Sired by man and born by woman, a baby enters the world armed only with the genetic gifts bestowed upon it by its parents. Naked, defenseless, and unable to communicate, infants are vulnerable to the outrages heaped upon them by society, environment, and chance. Society molds them, the environment hardens them, and chance tests them.
Then comes the day when the infant becomes an adult. The character of the adult reflects the forces that battered the child even if some of those forces were blunted by genetic gifts. Good or bad, divine or evil, smart or stupid - extremes in outcomes that appear to be the result of dumb luck.
As the force of gravity pulls all things downwards, so it seems that the chance events with lasting outcomes on the child pull the adult to the worse. The harm caused by exposure to jealously, avarice, ambition, and greed, drag down the victors and the victims with equal force. The results are hard adults who are unable to express their feelings or to experience happiness without a sense of dread that it shall be short lived. Lives are spent trying to save something for a rainy day without appreciating the nice days.
Life is not fair. A child is born of rich parents, given the best education that money can buy, and inherits wealth that eliminates the need to ever work. Down the street, a child is born of a crack addict, attends a public school where survival is more important than education, and spends half of their life in prison. Why should one child be blessed when hundreds of others suffer cruel fates? The answer is simple - life is not fair. It is not a reassuring answer, but it is an answer none the less.
In light of all the unhappiness that can affect a person, is it a wonder that in some private moments there are some that ask if life is worth it? Hamlet faced the unfairness of the dictates of fortune by wondering if it was better to end it all at his own hand or to fight on. In the end, he fought on, to find death at the hand of another by winning a Pyrrhic victory in which all died. Few take the battle with fate to that extreme, but some choose to exit life early while others fight to the bitter end. It is a personal choice.
Harry pedaled the three-wheeler up the mountain road, struggling to overcome the gravity that wanted to send him back to the bottom of the mountain. It was just a little farther to the restaurant where he would meet the Sheriff for lunch and a ride to the top of the next mountain over. It was an annual event that was coming a little late this year due to the delay of a couple days spent in jail for vagrancy. Harry, last of the hobos, was making his early summer pilgrimage to Denver where he would live on the streets for months before returning to warmer climes in the fall.
The mountain air was cool as the warm sun beat down upon the odd looking man on the tricycle. Birds flew across the road ignoring him. His beard and gray hair made him look older than his fifty years. With a well-developed potbelly, missing front tooth, and scar across his forehead, he didn’t look like a friendly person. When well-dressed self-important people actually took notice of him, they saw an intimidating individual who looked dangerous because of his homeless appearance. However, his wrinkled hard worn and rough looks were deceptive. Among those who knew him, Harry had earned the nickname: Happy Harry. His smiling face and easy laughter were well known on the streets where he lived, by other homeless, and the police.
Unlike many street people, Harry was not down on his luck. Others might have been forced into such a life, but he had born into it, and chose to remain in it. This was the life that he had lived for as long as he could remember. His father and his mother were hobos during the great depression and never settled down even after the depression had ended. He grew up riding on trains, eating hobo stew, and living the life of a wanderer free of any economic ties to any single location.
He finally reached the flat stretch of the road where pedaling would be easier. It was less than a mile to the restaurant where he would meet the Sheriff, but that was not his immediate destination. Below him, a shallow stream cut through a meadow. The fast moving water sparkled in the sunlight drawing the eye from the green meadow that it divided in two. He would pause here to visit the stream.
He parked the tricycle by the side of the road and put down the double kickstand that lifted the front wheel and would keep the trike from rolling away. Dismounting, he walked to the back of his trike and rummaged through the basket attached there. As meager as they were, all of his worldly possessions were in that basket. For the moment, he needed a change of clothing so that he could wash and change clothes before meeting up with the Sheriff. It was the price he had to pay for the lunch and the ride he would get through the mountain pass.
With a change of clothes, Harry headed down the hill to the stream below. Fed by snowmelt from higher up the mountain, the water was not deep. It ran fast and was freezing cold. That wasn’t a problem for Harry. In his hard life, he had bathed in ice water and baked in the burning sun. He followed the stream into a stand of trees seeking the place where he usually bathed.
Harry wasn’t in a hurry. Rushing around wasn’t his style. He preferred to take the time to smell the roses and there were a lot of roses in the world that he inhabited. He paused to watch a squirrel sitting on its back legs and holding a nut between its two front paws while eating it.
Smiling, Harry gave a mock bow to the squirrel and said, “We’re alike you and I. We eat all summer to store enough fat to last through the winter.”
The squirrel ignored the interloper. Harry laughed and jiggled his potbelly with both hands before heading to the stand of trees. It was a beautiful day and he was enjoying it. He recognized the path into the woods, but the area had different feel to it despite looking the same. The air was still, the scents were overwhelming, the noises were unnaturally loud, and the colors overly bright.
