Adopted Family
Chapter 1

I'm David. David Pilath. I'm about 5'4, dark hair and dark eyes. I try to stay in good shape.

I'm told I was a happy kid, hugging everyone I came in to contact with. That's before Aunt Inga. I was four when I saw her changing clothes one day. She screamed at me that I was a little pervert and backhanded me hard. I had no idea what had happened.

She looked at me like something the dog hacked up after that. Make no bones about it, Inga was pretty and she loved the men. She had curly blonde hair and bazooka tits. She had a very nice figure and knew how to use it. Aunt Inga was a bitch. When I was four I had no idea what was going on, just that when Aunt Inga was around I was in trouble.

Finally, she arranged to baby sit me. I was about five, just before going to kinder garden. I remember I was in bed. She came into my room and took off all her clothes.

Then she pulled down my pajama bottoms and played with my peter. She was saying things I didn't understand. I looked into her eyes, not really knowing what was happening.

She kept playing with my peter, pulling on it. Then she pulled it out hard and with her other hand used a big knife to cut the end off of it. I was gasping and crying.

I remember hearing her say "Nasty little boys get what they deserve. Take that, you nasty little bastard."

I remember holding myself, bleeding all over the bed. I remember thinking that mom would be mad about the mess. I fell asleep.

I woke up and it was all white around me. There were tall silver rails around the bed.

I was thirsty.

A lady came in and gave me some water. A man came in and asked why I cut myself. I told him about Aunt Inga. He went away.

Mommy came in, screaming. "How could you tell such horrible lies about my sister?"

I just cried and looked at her. Grownups always stick together. They never listen.

I knew that my mommy would never love me again.

My uncle came in and sat down. He just looked at me. It made me feel cold. I pushed the button for the nurse. I told her that my uncle was thinking about hurting me.

I could tell because his face looked like Aunt Inga's. She made him go away.

I wondered why daddy didn't come to see me. It hurt a lot where nobody could see.

They took the bandages off my peter after a while. It was ugly. The doctor tried to make me promise that I wouldn't hurt myself again. I told him to keep Aunt Inga away from me. He wouldn't promise. I knew then not to trust him. I found a drawer with lots of sharp blades in metal and paper wrappers in it. I took them and made sure that some were always with me. If Aunt Inga came for me again I would hurt her like she hurt me.

Mommy took me home after that. Dinah, our dog was gone. Mommy told me that someone had run over Dinah and she died. Mommy didn't look sorry. She looked like Aunt Inga did. It made me afraid again. That night I got dressed and left my room.

I listened hard. I went outside. It was nice out, summer and warm. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Frieda were my dad's brother and his wife. They lived way down the street.

They had two daughters, Mary and Jane. Jane was about my age, and Mary was older.

I walked down the street to find their house. When I got there I laid down on their porch and took a nap until it got light out. I knocked on the door and Aunt Frieda let me in. I talked to Uncle Bob about why I was there. He was a Judge. I found out that a Judge takes care of bad people. I stayed with them for a while. Aunt Frieda cried while holding me. It was nice to be held like mommy used to.

It made me cry again because I knew Mommy would never cry with me again. I hated Aunt Inga. Ingaborg Kniese. I wanted to make her hurt like I did. I didn't care how long it would take. I would hurt her like she hurt me, only worse.

I was sent to Grandma and Grandpa's farm one summer. It was fine until Inga showed up.

I knew she was there from the sound of her voice. She knew I was there. She was looking for me. Well, I found her first. I took a roll of tape from the medicine chest and a paring knife from the kitchen drawer. I made sure she was asleep before I tied her wrists and ankles together, then her knees and elbows. She came awake. I hit her hard with the back end of the knife and tied her mouth shut. Then I cut her. I cut her bad.

I pushed the knife into her boobs and pulled it out cross ways. Then I cut down her arms so she couldn't cut me again. Then I cut down her legs so she couldn't chase me. She looked me in the eyes. I said "You hurt me. You took my mommy and daddy away. So I'm going to hurt you." I kept looking her in the eyes as I pushed the knife into her belly again and again. Soon her eyes closed. I walked away. I knew that the grown ups would hate me for killing a grown up. Hell had room for both of us.

