Hammond, Indiana

He was scared of the unknown. Frightened of death. Read the Bible everyday, but, took no solace in it; just stories to him. Nothing devinely inspired. Although he liked Paul. Thought he was a tough guy. Like Lee Marvin.

There was dust on his mantle. Burnt wood in the fireplace. He hadn’t moved anything for years. No cleaning; ate off of paper plates, or, right out of the can. Cold chilli, cans of tuna, sardines in mustard with Saltine crackers, was all that he ate. Always had a six pack of Old Style in the refrigerator ; a bottle of whiskey on his coffee table; a cat that shit on the floor. The whole trailer smelled of urine. Milk jugs of piss.

The old man was nearing the end, he thought. Had these wild conversations with himself. Spoke of missed opportunities, girls that got away, never finishing anything in his life. Said he’d never finished a task handed to him. Always left midstream. Went from job to job to job. Traveled around the country on a Greyhound bus. Sleeping under bridges, in homeless shelters, rented rooms. Living off of Supplemental Security Income. Never having a buck in his pocket.

Had a son out in New Mexico. Went forty-two years without knowing him; some one night stand when he was living in Pueblo. Turns out the son moved around a lot too. They had that in common. The two of them wrote letters to each other. Talked about the weather, his mom, stories from the road.

The boy was missing a leg. Got ran over by a truck in the middle of the night while he was hitchhiking along 41. The old man asked him what he was doing up that way? close to Chicago. The kid said he was trying to find him. Went on a hike cross country to find the old man. Wound up in a hospital with his leg cut off. Figured it was never meant to be.

They never saw each other in person. The son tracked the old man down through police records and old addresses. Traced him all the way to Hammond, Indiana. The mom thought he might be in the Midwest. That’s where the old man was from. Said he talked about Hammond, Indiana.

Some how we all return to where we came from. That’s just what we do as Americans. We wander around for years then return to our roots, whether that’s physically or spiritually; we all return home.


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