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The Old Man by the Side of the Road

The Meeting

He was of indeterminate age.

His long, ratted hair shielded his features. His body seemed to shrink into his clothes . . . rags really . . . a mound of filth sitting on the curb. I’m not sure why I noticed him. He was similar to dozens seen daily in Olympia, part of the background of 2018, trees, parked cars, business signage, and the homeless.

He mumbled as I passed; perhaps that’s why I stopped but perhaps not; I don’t remember now. It really doesn’t matter. Stop I did, and asked him what he had said.

“I’ve lost him,” was his reply.

“Lost whom?” I asked, not really caring about the answer, just making my mother proud by being polite to everyone I meet.

“I’ve lost him,” was his reply once more.

Cars passed by. Shoppers, and business people, passed by; seagulls screeched from above, for attention, perhaps, or some primal warning; horns honked, trash can lids clanked, arguments from alleyways, the surround sound of Motown playing a symphony in my town fifty years after it first wailed, the heartbeat of a city too busy to hear those three words.

“I’ve lost him.”

I don’t know to this day what possessed me.

“Let’s go get a cup of coffee, old-timer. My treat!”

I didn’t think he heard me. His features remained blank, his sight set on some far-off scene, but then he slowly rose and followed me to The Spar Restaurant across the street. There Delores met us, the greeter for years, first-name basis and all that, nice woman, a bit confused when she saw my companion.

“Table for two, Bill?” and without waiting for an answer she led us as far away from the regulars as possible. She poured two coffees, nodded at me, took one last long look at my guest, and left.

I took a sip. Good as always, strong, black, the way coffee is meant to be.

“Where did you lose him?” I asked.

I didn’t hear him the first time, asked him to repeat.

“Khe Sahn” was his reply.

Just outside City Hall

Just outside City Hall

Down the Rabbit Hole We Go

The coffee seemed to revitalize him, instant adrenalin, mainlining legally, and the words tumbled out.

“High school quarterback, big-time, you know, had all the colleges after him, this was back in Sixty-five, you know, narrowed down the list to USC and Notre Dame, then the cutback block happened, two-hundred and eighty pounds rolling into a knee, last game of his senior year, parents heard the bone snap up in the stands, end of college career right there, but one year of healing and rehab, he was good as new for Uncle Sam, processed at Fort Lewis, breezed through basics, and by the summer of Sixty-seven he was getting off a transport plane in Saigon, home away from home for the next two years."

Someone dropped a dish in the kitchen. He jumped at the sound.

“What a shithole, man, what a shithole, no other way to describe it, wake up each morning and clench your sphincter, pray to whatever god you pray to that you’ll make it just one more twenty-four hour period, stench mixed with cloying sweetness, smiling faces in your dreams blasting you to pieces, smiling faces in the real blasting you to pieces, never did know who to trust, friend or foe, all looked the same . . . all looked the same. So pretty soon you look for comfort, man, you roll one joint, then another, you take the Black Tar express and wash it all down with Jim Beam rip-offs fortified with Draino or some such shit, and you tiptoe around Bouncing Betty in hopes she won’t embrace you like she has dozens of your friends.

“Friend or foe, all looked the same, no way of telling, enter a village, shoot them all, the only safe way of ensuring your safe departure, stench and cloying sweetness, blood smells like copper, did you know that, but blood in those temps, man, there is no smell like it in the world. And then the day arrives, somehow you made it, climb aboard another transport, head east, back to your home, back to your friends, back to the blonde cheerleader who swore she would be waiting for you, but she was married to some warehouse worker, one kid clenching her hand with another in the oven, and he was always angry, you know, white-hot anger coming out of nowhere, anger so bad, or was it fear, whatever, he slept with a rifle, hoping to shoot just one more of those bastards before they got him permanently and for real in his sleep.”

Dinner?

Dinner?