I washed up in the sink before I left the house. I woke up Grandma and said "I'm sorry."

Then I left. I walked for a long time. I slept under the pine trees. I got real hungry.

The young corn was OK to eat. A man in a police car found me later. I told him about Inga and showed him my peter. He held me for a while. He took me to his house. His wife took care of me for almost a month. He told me that Mommy killed Daddy, and that Grandma was sick. I was going to be sent to some people to stay with for a while.

It's been six years. I'm twelve. I've learned to fight. I've learned to kick. I've learned to break a knife out of a window if I have nothing else. Two men thought an orphan was a toy. I bled them out. I got hit a lot by the cops for that. Then I bit the cop and didn't let go until the finger came off. I told the judge that if he wouldn't take care of me then I would take care of myself and fuck the cops.

I ran from the juvie home they put me in. I've gotten good at hiding. I eat out of grocery store dumpsters. The restaurants get too shitty about people eating out of their dumpsters. I've burned out three of them for trying to get me busted. Winters are hard. Winters hurt. You can stay alive if you keep moving unless the cold gets too bad. Then you can bust into a church or school if you're careful and stay until morning. If you don't make a mess sometimes they don't lock up behind themselves and you can sleep there again.

In the summer I try to find abandoned houses and live there. I try to take care of the little ones that have run away. No-one else will. I teach them what I can. I learned to read some when I had a mom and dad, and read what I could find in the juvie home. I can do some numbers, plus and minus. The little ones were my family. My own. We depended on each other. We cried with each other.

It was getting colder. I tried to find a warm place for us to stay. I found a church with an open basement window and we've been sneaking in there at night. I made sure everyone washed up good before going out so nobody got kicked out of places because they stank. I worked at a bakery some and got day-olds for us all. We got milk and meat that was too old to sell at the grocery. That manager was an angel.

We snuck into the church basement one night and I about crapped. A man was waiting there at their big dinner table. He wanted to talk to me. He knew we were coming and going even though I tried to clean, because we missed some things. The towels were dirty, the soap was getting used. He said he didn't mind. I was so glad. This was the best place we had found. He was the minister. He showed us how to cook with soups so things tasted better and bought us lots. We got clothes and blankets, coats and shoes. He said he was impressed that I had kept the littles together and healthy. He asked why. I didn't want to talk about how I grew up, but he waited until I did. He wrote down what I said. When I was done he stood up and walked out. I went to bed and cried. the others piled on and held me. Some nights I'd rather freeze to death like the bums in the alleys than remember.

I guess he told some people about us. An old guy with white hair, mostly bald, and in fancy black clothes came to talk to me one night. He said that there was a place that would take care of us until we were 18 and nobody would mess with us, but we would have to go to school.

The man I knew said it was true and I should believe the old guy. We left the next day, all eleven of us. I had a knife in my shoe, behind my belt and little Tracy carried one for me.

I made sure they were all sharp and wrapped in canvas before we left.

We were in a bus for two days, stopping for food and sleep when it made sense to them.

We came to a big place in Arkansas with a fence and gate around it. They made us get off the bus and go inside to wash and get new clothes. I couldn't keep my knives. When a man found them he grabbed my arm and took me aside. I twisted away from him and kicked his ankles until he fell, then kicked him some more. When I stopped he was looking at me funny. I said "I give better than I get. You hurt me, I hurt you. Hurt my littles and I'll bleed you dry and anyone that helped." He nodded and pulled himself up. We all got a shower and clean underwear, socks, jeans, flannel shirts and sneakers. They fed us and we got to sleep. I kept waking up, looking for them, my littles.

We got sent to classes for schooling. The adults told me that the littles should be with ones their age. I looked that man in the eye.

