You Gonna Eat That?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Submitted: March 28, 2017

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Submitted: March 28, 2017

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By holding on to the edge of the dumpster, I was able to lean in and grab the pizza box.  I hate having to climb in.  Someone had thrown out half of a large pepperoni.  

 

It’s usually referred to as dumpster diving.  One time a journalist interviewed me.  He called it urban foraging.  I call it I’m hungry.

 

I’m not homeless.  I’m like a turtle.  I carry my home on my back.  I’m creative.  I know a lot of places to sleep.  Some of them are indoors.  People call me Humpback.

 

I don’t usually ask people for money.  But if someone makes eye contact with me, I’ll give them my best smile and say hello.  I’ve got a good story about lost my job can’t find work that pushes the right buttons maybe half the time.  I get a few bucks here and there.

 

The truth of the matter is, I don’t want a job.  Why?  I had one once.  I saw how people are.  What good is money if you have to kiss someone’s ass all the time?  Screw that.

 

I’m free, and most of you aren’t.  

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are huge downsides to this lifestyle.  Sometimes it’s dangerous.  Sometimes it’s wet and cold.  I don’t always find enough food.  A lot of times, it is lonely.

 

But all in all, the rest of you might be surprised how well some of us can get by.

 

Winter is the worst time.  I don’t like the shelters, but sometimes, it is just too cold.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that someone else is supplying me food and a warm place to sleep.  I just can’t stand the preaching.  That stuff isn’t for me.

 

My friend Bandaid lives in the woods a mile from the pizza joint.  I decided to share my catch with him.  The man is an enigma to me, he almost never talks.  Rarely says more than one word at a time.  But he is generous.  He’s given me food, blankets, and other useful items since we met a few years ago.

 

Somehow, Bandaid manages to survive, no matter what the weather, sleeping in a tiny cave up in the hills.  I’m pretty sure he has some kind of military background.  But I don’t know his real name, or much about him.  

 

When he first moved into the cave, he scared the hell out of me.  He is a large, muscular dude who barely ever talks.  He scowls a lot.  Not the kind of person you would want to see on the other side of a fight.

 

When the weather was mild I had been in the practice of sleeping near the cave, before Bandaid moved in.  Like I said, he is a scary dude.  I decided to move to another spot, a half mile farther down the road.  It wasn’t far enough.

 

I usually wake up when the sun rises.  The best urban foraging goes on early in the morning.  I was in my sleeping bag, blinking my eyes, deciding if I was awake enough to get up.  When a large, bearded man appeared above me.  I had not heard him approach.  I let out an involuntary scream.

 

He backed away a few steps.  Then motioned with his hand, like he wanted me to stand up.

 

I thought, “So this guy wants me to stand up before he kicks my ass?”  

 

But nothing like that happened.  I stood, and he extended his arm.  He was holding a plastic grocery bag.  He said, “You.”

 

I took the bag and looked inside.  It contained goodies.  Candy bars, bottled water, a pack of gum, and a cigarette lighter.

 

“Thanks, brother” started coming from my mouth, but faded out as I looked up, and realized the man was gone.  Like he had arrived, he left without a sound.  I had to look down at the bag again to convince myself it was real.  I hadn’t just imagined all of this.

 

That is pretty much what it is like around Bandaid.

 

I know he has some kind of medical background.  I am certain of that, because that first winter, he sewed up a bad cut on my hand.

 

There was snow on the ground when I was bringing him some food.  The slope was deceiving and I slipped.  I landed on my butt and had instinctively put my hand down as I fell.  It was just my luck there was a piece of broken glass on the ground where my hand hit.  Went right through my glove.

 

I pulled off the glove and looked at my palm.  There was blood and a one inch gash below my little finger.  It went all the way through the skin.  I remembered dissecting a rat in high school biology class.  I realized the thin white strand I was looking at was a tendon.  Not good.

 

I’d seen a first aid kit in one of the boxes of supplies my friend kept in his cave.  I figured he could tape up the wound.  He did that and much more.  In a cave, lit by a flashlight, he performed surgery.

 

His usual scowl disappeared when I showed him the damage.  He got busy.  First he washed his hands.  Not a simple task in a cave with no sink or running water.  He had bottled water and what looked like clean towels.  

 

Then he soaked a cotton ball in alcohol and used it to clean the cut.  That was one of the few times I’ve heard him say two words in a row.  When he grabbed my hand, he said, “Hold still.”

 

What I had thought of as a first aid kit turned out to be much more.  He spoke again as he showed me the curved needle, with suture looped through the eyehole at the end.  “Gonna hurt.”

 

I did my best not to flinch as he put five precisely knotted stitches in my hand.  It looked like I’d gone to the emergency room.  Obviously it wasn’t the first time he’d done this.

 

He dabbed with iodine and placed an adhesive bandage over the wound. Then wrapped some tape around my hand to secure everything.  “Done.”

 

I said, “Thank you, my friend.  I owe you for this.  You are one hell of a bandaiding mother fucker!”

 

That was the first time I ever heard him laugh.  And when I started calling him Bandaid.  He usually smiles when I call him that.

 

I may never know any more than that about him.  That’s okay.  People like us, we just take it one day at a time.

 

 

Lt. Colonel Michael McLeary tried to shake off the ringing in his ears.  It took a moment to realize what had happened.  He was in a busy market, crowded with civilians.  Then, a loud explosion.  He had instinctively dropped to the ground.  He survived.  

 

Not the case for the young woman, closer to the explosion.  The back of her head was gone.  The baby she had been carrying was bleeding, but still breathing.  McLeary picked up the child and began running.  The hospital where his unit was stationed was just a few blocks away.

 

It didn’t matter.  The child died in his arms.  

 

Life can be cruel.  You can be smart enough to be valedictorian of your class.  Tough enough to do three tours in a war.  And fragile enough to be broken.  That was when the nightmares started.

 


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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