Deeper Down the Hole

“In and out of treatment, the Army hospital giving it their best with what they had to work with, in and out, a revolving door for the high school football star, the cheerleader raising four kids by that time, the quarterback unable to hold down a job, damned temper, no control of it, voices by that time, voices inside his head, voices telling him to just end it all and say goodbye to the pain, and his parents, man, you could see the pain on their faces, their baby boy, where have you gone, Danny Boy, Danny Boy, Mom praying to Jesus Christ Savior and Dad just getting angrier by the day.

“And I couldn’t help him, you hear what I’m saying? No matter how hard I tried I could not help him, not then, not when he turned to the streets, not when he was arrested for B & E, not when he was arrested on drug charges, and not when he was sent to McNeil for five-to-ten for possession. And that was just another jungle, man, from the steamy shit of Vietnam to the foul stench of death in prison, just one more damned jungle. And I could not help him!

“So, anyways, he finally got out, dried out, burned out, not one damned prospect, back to the streets, one dead-end alley after another, and I tried, man, you know I really tried, but one day, one day I just lost him.”

The watering hole for the homeless

The watering hole for the homeless

Our Goodbye

“Thirty years now he’s been on the streets, man, and I gotta find him. Thanks for the coffee. Time for me to head out. He’s out there, somewhere, I just have to keep lookin’ till I find him, you know?” And with that he got up, hefted his bag and bedroll, and walked out of my life.

I haven’t seen him since. No clue where he might be. No clue whether he found what he was looking for . . . who he was looking for. I still catch myself, from time to time, glancing at the homeless, looking at the faces, wondering if I’ll see him, wondering if I’ll recognize him if I do see him. Has he changed? Is he still breathing in, breathing out? Did he finally find that high school quarterback of long ago, the kid with lofty dreams and the whole world waiting for him with open arms, or is he forever sentenced to a life of aimless searching, searching for something long lost in the steaming ugliness of a war he never understood?

Author’s Note

This is a work of fiction, but damned close to too many realities to count. They are out there right now, on your street, in your city, certified homeless, certified batshit crazy, not playing the system but honest-to-God victims of that system.

I just think they need to be seen, that’s all.

I just think they need to be seen.

© 2018 Bill Holland

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 11, 2018:

Sha, thank you! There are those out there who never do find that person...we lose them daily....and that is a terrible loss for society,, met thinks.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 10, 2018:

Wow, Bill. Thank you for making the homeless real people with voices and history. This is an incredible story. You really got into Danny's head.

While I was reading, I had the feeling that the person he lost is himself. Will he ever find that high school football player? Those days are long gone, but perhaps he can still find the joy, determination and drive the teenage boy felt, if he digs deep enough inside.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 28, 2018:

Thank you very much,Missy! I try to capture the hopelessness, and to me it seems hopeless. I don't know how we, as a nation,eradicate this homeless disease we see now. I wish I had answers.

Missy Smith from Florida on April 28, 2018:

I hope he finds that person within himself again. I know this is fiction, but it's true to so many.

I live in a small rural area. You don't see many homeless people unless you go into the big city, but on the way to the neighboring town the other day, I saw a man just like you described here. He could have been this man in your story. You described his look perfectly. He was traveling on this back small highway on a three wheeler bicycle with his trash bags in the basket. He looked so frail and tired, but I was on the opposite side, and my children and mom were with me also; they are kind of scared of strangers, which is understandable in this world we live in today. I am too, but if I'm in the city and run into a homeless person who asks for some change or food, I've given it to them. It still doesn't make you feel any better, because you realize it is only a temporary joy to their painful world.

As always, your story is filled with detail that brings us right to the table, listening as the man tells his story of loss.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 27, 2018:

I appreciate that, John! Thank you very much and welcome!

John M McNally on April 26, 2018:

Yes Bill very effective, I think the punchy pace of your writing really drives home the message. I felt it made it all the more realistic.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 23, 2018:

I don't know either, Marlene. It is a sin against our nation that we so easily forget. Thank you for sharing that.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 21, 2018:

Your "tale" reminds me of some of the stories my husband and brothers tell. I don't know how they survived such a horrible experience. I don't know how anyone could ever put it in the back of their mind and forget it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 21, 2018:

I am honored,Ann!

bill

Ann Carr from SW England on March 21, 2018:

I only use it with great discretion, bill!

