Jerry’s in the tent. He won’t come out. I told him I got food but he won’t budge. “Suit yourself,” I shout. “More for me.” Jerry is a pain – he’s my friend but he’s a pain. Moody. Well, who wouldn’t be living in a tent under the freeway. No need to take it out on me, though. I’m down here, too. I went to the clinic today to see about this wound on my leg. It just won’t heal. Keep it clean, they say. I answer as politely as I can, “I try.” I don’t let my bitch-self out to yell the 400 reasons why this is impossible. OBVIOUS. They give me a shot and some cream. Whatever. I hope it’s not one of those flesh-eating bugs.
“Jerry,” I say again. “Last chance. There’s some left.” I always give him an extra chance – he’s my friend. I know he’s not dead. He’s moving around in there. He likes to rearrange his stuff. He keeps it neat. The Army he says, that’s where he got the habit. They scared neatness into you I guess.
Last week, Jerry let me sleep in his tent. Clarence got shot – in the leg, so he’s okay. They stitched him up and sent him right back out. The shooter got away. The cops won’t spend a penny hunting him down but they might sweep the camp again – that’s the real worry. Jerry didn’t handle that too well last time. It was weird to sleep in Jerry’s tent, so close to his muffled jerky snore. I usually sleep in that box with the tarp. I got a good sleeping bag, so it’s not too bad. We don’t touch each other. Jerry doesn’t like to be touched. I think it’s the PTSD, but it could be worse. At least he can sleep. Lots can’t. If I get extra food, I offer some to Jerry and sometimes he does it back. You’ll find kindness here, mixed in with the stink and the screaming and the drugs and all the rest. We just don’t make a big deal of it. Nobody pats them self on the back.
Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, and Blotterature and was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. She has a book forthcoming from Twelve Winters Press in 2018. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.