"Can you promise that they'll be safe?" He said "I have no doubt that they will be quite safe." as he tried to pat my back. I twisted around to face him and said "You lie real good for an adult. Must be all the practice. If they get hurt I'm coming for YOU. I'm gonna stab YOU until you bleed out. The I'll find the ones that hurt the littles and stab THEM until they bleed out. You understand me, mister liar?"

He got real nasty then and tried to smack me in the head. I broke his fingers and dropped him to the floor by kicking his ankles. I wrapped his belt around his neck and started twisting until two guys pulled me off him. I said "No deal. I can't trust any of you.

Take us back to Aurora. The lies didn't stink so bad there."

Boy, you'd think there was a train wreck with all the people running around yelling and screaming. I collected the littles and we found a small store room with a mattress in it and only one door. I could block the door. We didn't get dinner, but we had slept hungry before. We were safe for then.

In the morning a guy knocked on the door and asked me to tell him what happened. I can remember things that happened real good, just like I can remember the pages of books I read. I told him word for word what happened. Then I asked for a bus and closed the door.

One of the cooks came up to the room with a little cart with food for us. I thanked her very much and asked if she knew when our bus was coming. She wasn't happy.

She just left. When it got dark, she came back with another cart full of supper.

We thanked her again. I asked where a toilet was. She smiled and said at the end of the hall. I asked if anyone would try to hurt us if we went there. She looked real mad and said "Not in this lifetime". I guess that meant no, so we all trooped down to the bathroom and got ready for bed. The nice cook lady left me a big honkin' knife with tape around the handle. It was nice to sleep in a pile together again.

A man in red robes came to talk just after noon.

"I'm a bishop of the church. In church terms that's a pretty important person. I can pretty well make people do what I say. Something bad happened here and I want to know what."

You want to know what happened? OK. Here's what I saw, heard and said."

I repeated everything like it was off a record player. I could see him getting mad. His neck and face got red. He took a red metal card on a gold cord off his neck and put it around mine. He said "Keep the knife. The card lets you go anywhere. If anyone stops you, put 'em down. I promise you that if anyone tries to hurt you or your little ones I won't say a thing if they get buried in the swamp."

He shook my hand and left. I guessed then that we were going to be OK.

Not much bad happened after that. I kept a good sharp edge on that knife and visited the littles at least once a week to let them know I still cared about them and worried about them. We were like a big family within that place, but we slowly drifted apart, year after year. I learned a lot in their classes, but I had the most fun in the library. It was a big library with different sets of encyclopedia. There were books on medicine and herbal remedies, woodworking, forging and plumbing. There was a whole section on "mechanical arts". I could build a whole house if I had the tools and lumber. A small section of old books were about survival, evasion and escape, surviving in the woods, mountains, desert and cities. I smiled when I read some of it. I had learned it the hard way. I read every book in that room before I left. Well, everything but the religious stuff. That was pretty repetitive.

We were supposed to do something for athletics every day. I ran. I didn't get very far at first. I had trouble mastering my breathing. Then I found the poetry section. I would say poems under my breath as I ran. That helped. Then I found a real neat book on drum chants from the old Indian tribes sent to Oklahoma. Those were much more even and easier to run to.

The classes were pretty easy for me. I got into a few fights about 'teachers pet' and 'brown nose'. I got trashed a few times but always got up and finished what they started. I read the anatomy books from the library carefully and started hitting soft spots. I also memorized where all the big veins and arteries are, and where the tendons are. I learned to punch on a heavy bag.

It still left me with something inside that wanted out. I found a box of dock spikes and started throwing them at fence posts. I ground the ends off some into points so that they would stick either way. I got pretty good with them and could throw the hell out of them. I needed pliers to get them out of the posts. I always had a few with me. I kept twenty freshly sharpened ones in my room.

I took class honors and graduated first. I was called into the proctor's office one day and told I had offers of an academic scholarship to the state university.

I took him up on it, gladly. It meant more years off the street. Remembering everything isn't all candy and soda. I remember every freezing night, every hungry day, hiding from cops and being beaten for nothing.