A chill crept down his spine. Uneasy, he slowed and then stopped to look around wondering what was the matter. He started when a naked woman stepped out from behind a tree and waved a hand to him in a beckoning gesture. As far as Harry was concerned, she was a perfect specimen of womanhood. Her body was soft and rounded in all the right places. It wasn’t that she was overweight, but that she had padding in all the right places. Her buttocks were nice and full - the kind that softened the act of sex. Her breasts were full and lush without drooping.
Harry nodded his head and smiled at the woman in a non- threatening manner. In a friendly voice, he said, “Pardon me, Ma’am. Didn’t know anyone else was here. I’ll find another place for my bath.”
“Follow me, Harry,” said the woman in a commanding voice that would not be denied. It seemed as if her voice came from all around him, echoing off the trees giving it a rustling tone like wind blowing through leaves. It was earthy and otherworldly at the same time.
Stunned by her voice, it never dawned on him to wonder how she knew his name. Harry followed her along a path that led to a large meadow that he had never seen before. Almost against his will, his body responded to the mere sight of her earthy Rubenesque body. He hadn’t met a woman that had that effect on him in years. When she stopped and turned to face him, he froze four feet from her.
For a moment, the world stopped moving. Then, the calm broke into chaos when the woman moved. Small patches of his clothes flew through the air as she ripped them off him layer by layer. His sweater, shirt, and undershirt were rendered into confetti that floated away like dandelion seeds in a slow breeze. His pants and underpants soon joined the fluttering cloth in the air around him. Shocked at the speed with which the woman moved, Harry knew it was impossible to protect his clothes.
Standing naked, Harry went to cover himself with his hands. She placed her hands on his chest and pushed him to the ground. Rather than being hard, the ground seemed to swell up to embrace his body and cushion his fall. The woman lowered herself onto him and then threw her arms around him. The thought that having her on top would be enjoyable flitted through his mind like the birds flitted from branch to branch around them.
She rolled pulling Harry atop her. Before he knew it, his body was moving without conscious control. It was driven by urges that came from without rather than from within. His buttocks moved at a jackhammer pace. All of his attempts to slow down and take it easy on the woman beneath him failed. His body was no longer his to control and moved of its own volition.
The first few minutes were pleasurable, but the pleasure evaporated the longer his body hammered hers. Muscles in his back started to hurt, his buttocks started to spasm, and sweat rolled off his face blinding him as beads of salty water ran into his eyes. When she tightened her muscles, he thought he was going to break in half. It wasn’t making love or even having sex, but something even more primal than rutting.
Arms trembling from holding his body off hers, he felt his stomach spasm in pain. His thoughts were not of sexual release, but of physical escape. This was not a pleasant experience and he wanted it to end. He tried to disengage from her, but his body would not follow his mental commands. Instead, he found himself standing up and holding her onto himself. The strain on his back was tremendous, his legs trembled from the effort to remain standing, and his arms ached as he held her.
It was impossible to know how much time passed before he reached his release, but it felt like days. The world spun around him as he started to loose consciousness. Exhausted from being physically pushed beyond his endurance, he collapsed with her landing atop him.
She climbed off him and moved over his face. He closed his mouth disgusted at the idea what she wanted. She was not one to be denied, though.
His stomach threatened to heave. He had never liked performing oral sex on women. The women that he usually slept with weren’t exactly the best at feminine hygiene. Having his ears twisted in punishment for his lackluster effort spurred him to greater efforts. He would have thrown up by now in normal circumstances, but there was nothing normal about this event.
After what seemed like hours later, his tongue had swollen in his mouth and his jaw had locked in place. He felt half dead by the time her release came. There was nothing he could do to keep from swallowing. When she was finished, she stood and looked down at him. In her hand was a gold medallion dangling from a thin chain.
Harry looked up at her. His eyes were drawn to the medallion knowing that it was his to keep. Expecting her to give it to him, he watched in surprise when she threw it into the meadow. As the medallion flew through the air, it broke into five pieces. A shadowy suggestion of a person formed on the ground at each place a piece of the medallion landed. It was impossible to tell age, gender, or race of the figures.
The women pointed to the shadow people to draw his attention to them. Harry looked over at them wondering what he was supposed to do. He stood, feeling like a man twice his age, on legs that barely supported him. The woman pointed a second time at the people. The look on her face conveyed that he was to go to where they were. He got her message that he was to help them.
Harry looked down at his naked body and saw that he was a bloody mess. The real significance of the act passed unnoticed on his part. His attention was focused on the horror of his bloody member. Taking a deep breath, he headed towards the closest person on the ground. He walked woodenly, his arms hanging limply by his sides. It was too much effort to swing them in time with his step.
