A monsoon of a storm hit the city. A person with a bright green umbrella crossed the six lane highway. Not in knowledge of the cold or even the rain. It was as though there was no rain. The person crossed the parking lot and finally entered a store. A gale wind hit just as the person entered the store. No one could be found in a five mile radius. All were busy staying out of the rain. Most everyone bickered and whined about the weather. Most preferred clear skies.
The wind still howled but the monsoon slowed to a shower and a creature crawled out from a bush under a building. It made its way to the store the green umbrella had entered. Standing there it shivered. A man in Calvin Klein walked out; the creature put its hand out and asked for a hand out. The man sniffed made a comment under his breath and stomped off. A bit put off by the lack of humanity in the world the creature just stood there. Water dripped from an indescribable pile of rags draped over him. Little could be said about this creature there was nothing to say what it was. All that could be told is it walked on two legs and was in crushing poverty.
The automatic doors slid open and a bright green umbrella poked out. The person attached to the umbrella was singing a song about how "rain is a good thing". A lady came almost skipping along. If it wasn't so frowned upon, it was apparent she would have been dancing. Seeing the creature she automatically pulled out all the change she had. Smiling she asked about the welfare of other homeless people. As though she was asking and talking about family members there was not one note of disgust in her voice. She didn't see a creature in rags. She saw her father in poverty and in need of a helping hand. It was a simple thing she stood for but it made all the difference. Humanity is what kept the heart from giving up and reminded the hopeless that there was still love in the world. In bankruptcy herself, unemployed for over three years, and in need of a helping hand herself she still gave what little she had to those in need. If given the ability she would do far more.
For a short time she spoke with the homeless man. She learned his name to be Morgan. He came to know that there was a good person left in the city. She let him know that he could ask anything and she would do her best to help.
A manager of the store walked out and gave a signal for them to keep going. After warm farewells the two stopped loitering and moved along. Morgan made his way into the warm and dry store. The bright green umbrella bobbed across the parking lot and across the crosswalk. She tried not to smile when she saw and old friend in the driver's seat of a squad car. From since she knew him he was not the most law abiding of citizens. But to get to carry a weapon, drive a fast car, and to get to run red lights it wasn't a surprise. Secretly she liked him and secretly he had gone out of his way to go out on patrol when he saw her pass by the station.
It had been almost three years since he had made lieutenant. He had made it into the sheriff's department. In 2007 he had stopped a notorious criminal. This had elevated him to a position that made him a necessary member of the squad. Now he worked towards a better package and better benefits. But at the moment he was quite comfortable. With an almost new used truck and having just moved from the one bedroom to a two bedroom with yard and garage life was just right. A new girlfriend whom his parents adored made him the talk of the town. People aspired to be him and used him as an example. No one knew how truly unhappy he was.
At the same time every day the notorious La Vida Loca, as everyone called the girl, would pass by the station on her way to the stores. At the same time every day the lieutenant would go out on patrol. To escape the brainless chatter and gossip of his coworkers he would make up some excuse about the same time of the day. The others joked and made fun of him but it didn't matter. He couldn't stand sitting behind a desk, even though he could now do that with the new position. Lieutenant Neo, as they all called him due to a near death experience when he was a traffic cop, set out a half hour after La Vida Loca passed by the station.
As usual he missed her again but he didn't miss the sheriff heading to harass a homeless man again. The sheriff being stopped in traffic, Lieutenant Neo was able to beat him to the homeless man. Rolling up he was not at all surprised to see Ol' Morgan. For some unknown reason the sheriff, or Robo cop as some called him, absolutely hated Ol' Morgan. Some said it was because back when the sheriff was a lieutenant the old Boss Hog of the town would constantly send him on errands for Ol' Morgan. "Take Morgan to the shelter. Give Morgan a lift to the clinic. Arrest the lawyer's kid who stole Morgan's cigarettes." These were rumored to really piss off the Robo cop whom became the next sheriff due to a very suspicious death. After the Boss Hog sheriff mysteriously ended up dead in a ditch the Robo cop became sheriff. Ever since, the new sheriff, Robo cop has had a personal vendetta for Ol' Morgan.
