“You still okay doing this – being out here with these guys? I sense a little equivocation.”
Sally dropped back a few steps to be in sync with Amanda. She was used to walking fast but it seemed anti-social now, like she wanted to separate herself from the group. That wasn’t it. She just found that walking at a good clip made one less tired than sauntering along and she had that unique old person’s thing of losing her balance if she didn’t keep up a good forward momentum. Since yesterday when she and Amanda came down to the homeless encampment, she’d been careful about doing anything that would signal that she couldn’t keep up or she was frail or persnickety in any way.
Amanda didn’t answer right away. They walked most of the block in silence. At the light, Amanda turned to Sally and shrugged.
“You already know what I’m thinking so what’s the point of talking?”
“Very funny. Do you think what we’re doing is worth it? Now, it seems kind of stupid.”
“It might be. So what? If it gets real sketchy, we’ll catch a bus or call your BF. No risk no story, right?”
“Yeah, and I need the story or I’m going to be Joe Jablonsky’s chickaboom forever.”
It took another half hour of walking to get to St. Paul’s meal program. The five of them stood in line, Ace scanning the crowd to see if Clark had gotten there ahead of them. And then looking down the street to see if he was coming. He was the only one who knew where Clark had gone, and it was clear he expected him to be back with the group already.
When they got to the door of the church’s community room, a volunteer in a green t-shirt and a Nebraska baseball cap ushered them inside.
“Is that you Sally Dexter? I’m surprised to, ah, see you here.” It was the loudmouth fish lure guy’s wife from the senior center. Apparently, she didn’t share his dislike of homeless people because here she was, showing people to their tables as if she was the hostess at IHop.
“Yes, it’s me alright. Great to see you, dear,” Sally said, sitting down at the table where they were all to wait for their number to be called to come fill their plates. They were Table 12. She leaned in to talk with her table mates and the volunteer moved on to seat the next people. It would be all over the senior center on Monday. She hadn’t even told Debbie and Esmeralda that she was doing this. But, heck, they didn’t need to know everything.
Amanda’s phone lit up. Matt again. She didn’t pick up. Then he texted. “Homeless guy killed in a hit and run. I think he’s one of yours.”
“What’s his name,” she texted back.
Clark. Clark, who had offered her his tent last night and then slept outside. And when he said, here, take my tent, it was the only time Amanda had heard him talk. The rest of the time he hung back, looked at his hands mostly, but smiled when anyone talked to him. Clark was a good guy, she felt that, and now he was dead. It had to be him, her Clark. How many Clarks were there in the world?
“We have to go, you guys. Something’s happened to Clark.” Amanda stood up and pulled her backpack over her shoulders. “There was an accident on 12th and Burnley. That’s where he is.”
Ace and Beverly waved goodbye to her, but Johnson got up to come along. So did Sally. Why wasn’t everyone coming? He was their friend, not hers. But then, she didn’t know if they were friends. She just knew they stayed in the same place. Those could be different things. She was too new to know.
The accident was eight blocks from the meal program. Instead of spending money on bus fare, they huffed it, putting their heads down and walking hard, all three of them together, like a new small band of comrades united in Clark’s death.