A Teenager's Wisdom by Rick Beck   
"A Teenager's Wisdom"
by Rick Beck
Edited by Bob



Young Adult
Drama

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From the author

For a man who truly cares about the least of these. We care together, Andy. You and Ann are an inspiration. You are our voice, and we feel your tears.

Here is my rendering of people who care and share at a dangerous time. At a time when the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, there are children at risk who aren't considered. They are the throwaway and runaway children, who can no longer live at home.

40% of homeless children are LGBTQ. These are our children. We need to take care of them at a time when they can't distance themselves. There is nowhere for them to hide.

Rick


While Bart Jordan, a busy teen, might not have the covid-19 epidemic on his mind, he does have less fortunate kids there. When he sees a need, he rises to the occasion. When he does, he carries his parents and his quiet suburban community along with him.

Like most fifteen-year-old boys, Bart is up early, and busy until long after dark. A sophomore at John F. Kennedy High School, he is active in theater arts, student government, and he's a spiffy soccer player. Life in his suburban community is good.

Bart is limping, after being kicked in the calf during a game. It's the kind of thing that got his mother's attention, but was only a minor annoyance to him.

"Can't you be more careful? That might be serious, Bart. Let me see it," his mom said.

"The coach looked at it, mom. It's a bruise. I'm fine," Bart said.

"How does he know something isn't broken?" she asked.

"Mom, the man's been playing soccer all his life. It's a bruise. I'll be fine."

When his father came in, his mother asked him to drive to their favorite restaurant, Giuseppe's, near town, to get the sauce and garlic bread she ordered. Bart, always willing to go along with his father, is ready to go.

"I'll go with you, pop," Bart said, putting down his textbook.

It was a fifteen minute drive to the southwestern corner of the city. The sauce and garlic bread was waiting for Mr. Jordan, when he got to Giuseppe's.

"Oh, that smells great, pop," Bart said, as soon as his father got back into the car. He reached into the backseat and secure the food.

"Does, doesn't it?" His father said. "What are you reading, Bart?"

"Macbeth. Shakespeare. I don't mind telling you, dad, you guys think what I watch on television is violent? These people are crazy. They're all kings and queens, and they're nutso," Bart said.

His father laughed.

"I remember Shakespeare. They had nothing else to do in those times, so they plotted to kill each other a lot," his father said. "No TV. No radio. No computers. So, they had a lot of time for plotting."

"Hey, dad. Stop. That kid looks like he's freezing," Bart said, seeing a boy about his age standing stationary on the corner.

When the car stopped, Bart was immediately out the door. His father looked over his shoulder, and a cold breeze blew around his ears. It was cold.

"Hey, what are you doing out here?" Bart asked, as he approached the boy.

"What, you writing a book, or something? I'm trying to get enough money to eat, if you must know," the boy said.

"What's your name?" Bart asked.

"What's it to you? What you going to call it, kid?" the boy asked.

"Call what?" Bart asked, digging in his pocket for whatever money he had.

"The book you're writing," the boy said, watching Bart dig in his pocket.

"You look like you're freezing. This is all I got. Why are you standing out in the cold? You look like you're lost. Here, two bucks will buy you a burger," Bart said. "It's all I got, dude."

"Two bucks don't buy you a lot these days, kid. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the loan. At least I won't starve tonight. To answer your question, I'm out here, because this is where I live. I got nowhere to go,' the boy said, blowing into his hands.

"Where do you live?" Bart asked. "We can drive you."

The boy laughed.

Bart sensed, the boys story was going to remain a mystery.

"What you see is what you get, dude. I slept in an alley last night. I might sleep in a doorway tonight. Sometimes they leave the heat on in the stores, and the doorways aren't too cold, but after a few hours, I need to get up to move around, so as I don't freeze. That's more than two bucks worth. Now, you owe me, kid," the boy said.

"Are you hungry?" Bart asked.

"Does the Pope shit in the woods?"

"It's a bear," Bart said. "Bears shit in the woods."

"Bears, Popes, we all shit in the woods sooner or later," the boy said. "You really are writing a book."

