When I heard a few birds singing their early morning songs, it seemed it would be a perfect day. The sun shone through the white curtains upon my wife's face. She looked even more beautiful then when I married her. I got out of my bed and searched for my bathrobe. It was lying down on the bathroom's light colored floor. I picked it up and put it on. When I walked down the stairs, I heard some noises coming from the other room, down the hall. I guess the kids woke up because of the birds, just like me.
A lot of people have morning rituals, things they always do before they can start up their day. Some people need to take dump or they need some morning exercise in the form of jogging or some shit as yoga. Not for me. Not that I don't have a morning ritual, in fact, I do. I need a fresh cup of coffee and my newspaper. Without them, I'm not the guy you want to pass by early on the day.
The loud, crackling noise of the coffee beans that were being crushed and made into fresh coffee defiantly woke up the children. But I didn't care. Normally they'd wake me up. I took a gulp of the coffee. It tasted damn great. I already felt woken up. As I walked out the front door, on my way to the mailbox where my freshly pressed paper was put in, I noticed that it was extremely hot for this hour of the day. The air above the asphalted road was blurry because of the rising heat. The early birds were already taking a bath in the neighbor's pond. If felt a bit unusual, there was something strange about it. Not only about the birds, the whole ten minutes I was awake, seemed different than normal. I opened the mailbox and took my newspaper out of it. In my right hand my coffee, in my left hand my newspaper. Couldn't be better.
In the distance I saw a man walking, with a shopping cart. Must be one of the many homeless people in this city, I thought. This place is getting fuller by the minute. Streets full of tramps asking you for change or they're harassing young women. He came closer and he took notice of me.
"Hey! Hey, man! Please don't run off like all the others, I want to ask you something!" he yelled.
I stood still and saw him getting closer.
"What is it, that you want to ask?"
"I need a place to stay," he said.
It is not that I'm a bad guy or something, but this didn't feel good. I don't know the guy or the reason why he's living on the street. For all I know, he'd be a serial killer who eats his victims. I have two kids you know, I can't let anything happen to them. But this man, he had something in his eyes. Something recognizable. They looked awful a lot like mine. Maybe I saw a unfortunate version of myself in him that made me decide I wanted to help him.
"Please, man. Only for one night. The cops are looking for me. They want to put me in a shelter for homeless. I've been there, man. I can't live through that shit man."
"Ah, why not? Come on in," I said while I pushed his cart towards the garage.
"Thank you, man. Thank you for this opportunity," he replied.
What the fuck did he mean with that? An opportunity for what? Having a place to stay for a night is not an opportunity. Whatever, homeless people can talk crap, that's just the way it is. Walking on the streets with these temperatures with only rum to drink can make your mind fucked up. Kind of sad actually, we live in big houses, safe, and with a future in sight, while they live on the street, struggling for their lives. They're getting yelled at, getting into fights, and most of all they are the most fanatic drinkers on earth. Only a fool would take part in such a life. So, can't blame a fool for saying stupid things, right?
He said his name was Jack. I didn't care at all actually. He would stay one night before I kicked him back on the street. One day, one night and I'd never see this tramp again. I made him clear, that if he'd be any trouble, I'd call the cops to pick him up. I put a bowl on the table and grabbed cornflakes.
"You hungry?" I asked him.
I didn't get a response. He sat down and started to eat. The cornflakes that didn't make it to his mouth, got stuck in his long dark beard. The noises he made while eating, were indescribable.
"Who is that?" I heard someone asking.
Maria and the children stood there, looking at Jack.
"This is Jack," is said.
"And who is jack?" My little daughter, Jamie, asked.
"Jack is homeless and he need a place to stay for today, and tonight," I told her while walking towards them.
We heard a loud, choking sound coming from Jack. A larger piece of cornflake got stuck in his, by alcohol, damaged throat. He made a fist and hit himself on the chest. His hand was incredible dirty. His nails were long and black, his hand was more brown than skin colored, and he was missing a little finger. Now that doesn't really matter, but it looked like he lost it a couple of hours before, poorly stitched and still with some blood stains on it. He hit himself a few times more. The choking noise stopped. Jamie asked him if he was all right. But… there was no response. Jack continued eating without looking at my family even once. Prick. All he had to do was look up one time. Take a look into my daughter and son's eyes, just to be polite or to see what he's missing in his miserable life. Now my kids were around, I had to be nice to this guy. Otherwise, I'd kicked him out already. He was rude and he stank. I made a huge mistake letting him in, I knew by now.