I went to Little Rock by bus. I had an army surplus duffle bag with my clothes in it. I was broke, so I found a part time job in a restaurant. My scholarship paid for classes, room and board, books and fees. I signed up for pre-med.

I was doing fine until a druggie tried to rob the restaurant when I was on shift.

I took his knife and shoved it up his ass with an assist from my knee. Then I put one of his arms thru his crotch and bum's rushed him into the door jamb. The police didn't want to let me go but the dean and the restaurant owner stood up for me. I had to take a combat sport to "calm me down"-- give me some "discipline".

I could have killed that idiot over ten ways with that knife. All he got was a cut-up colon and a busted shoulder.

The campus martial arts coach suggested something not using my hands--that was too personal, too angry. I took up the stick. It's called Bojitsu.

I ran every morning, took classes every weekday and worked in the restaurant every weeknight for five hours. They fed me better than the cafeteria. Every weekend I spent Saturday afternoon learning Bojitsu.

Sundays I read the library. I was very happy to find more native american chants set down on paper. Some were drum chants, some dance chants, some were for healing.

I would sing them as I ran around and around the running track from dawn until I had to dress for my first class.

I took summer classes because I had nowhere else to go. They closed the dorms for the summer so I stayed in a shelter, cleaning and helping for my room. I ate at the restaurant as part of my pay. My duffel bag got raided one day I was at work.

There wasn't anything to steal but my clothes got left all over the floor and stepped on. I bought a surplus metal-covered foot locker and a padlock the next day, then washed my clothes. I told the preacher in charge of the mission that he had a thief.

The preacher didn't know what to do about it, so I thought about it my self. I bought 1/4 oz of silver nitrate at a pharmacy and a small wooden box at a resale shop for a couple of bucks. I put the box on my nightstand, baited it with a couple bucks in change and used an eyedropper to cover the contents with silver nitrate.

The next day the change was gone and we went looking for black fingers. We found him. A big black guy that mopped the floors had sticky fingers. He came at me with a glass ash tray and I broke his wrists. We found many small things that had gone missing in his room. Everything worked out all right but I ended up mopping the floors.

I took a course in Native American studies and impressed the professor, an old Cherokee man, with a four-hour corn chant. He showed us the shuffle step most chant dancers used, and how each chant drove its own dance.

The second year flew by, as did the third. I had a straight 4.0 average. At the prompting of my advisor during my fourth year I wrote to the governors of most midwestern states. I asked for a scholarship thru residency in exchange for four years practicing anywhere they wanted me. I sent copies of my transcripts, too.

Minnesota picked up my request and I was on. I would complete my education and residency in Little Rock, then go by train to Walker, Minnesota to be met by pickup and taken to a reservation for my contract.

We were supposed to dress 'appropriately', so I had to spend some money on white shirts, black ties, dress slacks and dress shoes with crepe soles. Other than that, I owned underwear, two pair of running shorts, four sets of army surplus pants and shirts, underwear and combat boots. It was the cheapest I could get by in.

Some guys dressed in army gear like me ran on the weekends. They asked if I was in the ROTC like them. I told 'em that I was just a running fool. We ran together a lot after that.

By the time my residency came I had over twelve thousand dollars in the bank. I wasn't first in my class, but I was close. I was sent a packet from Minneapolis with my papers stating that I was an officer of the reservation and instructions on how to meet up with my transportation to the village. My advisor and my professors in field surgery and emergency room trauma care got together and bought me 2 m17 field kits and 2 m3 field kits, a.k.a. U.S. Army field medical kits. I was in hog heaven.

I bought myself my first otoscope (ear/nose/throat light) and stethoscope.

Then I thought about where I was going. I bought ten lab coats, ten sets of surgical scrubs in my size, lots of disposable surgical blades, forty pounds of honey, flea and tick powder, two gallons of liquid soap, fifty hairnets, fifty surgical masks, a box of 100 rubber gloves, fifty suture kits, a blood glucose meter with four hundred test strips, lancets, a microscope with a mechanical stage and four graticules, six boxes of slides in holders, a case of petrie dishes, two gallons of sealed blood media in agar and a small plain-paper fax machine with four extra ink cartridges.