"Bart, the food is going to get cold," Mr. Jordan said. "Whose your friend?"

A Teenager's Wisdom by Rick Beck

"He lives out here, pop. Can we take him home? He's freezing. We can't leave him out here," Bart said, sounding distressed about his new friend's condition.

"Hey, kid, don't get your panties in a twist. There are a hundred kids like me that I know. I bet there's a thousand more downtown. Your old man can't take us all home. He sure can't afford to feed us all," the boy said.

"Young man, do you have a name?"

"I'm Frankie. Franklin James," the boy said.

Mr. Jordan reached in his pocket and took out a five dollar bill. He handed it to the boy. Bart didn't mention giving him two dollars.

"Cool," Frank said, pocketing the bill. "You writing a book, too? This will get you an entire chapter."

"Where will you go tonight, Frank?" Mr. Jordan asked.

"Don't know. I'll find a place," Frank said. "It's nothing new. I manage."

Bart left and returned with the bags from Giuseppe's.

"Bart, that's our dinner," Mr. Jordan protested.

"He's hungry, pop." Bart said. "We got plenty at home."

"It's only bread and sauce," Mr. Jordan said. "What can he do with bread and sauce?"

"Let me show you what I can do," Frank said, opening the container of garlic bread and pouring the steaming sauce over top of the hot bread.

He moved the bread around in the container until it was all covered in sauce, and he began jamming the pieces of bread in his mouth.

"Oh, this is good. It's hot. Thank you. I haven't had anything but burgers for weeks," Frank said. "I'm not complaining, but this is real honest to goodness food."

"What size shoes do you wear," Bart asked. "Those are trashed, dude."

"I don't know," Frank said. "Eight, eight and a half maybe."

"I wear eight and a half," Bart said, taking off his shoes.

"Bart, what are you doing?" Mr. Jordan asked. "You can't give away your shoes."

"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet," Bart said. "What do we go to church for, pop. We learn about what we should do."

"I think giving away your shoes is more than is expected," Mr. Jordan said.

"His shoes have holes in them, pop. I have that new pair you just bought me. He can have these, and I'll wear those," Bart said. "Here take my socks. You don't have socks. It's too cold to be outside without socks."

Frank hesitated, putting aside the food. He was soon wearing Bart's socks and shoes. Mr. Jordan went silent. He was overwhelmed by a feeling of pride. His son saw a boy in need, and he did something about it.

They left Frank with seven bucks and warmer feet. It wasn't much, when you came down to it, but it made a big difference in Frank's life.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"You can explain how it is we came home without dinner."

"That kid is living on the street, pop. We can miss a meal if it means he got a hot meal. We can miss a lot of meals, pop, and we'll be fine," Bart said. "But I'll tell you one thing, my feet are freezing."

Mr. Jordan turned up the heat, but his heart had been warmed by his son's philanthropy.

"You gave our dinner to Frank Who?" Bart's mother asked.

"A homeless kid, mom," Bart said. "He lives in doorways."

"Where are your shoes, young man? You can't be outside barefoot this time of year. What's gotten into you, Bart?" His mother asked.

"I gave them to Frank. His shoes had holes in them," Bart said.

"You gave him our dinner and your shoes too?" His mother said with alarm.

"OK, mother, that's enough. Your son has discovered the great unwashed among us. I was alarmed myself, at first, but what he did was what we should be doing to help more of the less fortunate. A child living on the street in this weather is criminal. I am blind to it. Your son saw it, and he did something, and that makes me proud."

"If you two don't take the cake. How old is this Frank?" Mrs. Jordan asked.

"Not much older than Bart. He might be sixteen or seventeen. He's small, but I don't know how long he's lived on the street. He's small because he probably doesn't get enough to eat," Mr. Jordan said. "And living mostly on a diet of burgers, won't do anything as far as nourishing meals are concerned."

"What am I going to do with all those noodles I cooked. I don't believe you two. I send you out to get dinner, and my son comes home without any shoes," she said, shaking her head.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

It was Saturday afternoon, when Bart's father found he was unable to get his car into the driveway of his house. Kids he'd never seen before were all over the driveway, the lawn, and on the sidewalk as well. There weren't just kids. There was stuff everywhere.

