There was a blood moon back in August. The night air was thick; could hardly breath. Mike G. sat under the bridge smoking a menthol cigarette, a Newport, came in a pretty green package with a clear wrapper ’round it. Opening up a box was like Christmas. He knew what he was getting, but, closed his eyes before placing it in his mouth.
‘Cross town Skitter and Tommy Lee awoke from under their bridge. The train above rattled early in the morning. It was a slow moving locomotive, making all kinds of grunts and belches as it rolled ever so slowly above. The two of em normally loved this noise, it was like a mom’s whisper, yet, something in this early morn was keeping Skitter and Tommy Lee awake. Maybe it was the red moon. Maybe.
They started to gather their belongings and hide them for the day. Musty blankets and old pillows were hid by a column with a hole behind it going into the earth. They placed what few clothes they had in the hole as well. Took a swig of whiskey each and polished off the bottle. The two of em did not leave a trace behind.
Mike G. had nothing to hide. He walked around town carrying a book bag, a copy of Moby Dick and some clothes. A small radio was placed in the bag along with a cheap flip phone used sparingly. Some people he could call, but, not many. Bridges had been burned.
The sun was coming up and the blood moon was disappearing into the morning clouds. Every bum in Joplin watched it vanish that morning. Skitter and Tommy Lee took a long look at the orange circle. So did Mike G. And eventually they’d meet in the middle of town at the shelter for breakfast. A line of homeless men and women stood there waiting to go in. Brother Joe opened the door and began by saying, Let’s pray for this meal and this day. The big man, Joe, said a prayer that was filled with thanks and a big amen at the end.
The line moved forward. Trays were taken from a stack. There were scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, and donuts. This is a feast, Mike G. whispered. Skitter and Tommy Lee just nodded their brown heads. Both had stomachs that were growling. Mike G. also. They had a hunger that would not stop. Mike G’s hairy white hand grabbed a few donuts and a pint of milk whereas the other two loaded up on pancakes. They were told by the volunteer that there was no syrup.
No syrup, Skitter said. None?, the woman behind the hot table nodded her head. Can’t eat no pancakes without syrup, the skinny black man told all that could hear. No damn syrup? I’ll just grab some coffee,the volunteer pointed at the donuts. No thanks, Skitter said. Probably stale.
Mike G. waited in front of the library as the clouds grew dark. He took swigs of coffee and bites of chocolate donuts. Sprinkles started to come down. He finished his food and took solace in the cleansing of his sins. And so did Skitter and Tommy Lee as they waited in line at day labor for a job that day along with fifty other men.
Thank you Lord, Tommy Lee said. Thank you Lord, and the rain fell harder. There’s always a blessing in disguise.