Ann

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

I do know, Sis, and it's just one of thousands of reasons why I love you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

Ann, I know the word "brilliant" is used often in GB, but I still blush when you say it about my work, so thank you!

bill

Suzie from Carson City on March 19, 2018:

I realize this fabulous tale is a work of "fiction," bro~~but the reality is, as sure as daylight, it isn't. By now you know my feelings on this. No need to reiterate! Awesome. Simply awesome. Sis

Ann Carr from SW England on March 19, 2018:

They certainly do need to be seen, bill. This was so real that I took it for real. I was surprised when you said it was fiction. You're getting so good at this writing lark! I could smell the fella and I could smell the coffee.

Brilliant!

Ann

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

Chris, thank you! No matter our political party, we can all do better in this case.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

Thank you John! I really do appreciate it, and I hope we see government pay attention soon.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

We agree totally, Cris! It should never happen. We must find a solution.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 19, 2018:

Thank you Dee! I always come back to this when I want to write about social commentary. It needs to be seriously addressed by this nation.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 19, 2018:

What a touching story, Bill, and though it may be fiction it is based on a sad reality that is oh so evident for all of us to see....even those who try to ignore it like Government officials. Great job.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 18, 2018:

Is it fiction when you've hit the nail on the head so hard, so squarely that it drives straight through the board? Is it fiction when you can smell the blood? Is it fiction when you can see the guy, smell him across the table drinking his black coffee? Is it fiction when it makes you want to scream at the world to look and listen when you pass by? You may have made it up, but it's somebody's story, for sure. Keep telling the stories, Bill.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on March 18, 2018:

Very powerful be it fiction or not. The case of our homeless folks is one of my weaknesses, much more of those who's served. Did you see the recently trending video of a homeless man being booted out of Mcdonalds by a Police Officer in Florida? That in my opinion is where humanity (society) fails.

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2018:

This is a tale common for so many of our vets. They seem to fade away from society as they resort to a homeless lifestyle. We do our best to help out the homeless through the soup kitchen here and donations. Yet they are strong at heart -- they just need a little help. Thanks for sharing this thought, very touching.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2018:

Thank you so much, Maria! Perhaps I am a storyteller after all. :)

love,

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2018:

I hope not too, MizB, but sadly it probably is for thousands. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 13, 2018:

Thank you Larry and I completely agree; the economic system is broken when there are that many broken.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 13, 2018:

Powerful, necessary and heart wrenching work, dear Bill.

While I love everything you write, I am most drawn to your personal essays / memories - thanks for the renewed perspective this AM.

Wishing you a peaceful day. Love, Maria

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 12, 2018:

Bill, this is breathtaking. Thank you for writing this piece. I live every day with a reminder of what the Vietnam war did to our innocent young people. Vietnam veterans, veterans of the forgotten war. I'm glad that society is finally doing its part to recognize these men and women, but so many of its veterans say it's too little too late. I hope not.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on March 12, 2018:

Homelessness is a failure of society, not the individual.

People are so quick to get hung up on the idea of people cheating the system when they don't represent any significant part of the issue.

These folks need help. I give what I can, but that's just a bandaid. The answer needs to be bigger.

Powerful work.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Zulma, you and me both. What a folly our history is, from about 1950 to 1974...twenty-four years of trying to stop something which cannot be stopped. How many lives were sacrificed for a lesson not learned?

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 12, 2018:

I've never bought into the argument about stopping Communism. Perhaps I'm naive, but I've always had faith in our system of government. But I guess many people did, otherwise, Vietnam would have remained a country nobody ever heard of.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Thank you for that,William...all of us for sure.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Thank you Kari...so many fellow citizens....justice for all? I think not!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Zulma, I have no answer, and I'm still waiting for someone to give me one.To stop Communism? How's that working?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Thank you so very much,Leonie! I appreciate you stopping by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 12, 2018:

Genna, thank you so much. I totally agree with you..the haves are terrified...it's like looking in a mirror when they see the homeless...one paycheck away for many....sad, sad state of affairs, my friend.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on March 11, 2018:

Yes, Bill. Too close to reality for sure. May we all be more attentive to those around us - homeless or not!