There were piles of blankets, shoes, socks, as well as a gallon bottle that was stuffed with change and cash. Parking on the street, he got out of his car, looking for a face he recognized. He found Bart near the garage. The garage, what was full of kids and more stuff.

"Hey, dad. I'll have these things out of the way before we get done today. I'll put the car in the garage for you, if you give me the keys," Bart said.

Mr. Jordan, still holding his keys in his hand, handed them over to Bart.

Putting two and two together, Mr. Jordan asked, "This has something to do with the boy on the corner in town, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, I mentioned the homeless kid on the corner to Coach Grip. He told me he and his partner helps feed homeless kids at Covenant House downtown," Bart said.

"Coach Grip is your soccer coach?" Mr. Jordan asked.

"Yes, he's pretty smart. I asked what we could do to help those kids. He told me that most people would help, if they were asked for help, and street kids need all the help they can get, because they're invisible to most folks."

"The street kids are invisible? As in people would rather not see them?" Mr. Jordan said.

"You're pretty smart, Pop. It's what Coach Grip said, before I offered to canvas our neighborhood for things street kids might be able to use. He said that if I did that, he'd carry the stuff to where he could distribute it. He's cool, pop."

"Sounds like. You've collected all this stuff this morning, Bart?"

"Yeah, I've been going door to door. Everyone had something they don't use anymore. Closets full of stuff they tell me to take. Can you believe it? The guys on the team and the coach came up with over fifty pairs of athletic shoes they no longer wear. There are only thirty guys on the soccer team. I'm sure some of their brothers will be wondering where their shoes got to tomorrow, but it's for a good cause, and they'll get over it. Everyone I asked wants to help, pop. Half the team is canvasing for more stuff in their neighborhoods."

As Bart finished talking, a big van pulled up in front of the house. An athletic looking man stepped onto the street, and then he walking toward where Mr. Jordan and Bart stood.

"I've got more blankets, three coats from my house, and six from the neighbors houses. I was also offered three sleeping bags, Bart. They are in surprisingly good condition. Someone will get a lot of use out of them. Oh, I'm Coach Grip, and you must be Bart's father," Coach Grip said, offering his hand to Mr. Jordan.

"I am. It's nice to meet you, Coach Grip. I see you've joined my son's concerned for homeless kids," Mr. Jordan said.

"To tell the truth, my husband and I work at Covenant House a couple of days a week. Steve is more active than me, because I have soccer, but we do all we can for children," Coach Grip said.

"This has to be a difficult time to see homeless kids, Coach Grip. With the virus taking hold in so many locations. We have been lucky here so far," Mr. Jordan said.

"It's always difficult seeing kids in need," Coach Grip said. "We are trying to be as careful as we can, but kids need to be fed, and we feed them. There are more and more every day."

"Bart has just brought the problem to my attention. I didn't realize it was such a big problem in a city the size of ours. I am going to pitch in and help," Mr. Jordan said, making up his mind right there and then.

"Bart, you lucked out on the shoe deal. I am delegated to clean out the lockers after the final game of the year, and I forgot that I've accumulated eleven pairs of shoes, plus three odd tennis shoes, and a ton of socks. Steve's at home laundering the socks as we speak," Coach Grip said. "Steve has a van as well, and he'll help us carry the stuff into town to hand out."

"People are asking about food, coach. What do you think?" Bart asked.

"Kids are always hungry. I think asking for money to buy food is the better way to go. Preparing food and getting it to the kids is always a major undertaking," Coach Grip said.

"I'm sure your mother will be happy to make sandwiches. You seem to be well organized. Do we have you to thank for that, coach?" Mr. Jordan asked.

"Not me. Your son came to me with the idea. The boys loved being able to help out the less fortunate kids. I've wondered how I could make a bigger contribution to the community, since I moved here over the summer. The boys keep me pretty busy, but there's always more we can do."

