That’s when the animals go loose.
At least, that’s what it sounded like. Just a whisper, nothing more.
I leaned uncomfortably against the back wall of a St. Francis House meeting room during an hour-long gathering of community members and professionals and the concerned homeless.
Acting like I heard the buzz of the puttering AC unit, I stared straight for 1,000 miles.
You know, in a few weeks, FEMA will be all over town. They’ll pull up their trucks and start rounding us all up. Yessir, all 2,700 of us. It will be a violent cattle drive.
Frank struck me as the type of homeless man who spoke in half truths.
One sentence he may recite the Collatz conjecture, verbatim; another might be something akin to “the caveman’s favorite snack was peanut butter.” And for all I know, this may be reasonable observation. But you almost always question every other statement notwithstanding.
He audited my appearance like a TSA security guard; I stood there with my hole-less shirt and shorts, a non-greasy face and a camera adjoined to my hip.
Just what are you doing here?
I’m documenting a woman for a story I’m pursuing.
Pursuing? Listen, you’re either doing the story or you’re not. Don’t give me that. So many of you journalists come around our shelters and our [Tent] City and look around and pursue. You don’t realize that everyone has a story, and you only cherry-pick the success stories.
Directly in front of us, an older Vietnam veteran named Rhode, who I met earlier in the meeting, began a medley of pirate war songs.
It received a number of stares, of course, but it made sense in his mind. Today was “Talk Like A Pirate Day” and he would slur his R’s like a booty-gathering buccaneer.
Frank and I laughed; others thought he was three sheets to the wind.
Then Frank reached into a plastic toolbox, which was locked between his two feet like a treasure chest. He dug through what sounded like a number of wrenches and nails and the like, and uncovered a digital camera, much to my surprise.
I found this on a park bench. It belonged to a dentist’s office. So I went there to return it and they told me they already wrote it off. You should keep it, they said. I have a number of lenses too, from my younger years as a photographer. I had to stop shooting though, because the battery ran out. How much do you reckon a charger is these days?
Not too, too much.
Well, for a homeless man, how much is not too, too much?
I’d say around $30.
Well, that’s not that much. I reckon I can gather that much for the spring, just in time for the flowers.
I nodded with a half smile, like my right cheek was just punctured with a shot of Novocaine — my mouth too sympathetic for the nerves to form a full grin.
Frank was the type of guy that I’d let watch the kids, for sure. Not my kids, of course, but the neighbor’s overly rambunctious kids who I got stuck watching for four hours after sitting quietly at home reading Freud and minding the beeswax and the doorbell rings and there they are — two sets of hollow, beady eyes with a heartless, scribbled note attached to one of the little bastard’s backpacks with masking tape that reads “Be back soon, going to see the new Jennifer Aniston movie with the Mrs.” and as soon as I read “the Mrs.,” the two little spawns run straight inside and begin turning the needle and scratching my Getz/Gilberto LP, and I decide that it’s time for what I call “Life Lessons with Frank.”
A night on the town for the entire family.
You know what happens when Marshall Law is instituted?
His transition from “flowers” to “Marshall Law” lacked a prime coat.
What happens, Frank?
That’s when the animals go loose.
“We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.” – Carl Jung, The Psychology of Individuation (1921)