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on March 11, 2018:

Thank you for this, Bill. I think they need to be seen also. So many people...

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 11, 2018:

What was it all for? I remember the new casts from the 60s, the protests, heard the stories from cousins who fought, read articles about Vietnam. I've thought long and hard about it, but still have no answers.

Was it all for nothing, then? No. I can't accept that. There has to be a reason. Surely all the misery and sorrow could not have been for nothing.

Leonie M from Belgium. on March 11, 2018:

This the story touches the deepest core of my heart. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks Bill for sharing.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 10, 2018:

They need to be seen; their voices need to be heard; their needs met by community outreach programs as government funds run dry, and aren't nearly enough to help. Each day that goes by with all the passers-by, the larger that space bubble of disregard and indifference becomes.

I think that people who are the "haves" are terrified that they could easily become homeless vets and others, themselves, by fate. Then it would their turn to wander the streets, huddle in doorways, or sleep in alleys, looking for that person they lost. In a better world, that might stir them into positive action to help those in need.

Powerful story, Bill...and one that should be read by everyone.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2018:

Rasma, you raise an interesting point: not all homeless fit into a neat little description. Thank you for mentioning that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2018:

No, Jackie, it should not be. Thanks for sharing that news story...so sad!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2018:

Thanks Pop! I appreciate it. Hope you are well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2018:

Thank you very much, Nithya!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 10, 2018:

Fascinating story. While living in NYC as they say you get a million of them but what stays in my mind is that the homeless were in two different camps. One was those who wanted to be seen, heard and mingled with the usual crowds hoping for handouts and two those whe wanted to fade into the woodwork did their own thing and would

cause quite a fussl if they were pulled out for all to see.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 09, 2018:

This reminds me of a true news story a few days back where a guy took a homeless man in McDonalds and bought him food and they called the police and ran him off! Such a world we live in.

Great story telling. I enjoyed it. I think of the homeless so much. It just should not be.

breakfastpop on March 09, 2018:

Very moving and incredibly believable piece of writing. You increased awareness for the plight of the homeless, and if they could they would thank you.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 09, 2018:

Homelessness is a terrible thing to undergo, your story is deep and poignant. Yes they need to be seen and heard, great write.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

Well then, Natalie, my job is done with this one. :) Thanks for the lovely comment and insights from one who understands the situation.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

No chance, Frank! lol

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 09, 2018:

This is so raw and yet also poignant. Some things stand out for me - the fact that the narrator stops to pay attention so someone many would would hurry buy in fear he was schizophrenic or dangerous, that the waitress simply asked if he wanted a table for two without a negative response, that a little human interest and attention manages to turn the vet back into someone who appears normal in terms of conversation for someone who experienced Vietnam, and the struggle, the search to find the person he once was. I have worked with Vietnam Vets and you bring a truth, a reality to this story that gives me chills.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

Thank you Lisa! It's always nice to hear from you.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 09, 2018:

LOL, yeah no rubber room could hold us...

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

I appreciate that, Linda. This topic hits close to home for many of us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

Thank you Manatita....and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

Thank you Frank! You and I both do the heavy pen writing...we are a necessary evil, me thinks. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 09, 2018:

Thanks, Brian, for sharing about Kalamazoo...there are steps that can be taken if the local government is willing to actually address the problem. We are seeing it nearby in Seattle...at least their mayor and city council recognize they must do something.