"Looks like a maximum effort?" Mr. Jordan said. "Gift cards at the local fast food establishments would be something to consider. If the kid has a card, he can get a meal. We'd need to make an arrangement with the owners to honor them."

"Gift cards?" Coach Grip said. "I think we've found out where the brains behind this operation got his mojo. It runs in the family. Great idea. We're collecting money too. We can turn the bucks into gift cards."

"Dad, you want to supervise the operation. We really haven't organized anything. Who would know that everyone wants to help homeless kids. I started out knocking on doors before practice this morning, and we've only been covering our neighborhood since practice ended at noon," Bart said. "Look at all this stuff."

"For a man who gave a boy the shoes off his feet, I'd be delighted to supervise the operation, but things look like they are under control."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On Saturday, with Coach Grip's van parked on the street beside Giuseppe's, boys sat on the back bumper, trying on shoes.

Frank James stood beside Bart, with his arm looped over the bigger boy's shoulder, as a line of kids formed on the sidewalk.

"All these kids are homeless, Frank?"

"Yes, it's early. I'll go back and tell more kids to come up here in a few minutes. I'll spread the word. I image most of the homeless kids will come over, once they hear about it. Blankets are the kind of luxury none of us have. It's really nice of you to do this, kid. How'd you come up with this idea anyway?"

"Call me Bart, Frank. Your calling me kid, makes me feel like a kid," Bart said. "You gave me the idea. You were walking around in shoes that were falling apart. Then, I figured you weren't the only one, and I was right."

"I'm sorry. I don't meet many people who want to help me," Frank said.

"I'm going to help you. My friends want to help. You shouldn't be living on the street, Frank. I don't know what to do about that yet."

"No choice. My old man threw me out. He told me not to come back. Most of these kids can't live at home, and believe me when I say, no one wants to get picked up by the cops. They lock you up for not living at home. There are guys locked up who'll gouge your eyes out for a dime or a donut," he said. "No thanks."

As the line grew, as more and more homeless kids heard about the chance to get a good coat and a pair of shoes, more and more kids got in line. Two police cars eased their way up the street where Coach Grip's van was parked.

"Hey, Hey, what do you think you people are doing. You can't do this here. This is a public street. We can't have you blocking things up. People are walking here. Who told you that you could do this," the first cop that reached the van wanted to know.

Coach Grip moved to step in front of the cop.

"I took upon myself to use this space to distribute some needed gear to these public type people. Certainly you can't object to helping the less fortunate," Coach Grip said.

"You can't do this on the street. You're violating the law. This is a business. People must have easy access," Officer Caldwell said. "Who are you?"

"You got quite an operation going here," Sgt. Noel said. "These look like homeless kids from further on downtown. You're giving this stuff out to them?"

Sgt. Noel was less confrontational. The other officers backed away, letting the sergeant take the lead.

"Coats and shoes, officer. It's cold out, and, as you can see, these kids aren't dressed for Midwestern winter weather," Coach Grip said.

"I admire the effort, but you can't do this on the street. Find a parking lot, and we'll leave you alone. You can't hold this kind of gathering on the street," Sgt. Noel said. "That's our only difficulty here."

Mr. Jordan moved over to where Coach Grip stood. Two more police cars pulled into Giuseppe's parking lot, blue lights flashing.

"Excuse a me! Excuse a me! I'm Giuseppe Petrucci. This is my restaurant. You're scaring off my customers. What are you doing?" a wide bodied Italian man, with an apron on, wanted to know.

"Hi, Giuseppe," Mr. Jordan said. "We're providing shoes and coats for the homeless kids that are living nearby. We didn't want to disrupt your business. We can go down to the vacant strip mall on the corner."

Giuseppe walked over to the police Sgt.

"This is my parking lot? Yes?"

"Yes, sir," Sgt. Noel said.

"If they park on this side of the sidewalk, we're OK, and you'll move the police cars with flashing lights. You are scaring my customers," Giuseppe said.

"It's your parking lot, Giuseppe, you can do anything you want with it. Almost anything," Sgt. Noel said.

"Mr. Jordan, move the van over here," Giuseppe said. "It's not the line that is scares my customers. It's these police cars. Now Giuseppe knows how to get the attention of the police."