There were two lieutenants who served under and truly admired the old country sheriff and they would watch out for Ol' Morgan. To everyone else Ol' Morgan was just a worthless homeless man. Everyone else in the department would pick on the two officers who showed compassion for the homeless man. Calling them hobo lovers and charity cases the other officers would put them down. But this only separated them from the others. People spoke more openly with them and other homeless wouldn't panic or attack these two.
Therefore when Lieutenant Neo approached Ol' Morgan he didn't run or even frown instead Ol' Morgan actually smiled. To Ol Morgan this lieutenant was like the son he lost. Young, naïve but he had a good heart. This was hard found in the cold concrete jungle. In a place full of hatred and cruelty, goodness was highly regarded and appreciated.
"Oh is that Griffith's boy?" Said Ol' Morgan when the squad car pulled up and the lieutenant got out.
"I remember when you were just a lad of ten. Remember how you always had a red superman cape on?" Ol' Morgan smiled with a warm fatherly laugh.
"I do." The officer looked down at his feet embarrassed.
"Do you still have that cape?"
"No, but my mother does and every holiday I'm around she pulls it out to remind me of how nuts I was." He smiles in appreciation for a reminder of his childhood.
"Oh it wasn't nuts."
"Yes it was," the officer frowns.
"So do you have any little ones of your own?"
"What do you mean?"
"When you're a father you will understand."
"Me," the man laughs, "Oh like I'll ever be married or with kids, like I'll ever settle down. I'm a lone wolf, a free spirit, I cannot be tamed."
"You sound like I did at your age. A restless soul in search of adventure but soon just like I found at your age the biggest adventure is the adventure of love and family. The rest of life doesn't compare to what true love of a good woman and your own children can give you."
"I guess." The lieutenant catches himself looking at Ol' Morgan the bum like a long lost father he didn't know he had.
For a split second of a split moment the two are on level ground.
The CB blared and the lieutenant looked up to see the robo cop approaching.
"Morgan." The lieutenant didn't hide his haste and urgency for Morgan to move on.
Morgan simply nodded his head.
It was too late. The sheriff was only a minute away.
"Morgan get in the car."
"This is not negotiable. In the car now!" He was very direct but gave Morgan a sense of protection. "It'll be okay."
The lieutenant opened the door and Morgan got in.
The sheriff rolled up just as the door closed. He got out of his car with a real pissed off look on his face. Stomping he walked up to the lieutenant. For two whole minutes he argued with the lieutenant to release Morgan to him, the sheriff. He would take care of the bum for him. He told the lieutenant that there was a call that the lieutenant could handle better. The lieutenant didn't back down and eventually the sheriff pissed off for not letting him have his way squealed off.
The lieutenant then took Ol' Morgan to his camp. All the way there neither one talked. When the car was parked Ol' Morgan asked the officer if he would be okay.
"You sure it's okay going against an order could get you fired."
"Oh not me I'm a local hero didn't you know. I'll be fine. I'll make up some story about how you had a heart attack or something."
"Absolutely not but it's what's right." He was serious about what he said.
"Thank you." Ol' Morgan wobbled out of the car.
The bright green umbrella made its way home. Halfway there it stopped when a faded paint Toyota Tacoma truck squeaked stop. The rain pelted the window that slowly rolled down.
"Mi amiga, where you go?"
"Up the hill"
Lifting a grocery bag with a gallon of milk in it and then pulling a backpack with a gallon of milk in it she got in the truck. The milk trips were always the most tedious. 20 pounds and 2 plus miles up a steep hill, she had no need for a tread mill or fitness gym. There were only two types of people in her area that would stop and were safe to hitch-hike. An elderly neighbor and pretty much the whole immigrant population save for a few wealthy ones. As long as the vehicle looked like it was uninsured or old, a person who couldn't afford a lawyer she could hitch a lift. Yet for all the days she walked and for all the friends she thought she had, no one but strangers ever stopped. She had even asked her so-called friends for lifts but no one not even the ones she had given lifts, lunch money, and allowed them to steal from her would budge.