The rest of the day was actually quite good. We were all doing our thing, sitting by the pool trying to escape the immense heat and Jack walked around a bit, looking at himself in the mirrors, feeling how soft the carpet in the living room was or he was trying to find my secret stash of liquor. My son was swimming and playing this basketball kind of game, but then the pool version of it, with Maria. I was reading a lousy magazine about finding your inner-self. Crap, that is what those sort of magazines are. Jamie laid on a lounge chair next to mine, listening to music and reading that what most of the ten years old do.
Jack walked into the garden. Everybody looked at him. For a moment in was silent, nobody said a thing, the birds were all of a sudden quite and even the flowing water didn't make a sound. He walked up to Jamie. Strange. He bend over a little and took a loud sniff. That freak was smelling the hair of my daughter!
"What the fuck are you doing?" I said and pushed him away from her.
I could totally kill this guy right now. Nobody would even care, because he was only a homeless piece of shit. Kick him out of my house? Damn. No. I'm not a bad person. I promised he could stay for a night, and so he can.
"I'm sorry, man. You know, I missed the smell of fresh hair, the smell of a little daughter."
Maria walked up to him: "You have a daughter?"
"No, not yet. Right now my life is not great, not great enough to raise a kid. Not yet…" Jack replied.
"What, future plans or something?" I asked him with a sarcastic tone.
"something like that, yeah. Near future plans…"
I needed something, something that helped to cool down. The doorbell rang, saved by the bell, I had an excuse to walk away.
"Try something, pal, when I go there, and I will fuck you up," I said, pointing at his face while I walked in to the house.
I opened the front door and there stood two men. The left one was tall, dark and looked like he could lift a piano by himself. The right guy was smaller, fatter and had a mustache. The both worn blue uniforms.
"Have you seen a homeless guy lately, sir?" The fat one asked.
Yes, yes I have. Come on in and I point you where he is. What do you say? Why I let him in my house? Why I know he isn't a murderer or a rapist? Good questions, officer. These were just thoughts, spinning through my mind at the time. My hands were clammy and my head was sweaty. I didn't say a thing. I tried to, but I couldn't. I couldn't decide if should get the tramp out of my house, or to defend him and tell these two guys I haven't seen a homeless person.
"Are you all right, sir?" The left one asked.
"Yes… Uhm… I'm… Erm… I'm all right. And I haven't seen Ja…, I mean this homeless person you're speaking of."
The dark one looked into my eyes, as if he could see I was lying. They turned around and walked away. Fatty stepped into the car. The tall guy waited. He looked at me before he stepped in. He laughed a bit, not much, but enough to see a row of shiny white teeth.
That fucking sack of shit, called Jack, picked the right house to stay. I can't hurt people that, turning them in to the police. Especially when they already have a shitty life. I walked back into the house. As I grabbed a cup of coffee in the kitchen, I looked at the clock. It was almost dinner time. I asked jack if he could take a shower before dinner, so his smell wouldn't ruin our appetite. He walked up the stairs. I told him were to find fresh towels and soap and I remind him that he shouldn't try anything funny up there. Jamie was still a little bit upset by the incident. I told her Jack meant it right, but had some trouble with his social skills. She went inside.
I checked my phone for any news updates and saw that there was an alert for a crazy person walking lose in town. There weren't any pictures but they signaled him as an average length guy with a long dark beard, a nasty smell around him and a missing finger. Ouch, that sounds a lot like the strange man who's taking a shower in my house at this time. Could it be coincidence? It has to. Or maybe Jack is indeed a crazy person who escaped from the asylum. Oh, wait, an extra update, he has blue eyes. Great fucking news! I have green eyes, and as I noticed before, Jack eyes looked a lot like mine, green as well. Thank God, he is not a maniac. Well, he is a sort of, smelling hair and acting all weird, but not the dangerous kind.
It was dinner time. Jack had taken his shower, he smelled nice, but funny. I think he took my daughters shampoo. At least he doesn't have to smell her again. He also had shaved himself. His beard was gone and now he just looked like a normal person, with longer hair. I saw that not only his eyes looked like mine. In fact, his whole face looked a bit like me. As if I was staring at myself in a mirror that projects longer hair on you. Maria took notice of it as well. She whispered in my ear, she thought it was creepy. And so it was.
Jack offered to cook. We were surprised he could actually cook and that he was this nice. So he cooked. I don't know what he was making, it smelled odd and there was a lot of smoke coming out of the kitchen. He finished and we sat down at the table.
"First of all, I'd like to apologize for my earlier behavior. Especially to the little miss. And I'd like to bring out a toast, to this nice family and that there will never, ever happen anything bad to them," said jack on a very civilized tone.
A nice toast, but he looked very intriguing to me when he said the last part.
