thousand like her.

The spider's body crumbled under the strike of the magazine. Even with her toughened exoskeleton, she was far too frail to handle it. When the magazine came back up, a smattering of life held on. She looked into the reflection to see the girl's expressionless face. What a cold, cold world. Outside was suffering, rain, and death; the betrayal of nature. Inside was deception, alienation, and, also, death; the betrayal of friendship.

The girl scooped the body onto the back of the magazine and carried it over to the trash. She looked one last time at what she had just killed and remembered talking to it, and even feeding it that grasshopper she had found. For a moment, the girl wondered why she did those things. It was so cool having a spider outside the window, but inside scampering on the desk? Gross. She tossed the dead arachnid aside and went back to what she was doing.

The spider died not understanding the world in which she lived. Her death, ever since her birth, was certain. All that she loved, nature and that girl inside, would kill her given the chance. What a pitiful life for a poor, desperate spider.

And should we lament? Of course not. It's only a spider, for crying out loud.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rain 2

The day had started normally enough. People went on with their stuff and didn't pay me any attention whatsoever. And I'm fine with that; in fact, I'm better fine. But sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I have to see things I don't want to see. Like that day. I watched as a young man was pulled into my alleyway by two other, bigger men. The young man must have been about eighteen or nineteen; looked like a college student. They pulled him into my alley and it was the bigger of the two, a bald black man, who slugged his fist into the student's gut. And then they took turns. They took turns beating their prey, one punch after the other. Blood spilled from his mouth and then his nose. I watched as his face tore. They slammed everything into him before the student fell to the ground, clutching himself in pain. The thieves took the kid's wallet, opened it, took the five dollar bill inside, and ran for it.

And that was that.

I didn't do a thing; I just watched. That's what I do. And what would I have done anyway? There was nothing I could have done. I'm just a frail, thin, old man. I have nothing and I could do nothing. Look down into your lap. I'll bet something's covering your legs that's less than a year old. Same thing with your shirt; it's probably good as new. I can't afford that. I've been wearing the same thing for more than twenty years now: the same coat, the same scarf, the same shirt, the same pants.... all of it the same; all of it dirty and scarred.

Or look where you are right now. Look above your head. There's a roof, isn't there? Or look around and there are walls. I don't even have that; I can't afford it. I live in a couple of boxes I duct-taped together. It isn't warm and it isn't comfortable.

And you're in one of two places, I'm betting. You're either full because it wasn't long ago that you've eaten or you're thinking about what you're going to eat next. I can't do that. I can only pray to God that I'll have food. Most days I get something or another, but some days I go without eating.

Get up. That's right, stand up right now. Go take a piss and then wash your hands. Go on, do it. Flush your toilet and hide the smell. You can do that; I can't. I pee on the wall and take my craps in a dumpster. That's just how my life rolls.

Now put yourself in my shoes. You have nothing, so what can you do but sit there and watch? You're probably thinking that since I had nothing to lose; I should have acted. But that's just it: I had everything to lose. All I had was my life. I didn't even have my dignity at that point. Just admit it, there are things you wouldn't risk no matter what. Well, my life is all I've got. So that's my thing. If you were in my spot, you'd understand. I don't think you can now, but just pretend you do.

I wasn't always a bum an an alleyway. In fact, I used to be somebody. I used to sit behind a desk and crunch numbers for a big shot company in Boston. They had me on the career track for maybe one day calling all the shots too. I could have been CEO one day. I could have made the big bucks and provided everything in the world for my family. Yeah, I was a family man too. I had a wife and a daughter. I loved them both so much.

Everything was going great. Everything kept slowly getting bigger and better too. I was getting promotions, buying bigger houses, getting nicer houses.... the works. But life is like a rubber band. If you keep pulling on it, you keep stretching it, then it will eventually snap. Needless to say, my life snapped.

I was an ambitious guy. I worked very hard at my job and I would have done anything to get ahead. So, you know what I did? I curbed my numbers. I would do a little rounding up, you know, to make myself look better. But I would also curb down everyone else's numbers. I looked great and everyone else looked bad. Saddest part is, I didn't even need to bump my numbers; I was doing great. But I did it anyway. Someone on the lower rungs noticed and they started an investigation. Believe it or not, I was looking at jail time.