While negotiations were ongoing, a news van from channel 3 rolled up, discharging a news person and a cameraman. The cops were suddenly surrounded. They were the only ones on the wrong side of giving away shoes and coats to the homeless kids.

"This is Bart Jordan. He's agreed to speak with us. Coach Grip, a JFK Coach, says this commotion is your doing, Bart. Do you want to explain it to the news 3 audience?" Windy West asked, as she held out her microphone.

"Yes, my father and I were down here Wednesday night. We were getting take out sauce from Giuseppe's, right there, beside us. If you haven't tasted his spaghetti sauce, lady, do yourself a favor, you need to have lunch here some time. His sauce is to die for."

"I'll keep that in mind," Windy said. "You saw a homeless boy?"

"Yeah, we were here Wednesday, and I saw Frank. He looked like a kid who was in trouble. I wanted to help him, so I had my father stop," Bart said. "This is my father. Hey, Frank, come over here."

Bart tugged on his father's arm, until he was in front of the camera.

"Before I knew it, my son was giving Frank our dinner," Mr. Jordan said.

"And it was great. Bart's right, Giuseppe makes righteous sauces, lady, and his garlic bread is fabulous," Frank said.

Giuseppe stood nearby to listen.

"Mr. Jordan, you were saying," Windy West said.

"The next thing I know, Bart's giving Frank the shoes off his feet. I was a bit puzzled, but I'd just gotten Bart a new pair for soccer. I realized my son was thinking more clearly than I was. I felt more than a little proud of him. It was a nice gesture on his part. When I came home today, my son had organized everyone in the area to collect shoes and coats to bring down here. I told him that he wasn't allowed to give his soccer shoes away."

"This was your idea, Bart?" Windy West asked.

"No, it wasn't my idea. I heard the story about a kid from Philadelphia. He saw a homeless kid, and he began collecting clothes and shoes for the homeless. I thought about that. Frank is a kid, just like me. He was thrown out of his house by his father. He's got nothing. I have everything. I want for nothing. The least I can do is help if I can."

"And it looks like you can," Windy said. "This is truly something to warm the hearts of channel 3 viewers. Do you have anything else to say, Bart?"

"Yeah, this is Giuseppe's. He's got great food. Come eat here and drop off the tennis shoes and coats you no longer need. They'll go to keep homeless kids warm," Bart said. "And then, go into Giuseppe's and have some of the best Italian food you'll ever eat."

"There you have it, folks. Giuseppe's, good food, and a place to help homeless kids. It sounds like a deal I can't refuse. I haven't had lunch, and I see a bottle that will help feed the kids. So if you don't have a coat or a pair of shoes, bring down your spare change and drop it in the bottle, and while you're here, try Giuseppe's fabulous food. That's what I plan to do. This is Windy West, channel 3, signing off."

"Is that a wrap, Windy," the cameraman asked,

"Now, come over to the back of the van. I want to shoot this," she said. "I see another human interest story unfolding."

Taking her microphone to the back of Coach Grip's van, which had been moved to Giuseppe's side of the sidewalk, Windy West did another interview.

"Sgt. Noel, aren't you on duty?" Windy asked.

"Those fit?" Sgt. Noel asked a tall skinny boy.

"A little tight. I can wear them, but they might pinch my toes," the boy said.

"Those are elevens. I have a pair of twelves right here. Try these. We want to make sure you have a good fit. That way your posture won't suffer," Sgt. Noel said.

"Why Sgt. Noel is this in the line of duty?" Windy West asked.

"Certainly is, Ms. West. I can't imagine a public servant providing a better service," he said. "How do those fit, son."

"Great," the boy said, rocking up and down on his toes.

"You want a blanket? I have a few left," Sgt Noel said.

"A blanket would be like totally cool, dude. I mean officer. I'm always cold at night," the tall boy said.

"Can you hold onto it, stretch?" Sgt. Noel asked.

"For a while. Until someone takes it away from me," the boy said.