But those acquaintances, the people her so-called friends said to stay away from, would without complaining, without asking for money, without any air, with fewer problems give her helping hand. These acquaintances she rarely ever saw again. These acquaintances she rarely even knew their names. But for all the times she was left in the rain and cold by her so-called friends she thanked God for her acquaintances. She knew if any one of those people, those acquaintances, ever needed help she would do her best to help them. If she ever found herself in a better situation she knew exactly who she would show favor and dote upon. It would not be the so-called friends. She would be found in the slums of her city pouring money upon those she truly considered friends. She would find herself pouring money into elderly funds and helping the homeless. But that would be if life ever got better.
Closing the truck door the whole vehicle shook. It was apparent that the vehicle wasn't registered. From the deep accent, fluent Spanish, and old world manners the driver was a new immigrant. The umbrella at her feet a gallon of milk on the floor and a gallon of milk on her lap a smile spread across her face. If she could she would buy the driver a brand new truck, no questions, plain and simple. If only life could be that simple.
No questions, plain and simple the driver dropped her off at her home. The two exchanged polite farewells and went on their way.
A week later the rain storm had moved on. The bright green umbrella leaned against a door with peeling paint. As the sun began to set a girl with faded jeans, a thin shirt, and a pair of worn sandals walked out of an apparent two generation home. Not pausing for one moment she kept walking. With head phones on she didn't even hear a car passing by with slurs spilling out at her. In her world she was not in a cold or cruel city in her mind she was in a warm tropical destination. The Latin music spilling out of her headphones and a small breeze blowing through her hair made everything far better. No longer did she see, hear, or even realize there were unhappy people or such negativity. In her mind the world was a wonderful place full of music, dancing, singing, parties, and happiness. It was only a state of mind.
Some would wonder and sometimes even ask how she could be so happy. She had no job, she had no opportunity, and she had nothing but poverty to look forward to. Some incorrectly believed she had to be taking or drinking something. Some would ask her what she was on. She would correctly answer the only thing she was on was life. She would think, "Why are they so unhappy?" She had no idea how little most had to complain about.
So, she skipped down to the park to play tennis. There was only one person who would play tennis with her. But the person was just a show off and was stuck up about it. Most days she would play against the wall in the court. It was a faster game anyways. Fully aware of the stupidity in it she didn't care. It gave her something to do. Plus if it was quiet at the park she could turn up her radio and get away with dancing. An hour or two went by unnoticed. Due to her recent idling and unemployment, time went by without hindrance.
The bluish brown sky turned to a brilliant pink and purple, something similar to an over done sunset painting. The colors were in such high contrast many people had to strain their eyes in order to see. Bright neon green leaves on the trees and bright neon green spears of grass, the rest was dark from the on setting shadows. The breeze turned into a wind. The temperature fell. Walking through the local slums to get to a near McDonald she walked right into a good old friend. As usual he smiled as an uncle would. She smiled back as though he was her uncle.
"Hola! Donde va senorita?" The old graying Spanish man talked to her as usually honest and caring.
"McDonalds. Como trabajo?" She always felt safe around this man.
"Horrible as usual," laughing, he tripped walking up to his door.
"Oh Garcia you okay?" The girl leapt in the direction of the man tripping to catch him.
Garcia caught himself and looked at the girl with amusement, "Oh Sophia don't worry 'bout me. The spring weather is just getting to me."
"Okay," she said with hesitation.
"Do you need a lift anywhere?"
"Oh I can manage," Sophia smiled confidently, "plus I love this weather."
"Sophia you love all weather. As a matter of fact you love everything." Garcia earnestly looked at this girl his daughter went to school with. "Sophia is there anything you don't love?"
