As always, thank you to my awesome team. PapaKilo14 is my editor. Hope everything keeps getting better. Hal does an edit to clean up after us and he's very cool. My beta readers are the best in the business. Pixel the Cat, who amazes me every day, OldDave1951(recovering nicely, thank God) and GeorgeAnderson (also recovering), my very special friend. Love you guys and thank you so much.
I stumbled out the patio door with a nightstick in my hand. The damn dogs were in my trash again. The rumble of my trash container turning over woke me up. This was the third time this week and I was getting sick of it. Why couldn't people keep their damn dogs at home? I knew the dogs were just hungry, but this was ridiculous.
I opened the back gate stealthily and prepared to rush out and deal the mangy curs some punishment. I flung the gate open and dashed to the garbage containers. There were two dark forms with one container on its side. I raised the club and they noticed me.
"Please, mister, we was just hungry," one of them said. "We'll clean it up! Don't hit us!"
It wasn't dogs; it was two children. They were definitely feral, though. It was dark back there and I grabbed them by the collars, dragging them into the backyard under the security lights. I stood them up and looked them over. They were ragged and dirty. They looked like vagabonds. They had on nondescript baggy clothes and ball caps. It was cold out and I could see them shivering.
"Did you two turn my garbage over earlier in the week?" I asked.
They looked at one another. "Yes, you always leave some stuff like pizza or something in your trash," one of them said. "I'm sorry we left it. We won't do it anymore. Just let us go, mister, we won't bother you no more. We'll clean it up."
This wouldn't do. I took them firmly by the shirts and marched them inside. I took them straight to the bathroom, pushed them in and shut the door. "Don't come out until I get back," I said.
I went and got some of my ex-wife's sweatpants, hoodies, clean socks and big fluffy towels. I took them to the bathroom and opened the door. They were trying to open the window and get away. "You may like being dirty," I told them, "but I don't think a hot shower is going to hurt you. There's soap and shampoo in the shower. Here are clean clothes and towels. Get undressed and get in the shower."
"We don't like being dirty," the biggest one hissed at me. "We ain't got no nice shower like you. You just going to stand there?"
"You might steal something," I said.
"Yeah, right," the little one said. "We going to steal your toilet paper. We ain't thieves. You some kind of a pervert, mister? You like little girls?"
I was dumbfounded. Now that I looked closely, there were definitely girls under all that dirt. "I ... I..." I stammered, "I didn't know you were girls. Just clean up and I'll get you something to eat. Come to the kitchen when you get clean and I'll feed you."
I left them the bathroom and went to the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator and took stock. There was cold fried chicken, half a bowl of potato salad, a half-eaten vegetable tray, some pastrami for sandwiches and baby dill pickles. I divided the chicken onto two plates. There were three pieces for each one and I gave them each a big pile of potato salad. I put the veggies on a plate and got some ranch for them to dip in. Some pickles on the plate, a pastrami sandwich for each of us and some chips for me, and them too, if they wanted them, completed a pretty good meal, I thought. I hoped they liked Muenster cheese, mayo and mustard on their sandwiches.
I heard the bathroom door open quietly and whispers outside the kitchen door. After a minute, two of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen walked into my kitchen. They had long, midnight black hair and olive skin. The greenest eyes on earth, a little almond shaped, high cheekbones and just the cutest little noses imaginable made them quite a pair. They looked like they hadn't quite made it to teen yet, maybe eleven or twelve. It was funny seeing them in Brianna's clothes. She's a tall girl and they were very little. They had sleeves and pant legs rolled up and they looked like vagabonds.
"Pull up a chair," I invited them. "Do you like Coke, or I have juice or milk."
They both wanted milk. "I'm McCay North," I told them as I poured their milk. I sat it on the counter in front of them. "Dig in."
"I'm Maggie," the big one said. "That's short for Margret. She's Stokely. Can we really eat all this?"
"You can have more if you want another sandwich," I said. "I'll cook for you in the morning. I'm not cooking at 2 AM."
"No, this is good. Thank you," Stokely said.
Maggie looked at me suspiciously. "What do you want from us? We ain't doing no nasty stuff."