Lisa Chronister from Florida on March 09, 2018:

I am sure, I left a comment yesterday, but it does not seem to be here anymore... (Maybe It was TMI) :) So, I will shorten it and say, I truly enjoyed this story. It was well written, and the subject matter is very close to my heart.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 08, 2018:

Thank you for continuing to remind us about homelessness, Bill. Your fiction is very close to reality.

manatita44 from london on March 08, 2018:

Thanks Bill. Another piece of conscience. We need a few more. God bless your noble soul. Many out there like your man. Let us pray.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 08, 2018:

what a dramatic account... In a world where technology seems to grow increasingly and we still find some people irrelevant. How can that be? Anyways, You do fiction with a heavy pen.. just like all good writers do... bless you bro

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on March 08, 2018:

See them. That's a start. Improve the situation is another step. When the people of Kalamazoo County learned how many school children here are homeless, we passed a special school millage. The millage revenue will provide housing vouchers and case management to families with children enrolled in Kalamazoo County schools who are at risk of or currently experiencing being homeless. The revenue from the millage will help at least 600 families over the course of six years, primarily with rent assistance.

Whatever the personal circumstances—a mental illness; being expelled from home by parents because of sexual orientation or gender identification; a plunge into poverty because of illness or accident; whatever—the odds of becoming homeless is worsening because of shrinking real wages combined with shrinking availability of affordable housing. The "common read" this year at Kalamazoo Public Library is the book EVICTED, which examines that problem.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

All true, Dora! All true! Thank you for caring.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

The nicest thing you could say to me, Tim, is that my writing made you feel. Thank you for that compliment.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

Sis, I have tears in my eyes from your story. You were always the big Softy! Just one reason why I love you. Thank you for being who you are, dear friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

Thank you Mike! You may be correct; this may be my signature...and I can live with that. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

Thank you Verlie! I really appreciate your kind words.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 08, 2018:

This is a tearjerker, as is often the result of true-to-life story telling. So much we can learn, and so much can be given if we just take the time to listen even when we don't understand.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on March 08, 2018:

How to begin commenting is a quandary as I try to decide. Is it somber I feel or is it a sobering experience I feel. I'll ponder during the day, yet what counts most is this story caused me to feel. Well done!

Suzie from Carson City on March 08, 2018:

Although you tell us this is fiction, I could have gone on believing otherwise. Very real, so familiar and the magic in your story-telling, brings it all to life as of our own experiences.

This brought me back to recall the old homeless man who stood each day against the building of my office, Main Street, just doors from the rehab facility & needle exchange program. A frail man in tattered old trench coat, babbling incoherently. unaware of the people all around. All ignoring him or worse, making rude comments, some shouting to him to "shut up.". This angered me so. WHY so cruel & heartless?

Many a day, I brought him a slice of pizza and cup of coffee. He'd look directly in my eyes, flash a toothless smile and say, "God Bless you." Yes, there was a man in there. One with a soul and a working mind. One moment, one gesture of simple kindness, can it really be so difficult? Lack of humanity makes my heart so heavy. It's inconceivable it is so prevalent. Love your story, bro.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 07, 2018:

Hello Bill - My bad. I read this this morning and told myself I would be right back to comment. Then the comment seemed to get preempted. At times your writing seems to get into a zone with the words flowing effortlessly. I saw this reading 'Resurrecting Tobias' and I see it here. It could be your signature style. I can relate to, "I just lost him."

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 07, 2018:

Profoundly sad story Bill, you have the gift. The detail is frightening, hard to tell fact from fiction. I'm thankful I don't have to.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Thank you very much, Peg! Truth be told, I wish I didn't feel their pain quite so much, but the homeless have always bothered me greatly.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Thank you, Michael my friend, and yes, peace with us always, along with compassion and love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

yes there have been, RoadMonkey....this story actually came from my memories as a kid seeing WW2 vets with "shell-shock."

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 07, 2018:

This is deeply moving and heart-wrenching, so mindful of those friends that came back forever changed, never to be the same again. Some moved into different circles playing the games with LSD and other substances trying to find peace out of the horrors they've seen. You've really captured the essence of this sad reality.

Michael-Milec on March 07, 2018:

A tragedy of human in your story sounds more real than a fiction. I couldn't determine dividing line between two, since you have portrayed pain and suffering of homelessness as of first hand experience. Great writing my friend, great story.

