The young boy ran and ran and ran, rain pouring down on him in torrents. He was cold, wet and it had been days since he’d had a bite to eat. It was rare that he’d been caught stealing, but Old Man Hester had been on the ball. The last thing he’d expected was for the portly, old guy to bust out a shotgun.
Glass had shattered behind him as he let the door slowly close when he ran, the buckshot barely missing the boy. The kid ran, clinging to whatever edibles he could keep from dropping out the pockets of his hoodie. He ran until his legs felt like they might give up. And then he ran some more, a trail of junkfood behind him.
Hester hadn’t a prayer of keeping up with him, not with that big ol’ gut. The young boy dared a look back, just in case. His eyes should have been forward. He slammed into the unseen body of a man in black. The kid hit the pavement with a harsh grunt, the contraband falling from his pockets.
His eyes traveled up and up and up the tall figure, his face still shrouded in shadow. A hand reached out for him, sending up every red flag the young man had built in his young life. He was in survival mode. Quickly, he swatted the hand away and tried to scramble back, trapping himself in a corner.
“Easy, son. Easy.” The man said soothingly. “I’m not gonna hurt ya.”
Those big hands were held up placatingly, a cigarette burning between two fingers. It was then that he saw it. A clerical collar. His all-black outfit that of a priest. He had a kindly face, but the boy had seen enough of those in his time to know it didn’t mean he was safe.
“Are you alright, lad? Are you hurt?” the priest asked.
The frightened young man just stared through wild, blue eyes, waiting for this man to make a move. The old man peered from behind glasses, noting the food scattering the ground around the boy. He couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11, he thought.
“That what you’re runnin’ for? You steal that?” he asked, but there wasn’t a hint of judgement in the old man’s voice. The boy didn’t answer. He just watched.
“I tell you what. How about, you come inside. Get a warm meal in you, Get out of this rain.” he suggested.
The kid’s fists tightened into little fists. “*** you. I ain’t stupid! I know you’re just gonna turn me in.”
The old man’s brow furrowed. “You shouldn’t talk like that. That kinda bile shouldn’t be coming out a young man’s mouth.” His lips upturned in a little smile. “I tell you what. I’m going to head in. I have a pot of stew cooking inside. If you want to come join me? Please. You are more than welcome. If not...well, then you go right on your way. Sound good?”
The boy didn’t answer. The man just stubbed out his cigarette and put it in a receptacle. “If I don’t see you...good luck, my son.”
With that, the old man went inside. The boy sat out in the rain a long time, soaked to the bone. It was getting colder lately. The past few nights had been spent under cardboard boxes grabbing whatever scraps he could to make a blanket to sleep on. The father hadn’t been lying...he could smell the stew from out there. It might have been some bachelor chow junk, but to a starving boy, it smelled like heaven.
Slowly, he got up off the ground, took one look around for his pursuer, and headed inside. It was dead quiet, but for the sound of rain upon the roof and a crash of thunder. He looked around cautiously, the smell of food beckoning him into the kitchen. Every step seemed to take a lifetime as he slowly made his way in, just waiting for someone to grab him and haul him off to a home.
But it never came.
When he arrived in that dining area, the priest was pulling out a second bowl for the boy. He froze in the doorway, quiet as can be. The old man didn’t even glance back. “Sink is over there. You don’t have to, but I recommend you wash up a bit. Do you like soda? You’re welcome to whatever’s in the fridge.”
Once again, no response from the boy. He just cautiously made his way to the fridge. He’d almost forgotten the taste of anything that wasn’t dirty water or the backwash left in a bottle. Those sharp, blue eyes taking the bounty before him in like it was the holy grail. His hands shook as he took an orange soda and cracked the top.
The boy chugged it vigorously, greedily. Nothing before and nothing after would ever taste so sweet.
“Easy now. You don’t want to go upsettin’ your stomach, lad.” The priest smiled,, setting a small portion for him on a chair. The kid didn’t move immediately of course, but eventually the call of cooked food was too tempting. He started over finally.
“Oop.” the father said, halting the boy. He nodded to the sink. Reluctantly the kid went and washed his hands and face. The water was warm, clean. It took every ounce of restraint for him not to put his head under the faucet and just drink.
The priest smiled, watching him as he finished. The little urchin stepped over and immediately dug in like a hungry dog. This kid hadn’t had a good meal in a LONG time, he thought. “Take it easy, son. Nobody’s gonna take it from you.”
The boy looked feral when his eyes shot up to him, but he softened and slowed down.
“My name is Father Benjamin Mulcahy.” He introduced himself. “This is my home. You are welcome to stay here as long as you need. What’s mine is yours.”
Those eyes showed he didn’t believe it. The kid was a tough nut to crack, Mulcahy thought.
“I know. It seems to good to be true, right?” He said with a self deprecating tone. “It ain’t a 5 star hotel or anything, but...it’s warm. It’s dry. It’s got food. You stick around, help out a bit...and I think you’ll see it’s not too bad.”
God, but he was a quiet one. The boy still not speaking. He just shoved in another fork-full of stew.
“You got a name, my son?”
Again, silence. Mulcahy nodded slowly. “I understand. When you’re ready, you can tell me.”
The priest tucked a napkin onto his lap and started eating. For a long time it was silent between them. Just the sounds of forks clanking on bowls and the occasional chewing noise. This Mulcahy didn’t seem to have any ulterior motives. If he did, he wasn’t showing it. He just minded his business and enjoyed his meal.
Mulcahy perked, looking up from the bowl. “What’s that?”
“My name is Simon.”
November 14th, 2017
It’s funny how quickly things can change. How what you think you know can be flipped on its head. Coming home had been blissful...until it wasn’t. The moment he’d seen her in the arms another man, carried into his car and driving off...something broke. It didn’t take a genius to figure what most likely happened next. He knew who she was. How she was.
Even if he was wrong that night, he knew it wouldn’t be long until he was right. So, Simon did what he often did. He left.
In the past, he’d have gone to war. Used his fists to “solve” the problem. But he just didn’t have that in him. Simon Toews was tired of fighting. He left behind a picture and a note with a brief message. “I hope he’s enough.”
Simon found himself with his few earthly possessions, sat behind the wheel of that beat up Charger, unsure of where to go. All he knew was that returning to that penthouse was absolutely out of the question. Simon was lost, and the phone currently occupying the bottom of bay ensured he would not be found.
Winter would be there soon, and it would be a bitterly cold one. A daunting concept when one was without a home. It wasn’t like he didn’t have friends...he probably could have given Orchid a call...but he knew what would likely happen if he did. And that wasn’t what he needed right now.
Almost instinctively, he reached to his pocket for a pack of cigarettes and found it empty. That was odd. He was never without a pack on him. To be honest, the last time he could remember lighting one up was back...back in Noble.
Funny how that podunk little town and that tiny farm could have had such a profound effect on him. He thought about what Kate and Millie were up to now. He hoped they had found more peace back home than he had.
Simon cursed under his breath. It just made him picture what was likely going on at that very second. He didn’t know the man currently spending an evening with the woman he’d sacrificed so much for. Frankly, he didn’t want to know.
Stop it. Focus on the next step, he reprimanded himself. Find somewhere to stay. The more he thought about it, the clearer the option became. The one person he never would have thought he’d have to depend on.
With a weary sigh, he turned onto the highway and gunned it to the only place he knew nobody would think to look.