But my boss was a good man. When he found out about the whole thing, he told me that if I turned in the slip, I could go. I did, of course.

How do you tell your family that just screwed everything up? You can't. I couldn't.

I didn't have to.

My wife was humping our neighbor. I came home a few hours early that day and I found her in my bed. I opened the door and saw it all. She jumped out of the bed and ran at me, trying to explain it or something. I didn't listen and I didn't care. I stormed down the stairs, wife chasing me the whole the way. She was screaming. But I didn't care at all. I jumped into the Buick. She was still trying her best to get me to stop. I didn't say a word.

I pulled out and watched as she cried.

Suddenly, my daughter, Jeannie came out the front door. She was nine when this all happened. I saw the shocked, confused look on her little face. How could I look into her eyes as I left her completely? How could I look at her and at the same time, abandon her to my whore wife? I don't know, but I did it. I never saw my family again after that.

Twenty years later, I'm living in a box in New York City. I sold the Buick and hoped to get my life working somehow, but it just... didn't happen. Everything slid down the slippery slope of hell.

And as I said, that day had started normally enough. I watched that kid get mugged about eight in the morning and fifteen minutes later, the skies burst with rain. It really came down and there was no warning for it. I don't care about being wet, and I didn't then, but my house can't take much. I worked hard to try and save it. Usually, I would pick it up and move it someplace where it won't get wet. I picked up my boxes and tried to move it over behind the dumpster, but I slipped. The boxes flew through the and fell into a puddle. The duct tape lost its stick and my house tore in half.

I sat there on the soaking ground just staring at it. It was just a pair of boxes, but they meant something to me. And just like that, they were gone. I worried because I no longer had a place to live. But it didn't faze me that much. I mean, I've had nothing for too long to let that hit me. And I knew that I'd have to worry about that later when it wasn't raining. So I came out of my alleyway and stood underneath the awning in front of Mr. O'Leary's, an Irish pub. It wasn't much more than dry.

But suddenly, a fat red-head came out the front and stammered, “Hey, you stupid piece of a lunt! You think I want ya standin' there turnin' away my business? Get! Go on, get out of here! No one wants ye!”

I didn't even bother arguing, I just started walking. I didn't go back to my alleyway, I just walked down the street. I passed a whole mess of a people. Most of them had umbrellas and the ones who didn't were trying their best to make it out of the falling rain. Not me though... No umbrella, no care. I just walked. Maybe if I got wet enough, I wouldn't smell as bad. There's always a bright side, isn't there?

I didn't see it. I just saw that I had a broken house and I was soaking wet with nothing I could do about it. The rain, to me, is a terrible thing. It completely ruined my day, more so than watching a guy get mugged even.

But there are some who would tell you how much they love the rain. I saw one such person on the side of the road. It was a kid, probably about five years old. He was dressed in a raincoat and rain boots; perfectly ready to take on the watery world. The kid was by himself; by himself with a puddle. He jumped from the curb and into the water over and over again. I stopped in the swarming drizzle and just watched him having fun. Sometimes he seemed to be trying to jump over the puddle, sometimes he just seemed to want to get wet. It didn't matter though; he was having the time of his life.

I envied him so much. The rain, as I saw it, is a terrible thing. But to this kid? It's bliss; total bliss. Seeing his boot-wrapped feet hit the water and slosh the world around him captivated me somehow. It was almost enough to make not say what I did, but there was something about this kid that made responsibility step in. I said to him, “Hey! Kid! You shouldn't jump in puddles like that!”

He completely ignored me.

“Kid!” I shouted louder.

He stopped, came onto the sidewalk and looked up at me without saying a thing.

“You shouldn't jump around in puddles like that, you're getting yourself all wet. What would your mother say?”

“My momma's gone.”


“I'm lost, mister.”

“You're lost?”

“Yeah, my momma's just gone. So I'm lost.”

“You don't know where she is?”

“Nope,” he turned away from me and went right back to the puddle.

“Don't you want to find her?”


His answer surprised me, but I quickly realized that he just wanted to be in his puddle. I was actually just about to give up, but decided to press on anyway, “I think you should come with me; I'll help you find her.”

“No,” he jumped right into the water. “I want to be here.”

“Hey, kid, come on, fun time's over,” I held his arm. I wasn't going to force him or hurt him or anything. I just wanted to help. “Let's go find your mother.”