"Um poverty and lack of parties," waving goodbye, "Aloha Garcia!"
"Hasta luego Sophia!"
As good friends with no true reason to be good friends they nonchalantly went on their own way with no care to the power behind a simple friendship. Sophia went on to her hour of drinking a dollar drink at McDonalds. Garcia went on to making a meal out of nothing for his family.
Walking to the McDonalds she took a less walked sidewalk to avoid bumping into anyone else. Instead of bumping into another person she tripped over someone. A still body was sticking out from a dark bush next to the sidewalk. Sophia had stepped on the person's leg causing her to fall to the ground. The shade under the bush she couldn't tell who the lifeless body was. It didn't even move when she had kicked the leg. The heat and her imagination weighed down on her. Legs were all she could see from where she stood.
"God I hope it's not a dead body."
Grumbling came from the bush and, "I'm not dead, unfortunately," could barely be distinguished.
A man, Ol' Morgan emerged from the bush. She grabbed his arm to steady him and help him stand up. He shook off as much of the heat as possible. But that kind of heat from poverty is impossible to shake off.
"Join me for a soda at McD's?"
"Oh I'm okay." Ol' Morgan tried his hardest to seem not needing of anything.
Sophia pulled out ,the last of her money, two dollars and put it in Ol' Morgan's hand. She slowly started walking towards McDonalds. A few feet away from him she stopped and turned his way.
"So you coming or what?"
"Oh sure why not?" He hurried to catch up with her.
"Just to let you know you're paying." The two laughed in the deepest understanding of one another.
Dodging traffic at the stop light then dodging the glances or glares they made their way to the counter to order. The two ordered together. Each picking something off the dollar menu it was discouraging and embarrassing when they came up ten cents short. Glaring the teller was not going to spare ten cents for their type. Helping those two, Sophia and Morgan, the society believed did nothing but could possibly ruin a reputation. Only helping the wealthy or politically endowed did a person any good. So though many a time both Sophia and Morgan caught the tellers sparing change for other people even sparing dollars this time change would not be spared. Morgan and Sophia were too poor to take pity on. But after embarrassing the teller and some people in line they found some change. Asking people in line for ten cents they found themselves another person that was just as poor as they were. A person who truthfully shouldn't give away change right away without being asked walked up from where he was eating lunch and handed the teller a dime with a side of disapproval for all the self centered people in line.
Morgan and Sophia with gracious smiles both said thank you.
The elderly man simply nodded, then turned around and glared at everyone in line. Morgan and Sophia sat at a table outside away from the glares and opinionated glances. As they sat watching traffic come and go a truck rumbled by in the drive through. It could barely move and it stalled when it had stopped at the pickup window. From the look of it the thing looked like it had been rolled down a hill and caught on fire. A long line of traffic followed behind it a few were even honking in impatience. Morgan smiled in remembrance of the days passed by when he was the man holding up traffic. The windows were all down and it was easy to see the young man was flustered. It was easy to see he resented that old truck he drove. In a protest to the better off Sophia waved and yelled to the driver.
"I love your truck! You're a true Americana!"
The young man smirked and regained his pride. He honked his horn with enthusiasm. Morgan sat for a moment in silence. After a few minutes Sophia broke the silence with a story about an old bronco truck she once knew. Her friend had flipped it over railroad tracks. It had flipped twice landing on its side. With the help of a friend and a tow rope it was put back up on its wheels. The funny part it started right up no need for a tow truck.
"I had a truck like that. It was a red 65' Ford F100." Ol' Morgan stared out into the haze. Asphalt, traffic, and city did not cross his mind. The truck, the haze brought him back to the days of dirt, cattle, and farm. "It wasn't that long ago when I had a home of my own."
"Is that so?" Sophia looked at him with her usual inquisitive gaze.
"Two stories, red shutters, orange door, big double stacker barn, a long horned steer, a tire swing, and an ice cold pond oh those were the days." He takes a sip from his water. "Before I was homeless…"
"Ol' Morgan tell me more."