I bought a laptop and a subscription to the Physician's Desk Reference on cd and online.

I was four thousand seven hundred dollars poorer but I had the makings of a clinic wherever I went.

I sent a photocopy of the invoices to the department that was paying my way and asked for reimbursement. I had a pair of balls, so I figured that I might as well use 'em.

I boxed and locked everything, then marked everything but my duffle and bo staff 'medical supplies-danger'. I boarded the bus for Chicago, then Minneapolis, then Walker. There I sat, on top of a mound of supplies outside the Walker Minnesota bus station, freezing my ass off in the spring evening. Across the street was a tourist-type woolens dealer. I walked in, bought a red and white checked wool cruiser and a four point red Whitney blanket. I re-arranged my boxes to make a decent bed and took a nap.

I was awakened by a cop with an attitude. I don't put up with idiots that call me 'boy'.

"Hey, boy, this is a public street. You can't sleep here. I'm runnin' you in for vagrancy.

Get in this here car."

"You may have a badge, fat boy, but if you whack me again with that nightstick you'll regret it."

By this time I had sat up and grabbed my bo. He pulled out a pistol. I knocked it out of his hand with the first stroke and had him unconscious on the ground by the fourth.

I sat back and waited for dawn. Somehow I knew that this day wasn't going to go well.

Another police car pulled up. Two officers stepped out. One hung back while the other asked for identification. I gave him my paperwork from the state and my driver's license.

He looked up from his clipboard to match my face with my ID.

"Dr Pilath?" I nodded. "What happened?"

"Your rent-a-cop got Barney Fife on me. He didn't ask for ID, what I was doing here, nothing.

He assumed I was a vagrant and was going to arrest me, leaving some seven thousand dollars of medical equipment on the street. He's sleeping off his stupidity."

"Wait right here."

They went back to the car to argue things out. They were a bit noisy.

"But he struck an officer?"

"You want to claim that fat idiot as an officer? I don't!"

"He resisted arrest!"

"Bad bust! The district attorney would laugh us out of the door. YOU want a reprimand for bad judgment? I don't."

After a while the polite one came back over and sat while we watched the bozo come to.

"You hit me!"

"You pulled a pistol on me for no reason. You're an idiot."

"I'm gonna beat the shit out of you!"

He was struggling to his feet by then.

The cop next to me said "Get in your car and get back to the station. The captain wants to have words with you. Training officer Adams is with him, waiting. Now."

He gave me a shitty look and stomped back to his car, then screeched off.

I smiled at the nice officer and said "Summer help problems?"

The last time I saw a face like that was in a mirror when I tried to brush my teeth with BrylCream hair grease.

We watched the sun come up together, waiting for my ride.

A pickup so beat up that it should have never left a farm pulled up to us.

An old man, black hair, dark brown eyes, face like an erosion demonstration called out. "You the new doc?"

"Yep. All yours."

"I'm your taxi."

I turned to the cops. "Thanks for holding my hand mister. I'm not afraid of the dark any more."

"We should have just staked you out as bait and waited for the bodies to drop."

We shook hands and I shifted my stuff into the back of the pickup, then got in.

I got the door closed after a bit, then turned to my driver and held out a hand.


"Sunny. You sure you a doc?"

"Yep. Still shiny. Say, let's hit a coffee house for breakfast. I need to visit a bank before we go. I got in too late to do it last night. My dime."

"You payin? sold."

We sat around eating and drinking until 8:30 when the banks opened. I paid up and left a tip. We stopped at the Wells Fargo. I changed my billing address to the clinic and took out four thousand in cash.

