The old man couldn't work. He looked as if the only life left in him had retreated to his eyes. They shone like pale winter moons in a grey face. Grey skin - grey beard - grey eyes. He volunteered to cook reciting a resume of credentials fine enough for a Waldorf chef. Later it began to rain. Rick, Scooter, and Warren polished the floors to a bronze mirror. Sandy, Jill, and I stitched curtains. The old man retired to his cot with a gigantic hunk of cardboard from somewhere and bent over it a long time. That evening he hung an immense squash-yellow smiling-sun on the wall behind the board table. We had hot soup and cornbread.(13)
More and more people came. Cots lined every wall. Some were belligerent red-eyed. They soon left - no drugs - no booze - no willing women. People like that can't believe that in our group we accept each other as brothers and sisters. There is no sex activity among us. From different routes of the street, with different reasons for being there, we have gravitated together by an affinity of attitude. We are a family of choice. Some people snicker and sneer. Predators knowing loyalty to none. Someone gave the old man a pathetic guitar with dangling strings. He fixed it. "No use" we said - " none of us know how to play it". He smiled as if we were children who had to be taught. "It means a musician will come" - he said. I like the old man. He's a lot smarter than he looks. Sometimes stars can be seen through the skylight when it's dark in here and outside too. Other times - it's cluttered - like the gym was about to boil over . . .(14)
Mornings were shivery when the man with nice eyes and understanding insides came again. An old bathhouse at the beach just south of here could be redone. He asked us to take it on. We had long talks about our new beach home. Three days later he was back. Residents nearby had protested. The deal was off. The bathhouse would be torn down. The old man was right though. One night a musician walked in. He played in pattern chords and sang with a sad twang, but we had music. I like the musician. He has soft cocoa eyes and manners and speech you don't often find on the street. I think he feels and thinks like us.(15)
The gym has become a roil of crosscurrents. Flight from coming cold aimed some for the sun-belt. Others intrude now who complain and try to command. Too often we huddle defensively in our corner. Social workers are involved elsewhere, I guess. There's a lot more for them to do. I guess they assume we are self-governing by now. Or that all that needs done has been done. We wonder how long before the law moves in. The old man has been sick. Jill cooks and Sandy and I clean. Rick and Warren have returned to the Thrift Shop. This shelter with no future is a dead end. There's at least a feeling of earning something at the Thrift Shop. Afraid to stay here at night we go with them. We all feel safer there.