I laughed. "No, me either. If either one of you has any designs on my virtue, you're going to be disappointed."
They clearly didn't understand my sense of humor. "I'm not available to little girls," I said.
I could tell they didn't like the "little girls" reference but they started eating. They ate like wolves. "Hey, whoa, slow down," I told them. "It isn't trying to get away. The chickens are dead and the potatoes were never very fast. You're going to make yourselves sick!"
That got a chuckle out of them but they ate less ravenously. "Where are you girls staying?" I asked them.
"There's an empty house down the block," Maggie said. "We found a mattress and we've got some stuff to cover up with. We're afraid the crackheads are going to move in, though. As soon as they find out it's empty they will."
"Would you like to sleep in a warm, clean bed tonight?" I asked them.
They looked at me suspiciously again. "Not mine," I laughed. "I have three spare bedrooms. Well, they're mine too, but you know what I mean."
They giggled nervously. "We ain't got no money," Stokely said. "We can't pay you. We collect cans, but we just spend all that on food."
"I'm not asking you to pay me," I said. "Did you hear me say I want you to pay me?"
"What gives?" she asked. "Why you being so nice to us, Mc ... Mc..."
"Call me Mack," I said. "Everyone does."
"Why you acting all nice, Mack?" she asked.
"I'm not 'acting' any way," I told her. "I'm a nice guy, just ask my Mom." That got smiles from them. I liked that. I decided I'd make them do it a lot. "If I were in your shoes I'd want someone to be nice to me," I said.
They seemed to consider that. "Can I have some of those chips?" Stokely asked. I pushed the bag over and they both reached in while they ate their sandwiches. I had finished mine. They drank their milk and looked like they wanted more. I poured them another glass and they drank that, too. I was amazed, but they cleaned their plates down to the crumbs and ate all the veggies. They must have been really hungry.
"Off to bed," I told them. "You'll each have your own bathroom. There are toothbrushes, combs and stuff like that in the vanities. Aspirins, tummy ache stuff, toothpaste and floss in the medicine cabinets. Anything else you need you have to ask me for."
"Can we lock the doors?" Maggie asked.
"Yes, but you have to open them in a reasonable amount of time if I ask you to," I said.
They looked at me funny. Light dawned in Maggie's impossible green eyes. "He's afraid we'll steal stuff," she told her sister. "We won't steal anything, Mack. It's okay if you don't trust us. We don't trust you very much either."
I had to laugh. "Okay, we have a mutual distrust. You're going to find out you can trust me. I hardly ever harm beautiful girls."
That got me another pair of flashing smiles. I think they liked the "beautiful" part. They followed me down the hall and went into their rooms. I heard the locks click and smiled to myself. When I got back in bed, I lay awake for a while. What was the deal on these girls? Why were they rummaging around in my trash? Why were they on their own? Where was their family? I was going to get some answers in the morning.
I was getting dressed when I heard the floor creak down the hall. I opened the door a crack and they were sneaking toward the living room. I figured they were going to leave so I opened the door. They froze.
"You girls ready for breakfast?" I asked.
They looked at each other. "Maybe we better just go," Maggie said. "You ain't going to, like, keep us or nothing, are you?"
"You mean, force you to stay?" I asked.
They looked at each other again. They looked back at me and nodded.
"No, I won't force you to do anything," I said. "It's against my rules to force people to do things. I'd like it if you'd eat breakfast with me, though."
They glanced at one another again. "You'll let us go after that?" Stokely asked.
"If you want to," I said. "Actually, I was hoping you'd want to spend the day with me. If you don't, that's okay, but do you have an appointment somewhere?"
"Yeah, we need to meet with our stockbroker," Maggie smiled. It lit her up like a Christmas tree. "What you going to feed us?"
"First, you left an 'are' out of that sentence," I told her. "It's, 'What are you going to feed us'."
"You an English teacher or something?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, I am," I told her. "I teach English Literature at the University."
"Cool," Stokely said. "We don't go to school. Too busy."
"You do eat breakfast though, right? I was thinking waffles and bacon. Do you girls like that?"
.... There is more of this story ...