Two hours on the blacktop, then two hours on a dirt road. I didn't see much but blueberry bushes, raspberry canes and pine trees. The soil was mostly sand. Crushed red granite was used to fill in the road. We came to a stop in the middle of a shanty town, mostly old dilapidated house trailers. There were four buildings made of concrete block under peeling white paint-- a clinic, a post office, a general store and a long low building that I later learned was the council hall.

"'at's your clinic. Last doc left two years ago, so it's gonna need work. We got the power, water and phone turned on. Key's with the secretary o'er there."

He pointed at the council hall with his chin.

He put the truck back into drive and rolled down the road. He stopped in front of a trashed out blue trailer home at the end of the road, a little ways from a garbage dump.

"Dump ain't been used in a few years, so it won't smell or draw critters. We bag it out now, get paid for glass and aluminum." He looked the trailer up and down. "Place ain't much, but it's yours." He looked around the village with a sad face. "Whole bunch of widdas and busted up old men. They ain't got elsewhere to go, so the tribe got'em all together here. Sorriest damn sight I ever did see." He looked over at me. "You be good to 'em. They need someone to look after 'em, not like that fuckin' Department of Indian Affairs that hung 'em out to dry." He kind of shook himself. "The place is bone empty.

Everyone took anything worth a spit 'cause they needed it. It's been empty two years since Doc Asshole left. "He tried to get everyone together for exercise classes, for chrissakes. Fuckin' idiot. Water's good, septic's good and the gas truck comes Sunday to fill everyone's tanks, so this works out nice. Make sure he hits the clinic, too.

I nodded, shook his hand and piled out. I unloaded my stuff at the trailer door and waved him off. It was early afternoon. There I was in the middle of nowhere in what looked like a deserted trailer town, in front of a trailer home that should have been condemned and burned before I was born. Crap. I was going to have to give the governator Jesse the green-and-purple clap.

I stood back and looked the place over. The back door was nailed shut, hinges gone.

Three windows were broken out. Rattling corrugated sheets of galvanized surrounded its foundation. A decent welded-rod staircase and 4'x4' 'patio' led up to the door. The knob and lock were missing. Pieces of corrugated galvanized were nailed to the walls, probably to patch holes. Sigh.

I turned and walked back down to the store. It wasn't much but they could order from Walker. I walked around the store, grabbing things as I saw 'em. I was going to have to make more than one trip. I bought bedding, extra sheets, a bucket, scrub brush, broom, hammer, tacks & nails, potatoes, lard, 4 cans of hash, eggs, a ten-inch cast iron fry pan, a couple spoons, a plastic glass, the biggest jug of PineSol the had and a gallon of bleach. I bought all the steel wool and cleanser they had. I hacked everything 'home' and started cleaning.

The stove was beyond help and the fridge was missing pieces. Big ones. The sink was going to take more than one day to clean. The bathtub looked like a frat party had been held in it. The toilet, well, I was going to piss outside for a while.

I started with a bedroom. The broken window came out and I tacked a greased piece of bed sheet across the window frame to stop the weather. The closet shelves were gone, as was the clothes bar. The closet doors were gone. I ripped up the carpet and swept the place out. I made a 4'x6' pallet to sleep on and a bedside stand with my supply cases.

I didn't see any outlets. How the hell was I gonna... Fuck. Deal with it. I took a break and went back to the store.

I laid out for candles, matches, a can opener, a small oil lamp and a jug of lamp oil.

While I was there I ordered a single bed, a small dresser, window shades, a kitchen table, two chairs, a gas-powered refrigerator, a gas stove, a roll of screening, twenty sheets of corrugated galvanized, a box of screws, a bucket of tar, two buckets of white paint, two brushes, three 5x8 carpets, a door lock assembly, two LP-gas lanterns, mantles, seventy feet of coiled copper pipe and a handful of compression fittings, a cutter and a flaring tool. I looked over the order and added a spring-style pipe bending tool. The old stuff was pitted and I was going to re-run it from the bulk tank. I ordered everything to be delivered to my place. I wasn't about to carry any damned refrigerator or stove a half mile if I didn't have to.