“I said I don't want to go,” the kid jerked himself away, but I held on. “Hey! Let me go!”

“Kid, you need to-”

“Hey!” A third voice called. “Get off him!”

I turned around and saw a police officer running my way. I answered without letting go, “I'm trying to-”

“I said let the kid go, you filthy hobo.”

“Officer, hey, look, I-”

The policeman grabbed me and threw me to the ground, “You do what a police officer tells you! Now, get out of here!”

“Jeez, officer, will you please just listen to me?”

And then a woman came running over. There was something about her... “Officer! Officer! That's my son!”

“This your son, ma'am?”

“Yes! Kyle! What are you doing?”

“It's a good thing you got here when you did, this hobo was about to take him off to-”

“I was not!” I snarled as I came back up to my feet.

The policeman drew his nightstick, “Sir, you stay back!”

“Dammit, why won't you listen to me!”

The policeman raised his stick and was about to smack me, but the woman cut in, “Officer, wait! Let's hear what he has to say!”

“Thank you,” I said. And then it hit me. The woman... the kid's mom... she reminded me of my wife. I mean, she was too young to be her, but I could see it. “I saw the kid out here in the rain and I wanted to help him find you. I didn't mean any harm-”

“I don't believe it,” the policeman rolled his eyes.

“Thank you,” the mother said. I wasn't sure if she was talking to me or the policeman.

“I'm just gonna go,” I said as I turned to leave. I know I'm not wanted. I don't think I ever was.

“Good, go on-”

“Wait, sir!” the man rushed up behind me and grabbed my shoulder. She startled me.

“Yeah?” I shook. I wanted out of that rain. I was soaked and started to get real cold. But... I looked into her eyes. There was something there that I hadn't seen in years. I couldn't place it though.

“What's- what's your name, sir?” the woman asked sincerely. I wasn't sure what she wanted then. Maybe she wanted to return the favor. Maybe she thought she could help me. I didn't know.

“Walter,” I replied. “Walter Jackson.”

“Walter Jackson,” she whispered to herself and mulled it over in her mind. And then it was if a little lightbulb lit up above her head, “Dad?”

“Jeannie?” My eyes shot open wide. Dear God, it was her. That's what I saw... my God. “Jeannie!”

“Dad,” she said as she wrapped her arms around me; the filth. I didn't want to embrace her. Not for my own sake, but hers. I didn't want to get her all dirty and grimy. I was horrible... but I did it anyway. I held my daughter again. How many years had it been? I don't know. But she was all grown up. She had a kid... I had a grandson.

“Jeannie I- I'm so sorry,” I started to cry.

“Dad,” Jeannie let go of me. “You don't have to be. It's been too long to stay mad... I barely even remember you.”

“There's not anything worth remembering. I was worse than a bad father. I was a nonexistent one.”

“Is everything okay here?” The policeman asked.

“Yes, it is, officer,” Jeannie told him.

“I'll be over on the corner if you need something,” he said as he left.

“Dad, have you been living on the street the whole time?”

“Yeah, yeah, I have....”

“Oh, daddy, there's so much I need to tell you... some much- Dad... mom... she's gone.”

She was already dead to me, but I said, “That's too bad.”

“Hey, this is a pretty terrible place to catch up,” she said as the rain started to subside. “Why don't you come back with me to my house and we'll get you cleaned up?”

“I haven't been clean since... well, I don't know.”

“Oh! Wait!” She suddenly beamed. “This is Clark! He's your grandson!”

He looked up at me and put his finger in his mouth. I could tell he was too shy to say anything. Maybe he had no idea what was happening. “He's a cute kid. Got an attitude like you used to have.”

She chuckled, “Well, let's get you home. My car's down the block.”

I very briefly considered turning her down. I very briefly considered refusing and heading right back to my alley. It was all I knew. Leaving that was scary to me. It was just like my first few nights on the street: horrifying. But... I knew that wasn't the right call, “Okay. Let's go.”

And that's how my life turned around. That was the most unusual day of my life. It was also the very best one. It was rocky getting started at a new life. I was never able to hold down a job. Keeping myself clean was something I had a hard time adapting to. Just being in a better place meant bigger responsibility and I was used to none. But.... I would have it no other way. Is life perfect now? No. Can life be better? Sure. Do I want it any other way? Nope.