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Published by Matthew Connolly

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Published by: Matthew Connolly on Sep 07, 2009
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02/09/2013

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CHAPTER ONE: THE FOURTH OF JULY ON THE ESPLANADE
"Hey, Theresa, c'mere!" Jake yelled beckoning her to his side. "Come on, Theresa. Will yah! Over here! Over here!" he persistently bellowed. Theresa's wine besotted and dulled faculties focused on the noisy voice.She viewed through the murky mist that had slowly settled over her vision theslight, disheveled figure of Jake wildly flailing his arms, as if in battle with swarmsof angry yellow jackets. Momentarily she watched him. She then swung herattention to one of her competitors in the endless search for daily grub who wasavidly devouring the remains of a freshly discarded peanut butter sandwich. Thegray squirrel had faired hardly better in life than Theresa in its pursuit of food, asindicated by its fur sparse tail that more resembled that of a rat than one of itsfellows.Her knee-jerk desire to chase this predator from its quarry was fleeting.She too had gluttonously fed on the refuse of the crowd who had just departedfrom the banks of the Charles River after being patriotically satiated by the 4th of  July concert of the Boston Pops. Yet the sandwich the squirrel was eating stilllooked much better than the one she held. She took another bite, tasting thewarm greasy mayonnaise and slimy hot baloney, and tossed it back onto thegrass. She again gave thought to destroying the squirrel's enjoyment of itsrepast by claiming it for herself."Theresa," came wafting back into her consciousness driving out the idea.She turned toward his voice - Jake's thrashing arms signaled for her presence.She ran the back of her arm across her bloated lips for the two-fold purpose of cleansing them after her meal, and summonsing up the energy and the will totraverse the 100 or so yards separating them.Moving unsteadily on splayed legs, she stumbled across the expansetoward the river's edge. As she closed on Jake, she noticed another personstanding next to him. Fearful of strangers, she hesitated, turned back to look forthe squirrel using this pause to decide whether to continue toward Jake or toretreat to a safer place. She looked back toward the river. Jake was taking abottle from his companion. A surge of tension and doubt rose within her seeing Jake sharing a bottle with a fellow denizen of the streets. Sordid historicalexperience told her that he may have made her the offering for the drink."Hey, Theresa, come on, you should see what we've got," he ordered, hisvoice reflecting annoyance at her indecision. He waved the bottle and thenostentatiously put it to his mouth threw his head back and imbided. She stoodand watched. Finishing the swig, he passed the bottle back to its owner and said:"Come on, Theresa! What the hell's the matta?"She moved toward them, favoring a path which led her to the side of Jakefarthest from the stranger. "Here, give me it," Jake bellowed to the stranger. Taking the bottle from him he proffered it to her. She accepted the tender,imbibed deeply and quickly, and handed it back to Jake as she wiped the liquidwhich drooled over her lips and chin with the palm of her left hand.
 
Knowing the likely cost of the drink, she'd taken it not for the joy of thetaste, or the dulling effect to be gained from this mechanical exercise of taking adeep sip, but rather in obedience to the learned ritual of not refusing what wasoffered for the ultimate price extracted would not vary by her declination. For allconsidered an offer itself a completed act. She responded automatically - willand reason had long since seeped from her. Her existence was not unlike herfellow forager whom she'd left in peace enjoying the peanut butter sandwich.She wasn't always like this, no one ever is a life time street person, but forall she cared to remember, her life was a mere continuance of an endless hellishstreet bound existence which had no beginning and maybe if she’s unlucky noending. Yesterday's memories of youth had been extinguished by denial, horrorand booze. The oldest daughter of an unemployed, unskilled father, who did notreturn home again to face his four hungry children, aged five to one, afteranother in a long line of unrequited attempts to secure menial employment; anda tragically confused mother, who tenuously teetered on the edge of sanity, asher husband piled failure upon failure, as her sources of support evaporated, asher four young children constantly, agonizingly, cried for sustenance, as theenmity of her continually antagonized friends and neighbors, sickened by herkids repeated wailings and her growing daily draining pleas for aid, and as theworld, in general, spewed invective over her. Her spouse's disappearancesimplified her life by lessening the mouths at the sparsely filled trough andoffering the distraction to be gained by substituting for him itinerant maleplaymates. Theresa's mom, between the time her husband fled and Theresa'sinvasion, often sought surcease from her plight through the solace of demon rumand the amorphous comforts of a motley coterie of new found friends, whothemselves had fled from family situations which they had created and wereunable longer to abide. There existed within that group an inordinately highpercentage of men and women who had dropped out of high school, which theythought confining and stifling. They sought the open fields and fresh air of freedom offered by marriage, or even better an intimate relationship not basedon ceremony but on trust - begot children while yet children themselves - andagain discovered rolling into their early twenties, their late childhood, they wereagain enrolled in a confining and stifling state for which they knew one remedy,dropping out.Mentally knowing only one route through life, they continually swapped adismal situation for its twin, extracting from the new a temporary respite only inits newness. Some were able to maintain the novelty for months. Most foundafter a mere week or two, that the new was like the old which elicited the well-rehearsed reaction, flight.It were as if a constant flowing stream, a branch away from the maincurrent of life, carried endless masses of emancipated male ne'er-do-wells
 
floating past small unkempt islands inhabited by distraught females onto whichone floater or another, like flotsam, would be tossed up. There he and theislander would discover temporary relief from their empty turbulent lifepassages until the inevitable storm washed him back into the slowly narrowingstream. For most it dried up on the streets of homelessness.Even after her father’s disappearance, the day after her fifth birthday, Theresa lived a normal child's life in her single parent family, undisturbed by theconstant comings and goings of uncles. She like all children assumed that theexistence she lived was what it was supposed to be, knowing no other. Early onshe attended school as often as possible, even on those times when her motherwould not get out of bed to prepare her for the day. But the constant movingfrom one apartment to another, from one town to another, her shame at herunkempt appearance called to her attention by the frequent taunts of herclassmates, made her prefer her dismal home to the school house.When she was eleven or twelve, an unimaginable horror visited itself onher. Her mother's newest male buddy had been living together with her for amonth and the bloom of their relationship was at its peak the night Theresadiscovered him creeping over her in bed as she woke for the last time from achild's sleep. His vile fingers clamped her mouth and penetrated into her body;his quivering, heavily panting, voice uttered ominous threats against her and hersiblings should she make noise, give resistance, or attempt disclosure; and shealmost suffocated on the fetidness of his alcohol soaked and tobacco befouledbreath.Finally, after minutes, or hours, he suddenly stopped, slunked slowly backinto her mother's bed, leaving behind a wet gooey substance and his fetid odor.Undeterred by his threats, she tragically blundered in her youthful naiveté byrunning to her mother seeking succor, carrying on her the irrefutable, damnablestain of her defilement, unknowingly requiring her mother to elect between herdaughter or her lover. Her mother chose to stand with the one who gave her themost pleasure, support, and transient relief from the tedium of existence. Theresa was banished from the home. For two or so years she wasshuttlecocked between emotionally dead foster homes. She escaped them byfleeing into the streets. Soon she found acceptance in the idea that shebelonged in the gutter and she'd die in the gutter. Ashes to ashes - gutter togutter. She neither sought to hasten nor delay this final outcome."Theresa, this is Eddie," Jake said handing the bottle back to its owner.Eddie was heavier, taller, and dirtier than Jake, and a good deal older. Shefigured he had to be in his early to middle thirties because he looked well overforty. She knew that the street people did not age like others. To determine theirage, you had to know how long their incarceration on the street had lasted. Arough rule of thumb was that each year on the street added about three years toa person's appearance.

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