Peace with us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

True, Flourish! They do keep calling me. Thanks for the tip.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Slowly, Sally, local governments are finding creative ways to help the homeless. It is heartening to see....stay warm my friend, and thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

God bless you, Mary, for caring.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 07, 2018:

Bill, when you write what's in your heart, it's about the homeless. You should follow that because it keeps calling you, buddy.

RoadMonkey on March 07, 2018:

So much truth in one short story. This one is about 'Nam but there have been others before and since where the damaged fought a war that was not theirs and who were abandoned once they had served their purpose!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on March 07, 2018:

Sorry I am so late in commenting on this one Billy. I went into the City this week and saw more homeless people than I have seen before. The cold must have been bitter for them this past week. It is high time the Government took some action to see that everyone has a home which is safe and which they can afford to live in.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Ruby, I was just thinking about you yesterday, wondering how you are in your new married life. It's so good to hear from you again. Thank you, as always, for your very kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

It is heartbreaking, Peggy. Too heartbreaking for me to ignore.

Thank you!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 07, 2018:

This story is sooo real to me. I know a man like your man, but he didn't take to the streets or do drugs. He fought a battle daily, screaming in fear. I know there are multitudes of men who fought and came home to find their old life, only to find everything changed. Your story is a reminder to stop and lend a helping hand along the way. You are such a good writer. You were able to bring the man into my heart. Thank you..

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 07, 2018:

You are right Bill. It is too close to reality. We know that each one of those we help out in the street has a story to tell. We wanted to buy food for a homeless the other day but the waitress in the restaurant said to ask him first because sometimes, he says no. We decided to just give him some money.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Thank you Shannon! Thank you very much for caring. I remember seeing a group of WW2 vets who used to walk around town when I was a kid..they never spoke..just walked around, staring at the ground, lost in their own world and the past. Heartbreaking for sure...so yes, you are right, in my own way I am an activist.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

It is my pleasure, Janine! Thank you so much for the kind words.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 07, 2018:

Way too many of our returning veterans suffer from one demon or another. People who engage in wars are scarred. Some bear their scars better than others. It is heartbreaking!

Shannon Henry from Texas on March 07, 2018:

Bill, you told me you're not an activist. However, your words say otherwise. You think they need to be seen and so you write. You write and you bring attention to the issues through stories that make people think and feel what they don't necessarily want to think about and feel.

This story reminded me of a particular incident from my relative youth. I was 18 or 19 at the time and back home from college on Spring Break. I'd been dating a guy who was going to college in Chicago so I went up there for a day or two. We were walking down Michigan Avenue. I can't even remember where we were headed, but I do remember passing this homeless man similar to the one you describe in your story, except that he didn't say a word to me. There was just something in his eyes that called to me. He looked so sad and lost. I reached into my pockets to give him enough to go buy a meal, buy my boyfriend yanked me by the arm and chastised me rather loudly because, according to him, they all just spend it on drugs or alcohol anyway. You can imagine the lecture. Boy, was I disgusted. With him, not the homeless man. It all breaks my heart. Not everyone is homeless because of drugs, criminal records, or drinking . And even if that contributed to the situation of some, that doesn't mean they are all bad people. In fact, that's the point. They are people .

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on March 07, 2018:

I always love your short fiction and this one is truly no exception to the rule. So thank you for sharing here with us and Happy Wednesday once again now :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Thank you, Nikki, for caring so deeply. You are appreciated.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Indeed, Linda! I actually mention that story in my latest novel.....great minds think alike, yes?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Thank you very much, Heidi! I appreciate you taking the time to read some of my fiction.

Nikki Khan from London on March 07, 2018:

Wonderful story Bill as always, you arean excellent story teller, I must say.

This is an important issue to be heard by local authorities to help homeless persons.

My heart really aches when I see anyone sitting on footpath with blankets and luggage :(

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 07, 2018:

Bill, as I read this my thoughts when to Sisyphus, damned by the gods to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll down when they near the top, repeating this action for eternity.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 07, 2018:

That he talked about himself in the third person is so telling. Thanks for sharing your storytelling art with us!