As he walked, his surroundings changed from the meadow to the inner city. The shadowy figure resolved itself into a boy, about thirteen, lying on the pavement. The boy was shivering as if he was freezing cold even though the temperature was hot. Concerned, Harry knelt down and felt the forehead of the kid finding that he burned with a very high fever.
Looking around, Harry recognized his surroundings as downtown St. Louis and knew that there was a Fusion Foundation Clinic less than two blocks away. It could have been miles considering his exhaustion. He picked up the boy and started walking towards the clinic. Despite the fact that the boy wasn’t heavy, carrying him for two blocks was taxing particularly since his body was already exhausted from his previous activities. About halfway there, Harry had to set the boy down for a minute to recover before carrying him further.
Arms aching, back sore, sweating heavily, and legs on the verge of collapsing, it was with a sense of great relief that Harry saw the entrance to health center. He staggered into the building, nearly dropping the boy, and reached the front desk. The receptionist behind the desk looked at the pair and turned as though to call a nurse to the front. The scene faded as Harry returned to the meadow. Harry found he was holding the chain of the medallion instead of the boy.
Another person was lying on the ground not far from where he stood. After glancing back at the naked woman, he walked in the direction of the person. The scene shifted around him, and he was walking down an alley in the middle of a frigid snowstorm, pushing his way through the snow. The cold sucked his body heat with a tenacity worthy of a pit bull. His hands and feet were first to go numb.
Ahead of him was a young woman who was probably about sixteen years of age. She was not dressed appropriately for the weather, and lay in the snow shivering from the cold. Just from looking at her, he could see the telltale signs that she had run away from home. Her clothes were not appropriate for living on the street and yet had the dirty look that conveyed that she had been living in them for slightly less than a week.
Harry knelt down to examine the young woman. It didn’t take years of living on the street to know that he needed to warm her before she died of hypothermia. Looking down the alley towards the street, he could see that nothing was open. The snow stood four feet high in places and moving from the alley wouldn’t change her situation.
He went to a dumpster and started pulling trash out of it with unresponsive hands that were numb from the cold. Getting her body off the snow was necessary to save her life. Nothing would draw the warmth from her faster than lying on snow and concrete. It took five minutes for him to create a nest made of old newspapers, cardboard boxes, and plastic bags. The plastic bags, filled with trash, formed the first layer. He covered the plastic bags with cardboard to prevent accidental suffocation. His body was starting to shake from naked exposure to the elements, but he was dogged in his pursuit of his mission.
Returning to the young lady, he picked her up and carried her to the nest of trash. Settling down beside her, he arranged the newspapers to cover them and then pulled a layer of cardboard over that to prevent the papers from blowing away. With layers of trash beneath and above them, he had created a small volume of space that would insulate them from the cold. He put his arms around the woman and held her close to him to share his body heat.
As he embraced her, the young woman disappeared and he found himself in the meadow holding a chain with part of the medallion attached to it. Exhausted and still numb from the cold, it was a real effort to collect himself to continue the mission given him by the woman.
He didn’t understand everything that was going on around him, but he knew that he had to see it through to the end. He stood on legs that didn’t want to support his body. It was a real fear that if the assaults against his body continued, he would be reduced to crawling to the last person. As it was, his physical exhaustion made it difficult to concentrate on anything.
Stumbling over every imperfection of the meadow, he approached the third person. The surroundings changed to an inner-city landscape, with broken beer bottles littering the street. A stretch of cracked pavement next to the street barely passed for a sidewalk. The buildings had bars on the windows. Looking at the stores, he knew that the people working in them would be protected from the customers by bulletproof enclosures.
The third person was a man in his mid-twenties and he was drunk. Slouched against a building, the man was crying even as he took another sip from a bottle hidden within a bag. Harry, hands on his hips, looked down at the drunken man with disdain. Years on the street had taught him that a man who started crying while drinking usually turned violent before passing out.
After a minute, he started talking to the man trying to find out what was the matter. After a short exchange, he knew all that he needed to know. It was a common enough story and the man was living it out in the most negative manner possible. The man had lost his job and his house. As a result, he and his family were living on the street in their car while he was looking for work, but no one wanted to hire him.
When the man started ranting about how unfair life was, Harry knew the man was working himself up to the point of violence. Stepping back, he waited for the anger to overflow and turn violent. It wasn’t long before the man took a swing at Harry after he had made an innocent comment. Harry had been expecting it. After summoning what little remained of his strength, Harry landed one blow to the man’s stomach. The booze that the drunkard had been drinking was lost as he bent over and retched.
The man was not helping his family by drinking up what little money they had. The family needed food, shelter, and clothes. The money used to pay for the booze could have bought a loaf of bread and sandwich filling that could have fed the family for a day. That should have been the man’s primary concern rather than feeling sorry for himself. There was help available, but the man in his stupid pride would pull his family down rather than accept the help.