It’s getting cold out. Marty hated when the freezing rain blew sideways into his tarp shelter and soaked everything. He was careful with his campfires in the woods. Marty loved animals and wouldn’t want to hurt them through carelessness. Animals felt more like his people. It seemed that way to him, that animals were good people and people were dangerous animals. He didn’t want to be around them, so he was staying in the woods, keeping out of sight, in his shelter.
The animals he respected wouldn’t come up and kick you in the face while you slept. They wouldn’t take your coat. It was quieter out in the woods, too. But there were hard nights, like when the fisher cat takes down a red fox. Those desperate wails made Marty put his arms up over his ears as he lay, trying to sleep. Once he cried so hard he shook. It seemed like that fox said it all to him; it was a long hard go of it and no one was coming to help.
Marty could get on okay. He would walk or hitch into town and the people at the church’s food pantry left him alone enough. At the food pantry, a small guy with a giant laugh named Shorty told Marty about some people at the Carson Center that you could trust. Marty knew better; he just smirked in reply. Shorty said that Marty should try to meet them for one day—what could it hurt? It was warm and dry over there, anyway. There were good people. They can help out. And they had coffee. “No way,” thought Marty, and then he saw the tattoo on Shorty’s neck. It was a fox.
If the wind hadn’t blown so hard that day, if the rain wasn’t hitting like small icy pellets on his head, if he hadn’t seen the sign of the fox, maybe he wouldn’t have gone. But he did go.
Marty lives in an apartment now. His Carson Outreach Worker comes and helps him get to his appointments. They talk about his next steps and what he’s accomplished this past year. He goes to therapy and is on a medication that works for him. It doesn’t seem as if people are as bad as they used to be. Even his mom; he started talking to his family again. Marty has two cats. The cats lie on his chest while he relaxes on his bed. Some nights he opens the window next to his bed all the way and he breathes in the air. Marty’s warm, breathing in the sharp fresh air, lying in a soft bed with his cat people rumbling happily into his chest. He’ll see his Carson worker tomorrow.
By JAC Patrissi