I polished everything off with a gallon of water, drank it, and took the bottle back with me. Then I took my bo and visited the old dump. I grinned. I'd found a scavenger's paradise. I took four pie pans that didn't look so bad. I had plates.

I found two 5-pound coffee cans. I had pots. I found several steel vegetable cans with both ends cut out. I had patches. I dug around and found a pitcher. I had sun tea.

I took everything back with me, then shut off the master valve at the LP bulk tank and disconnected the stove and fridge. I rolled 'em out the door and down to the dump.

All I took back was an oven grate that looked OK. I needed to cook dinner. Looking around once more, I spotted a one-pound coffee can. Twenty minutes later with the aid of a can opener, two concrete blocks and the stove grate I had a hobo stove.

It took a bit to season the cast iron pan over the fire with a little lard, but the smoke helped, I think. I had spuds and hash for dinner. After scrubbing out the pan with sand, I took a pee behind the trailer, lit a candle and went in for the night. I took a spit bath in the kitchen sink and went to sleep in my new home for the first night.

The wool blanket felt very good that morning. It was Saturday. I got up and started cleaning again. The next room was the kitchen/living room I found four mouse holes. I would get to them later. First I swept out the place.

The kitchen had worn tile. I ripped up the nasty carpeting from the hallway and living room. The whole place got a bath with PineSol, bleach and water.

It didn't look much better but it sure smelled it. I looked for a water heater and found one under the kitchen sink. The burners looked OK. I emptied the tank and flushed it out, then filled it again. The hot water tap coughed a little, some crud came out, and the water then ran clear. I smiled. First victory. The counter top took the rest of the morning to scrub. The sink took the rest of the day. Whenever I had used up a steel wool bundle I stuffed it into a mouse hole. I stuffed a rag into the tub outlet and filled it with bleach and water to soak. I boiled a couple of eggs, cooked two spuds and ate the mess for dinner. I took a better bath in the sink and went to bed.

I lay on my back thinking "this is getting monotonous." before I fell asleep.

I awoke to the sound of galvanized metal sheets banging around the skirt of the trailer and overhead. We were getting a little weather.

I dragged out my running gear and boots and took off into the dawn. I did about five miles. I passed the store as they were opening. I stopped in.

The same woman was behind the counter-about fifty, handsome, black hair in two braids.

"Hey, good morning."

"Hey yourself? How's our new best customer? You broke yet?"

"Naw, but I'm getting there. Can you get me a shower head, water riser pipe, an elbow, a gallon of white enamel paint, a shower curtain and rod, and eight drop-in window replacements with sashes for a 1953 Janesville trailer?"

She was busy figuring and looking up prices for a good half hour.

"You movin' in for real. Umm, I gotta get a quote for the windows, but I know they carry 'em in town. We had two replaced last year."

"Great! How long before I can fix my shower?"

"Best bet, Friday. The rest of your stuff should come in then, too.

You're gonna be a busy boy."

"Great. Now, how about some bleach, CLR, a garden hose and a sprinkler."

"Whatcha gonna do? start a garden?"

"Nope. I'm gonna give the neighbors a thrill and put up an outside shower."

"Oh yeah? What time? I'll tell the women and we'll bring popcorn."

I realized that I'd been had. I paid up and scooted. I heard the sound of a diesel truck a couple hours later. I watched the truck make his rounds, filling the tanks. He passed three ramshackle trailers. I met him outside by the tank.

"Hey, why did you pass up those three trailers across the way?"

"They can't pay. They still haven't paid for last season."

I scratched out a check for $600.00 and shoved it in his shirt pocket.

"They just paid for this season. Fill 'em up."

He looked at me like he was going to give me a ration of shit.

I just looked at him and slowly shook my head.

He shrugged, finished my tank and filled the three he missed.

"Hey! Don't forget the clinic. I'm opening it Monday."

He gave me a long look, then nodded. This was getting serious.

If they couldn't pay for heat and cooking gas, where was food money coming from?

Bright black eyes watched thru yellowed, scratched windows.

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Tear Jerker /