The food was absolutely horrible. It tasted like we were chewing on roasted dead cats. And that sounds just as fucked up as the whole dinner was. We tried not to be rude, so we ate it. Or at least we tried eating it. Judged on the kid's faces, they didn't like it as well. Jack seemed to have no problem with it at all. He ate it like he ate the cornflakes earlier this day.
Later that evening I showed Jack where he could sleep. It was the spare room we had, next to the room of Jamie.
"I have a strange feeling of letting this guy sleep so close to our daughter," I said to Maria, "You have seen him today, he's completely fucked up. What if he tries something?"
She told me not to worry. If anything happened, I could kick him out of the house and maybe rough him up a little, she said. It was nice to have a wife like her. She never really worried about those sort of things and she always made me feel okay and relaxed.
When I opened my eyes, the sun was already shining again. I turned my head around but the space next to me was empty. She must be downstairs, having breakfast already I thought. I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth. There was lying a lot of hair on the floor. Long, brown hair. It wasn't Maria's, she's blonde, the same counts for Jamie.
"Last day in a house for Jack, he wants to look good when he gets back on the street," I said to myself.
The children were also awake. Their beds were empty and cold so they were awake for some time already. Jack's bed was also empty. His room looked still like how I made it ready for him. Or he is a very clean person, which I don't think, or he didn't sleep there at all, which makes me wonder, what the hell did he do? As I walked down the wooden stairs, I heard voices coming from the kitchen. They were talking and laughing. A deep, low voice made the children and Maria laugh. I walked into the kitchen to get my morning cup of coffee.
"Ah, If that's not our sleeping beauty," the low voice said.
Jamie laughed hard about his joke. My son never liked fairytales, so he sat there, staring at me.
"Last morning eh?" I said in a teasing way.
They all nodded at the same time. I put on the coffee machine. I felt eight eyes poking in my back.
"Feeling at home already? That's a shame on your last day. Next time ask it, before you use it," said Jack a bit tempered.
Funny guy. I laughed. Nobody else did, which made me feel a bit weird. So I drank my coffee and we ate breakfast. Nothing was said actually. Is was silent, like the silence before a storm. And hell, there was a storm coming. I noticed Jack eyes were not green anymore, but blue. Strange… I stood up, turned to Jack and I gave him a hand.
"It was great getting to know you. I think we can all learn something of people like you."
I don't know why I said that. It sounded as horrible as I thought of it before. I also didn't really mean it. Jamie walked up to me and hugged me.
"Goodbye mister. In the beginning, I thought you were a bit strange, but you are actually a good guy," she told me.
"Jamie, sweetheart, you're saying goodbye to the wrong person, Jack is over there," I said as I turned her towards Jack.
And then again, it was silent. All of a sudden, Jack and the others started to laugh very loud, almost insulting, at me. What the fuck was so funny? Were they messing with me or something?
"Oh, poor baby," Maria hugged me, "living on the streets must be really hard, it got you all confused. You know what, you'll get some nice sandwiches, water and twenty bucks with you. To help you get back on your feet."
She looked serious. I know her for more than ten years, I know when she means something and when she's fooling around. This was not fooling around.
"Maria, what the fuck are you talking about? That guy has to leave. We told him yesterday he could only stay one night!"
"My husband?" she answered.
"Husband, husband, what the fuck? You are my wife! This goddamn idiot is a tramp! You're my fucking wife and I'm your husband!" I yelled at her.
"Mister, you should watch your words, my children aren't being raised like that. And you shouldn't yell at my wife," said Jack, looking angry at once.
These were my children, these still are my children and now they wanted to kick me out of their house! My house! My Wife and my kids! I screamed as Jack tried to push me out. I hit him in the face and tried to get to my kids. He came back with a stick and hit me on my face and knees. He tried to drag me out. I screamed more and started to cry. The tears fell on the floor. I was being dragged away from my life, my everything. Maria stood in the kitchen, with her arms around my son and daughter. They looked terrified. I will never forget the looks on their faces. Everything went blurry, my screaming was fading away and I could only see my family as I got kicked out of the door.
"And now get the hell out our faces or I'll call the police!" Jack yelled at me as he threw his stick to me.
And there I stood, in front of the house. My eyebrow was bleeding and my knee was hurting like shit. Tears filled my eyes and flowed over my face. The big white door closed. So this was it. I got kicked out of my life. A look-a-like homeless person took his trust in my family and for some reason my wife and kids don't recognize me anymore as their husband and father.
I looked up to the house and I saw Jack standing behind the large front window. He had a sinister laugh on his face. He waved. As I counted, he had all his ten fingers and then I saw I was missing my little finger. It had some bloodstains and it was terrible stitched.
Written by: Pim van den Boogaard