"We'll be back. Probably we'll be here on Saturday afternoons, if Giuseppe doesn't object," Coach Grip said. "It's how a thing like this progresses. If you need another blanket, come by on Saturdays, and see if we're here."

"A little social distancing kids. We don't want any of you getting sick. Stay at least a yard apart, We'll be here, until we see all of you, OK," Sgt. Noel said. "There are only a few cases of covid-19 in town so far, but we need to be careful to keep a safe distance from each other for safety sake."

A half an hour later, Giuseppe and four of his helpers were setting up a table near the sidewalk, and the channel 3 camera went went into action.

"Giuseppe, what are you doing?" Windy West asked the happy chef.

"You can't send the children away with new shoes and coasts, and have them leave with the empty belly," Giuseppe said. "If you can help. Giuseppe can help, too. Everyone come get a hot plate of spaghetti. It's on Giuseppe."

No one left hungry that Saturday.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On the second Saturday in a row, Bart and his dad were back beside Giuseppe's, handing out coats and shoes to anyone who needed them. The line remained there, the kids staying a safe distance apart, for as long as there were any coats and shoes left.

By early in the afternoon, Giuseppe was happily handing out plates of spaghetti, and joking with the many kids who took him up on it.

Before long, the line for food was longer than the one for coats and shoes, and by the time Officer Noel was on the scene, things were well organized and under control. A few young adults had joined the line, and were happy to take the people in the van up on their offer of coats and shoes.

As Mr. Jordan helped a boy into a fleece lined coat, the boy hugged himself with a big smile on his face.

"You guys could sell this stuff for a lot of money," the boy said. "Why are you giving it to us?"

"What's your name, son?" Mr. Jordan asked.

"I'm Paul," the boy said.

"Yes, Paul, we could sell a coat like this for a nice price, but then, I wouldn't get to see that great smile of yours. That smile is worth a lot more to me than that coat is. Don't go away without getting some of Giuseppe's spaghetti. That'll warm your belly," Mr. Jordan said.

"Thanks, mister. I will," the boy said, hugging the coat to his thin frame.

As Sgt. Noel fit a boy into a pair of athletic shoes, Ms. Windy West, channel 3 reporter, arrived with a pool photographer, who began clicking pictures of the lines for coats, shoes, and spaghetti.

Windy immediately went to work.

"This is Windy West, reporting from outside Giuseppe Petrucci's restaurant in northwest. This is where some of the cities homeless population has been fed and offered shoes and coats to keep them healthy, during what can only be described as a trying time for all of us," Windy said.

"Sgt. Chas Noel, of the city police department, the gay coordinator in the city, has come to be sure the homeless population knows about social distancing. These young men and women can be fed, and kept warm, while being informed about the coronavirus. Sgt. Noel, would you like to say a word?" Windy asked.

"I'm always happy to say a word to you, Windy, but a word is never enough. Yes, I am here to remind the homeless population, that they're going to be the first to get sick, and the last to be treated. Therefore, it behooves them to take care. Coats, shoes, and food can't hurt at a time when so many are so worried about a virus no one expected to come calling in our fair city," Sgt. Noel said. "We are still showing under a hundred cases, but the only way to keep the number small is to keep some distance between you and your buddies."

"Yes, and we will remind all of the channel 3 viewers, don't go out unnecessarily. Stay at home. Play together, eat together, and enjoy some down time. Everyone has a few days off from the rat race. I think that is something we can enjoy. Don't horde when you go to the market. There is plenty to go around, if you don't horde, and that way everyone stays healthy and well fed," Windy said. "Sgt. Noel, is there anything you have to say before we leave you to spread the word about the coronavirus?"

"Yes, as the gay coordination officer, I want to say that, 40% of homeless kids are LGBTQ. A gay child is far more likely to be thrown out of their home than straight kids. While homelessness is abhorrent for all children, a disproportionate number of homeless kids are gay," Sgt. Noel said.

"People like the Jordans, who take it upon themselves to help the homeless, are to be commended. Especially at a time when the homeless are so vulnerable," Sgt. Noel said. "We can all do more for the less fortunate among us."

"Why isn't something being done to serve the homeless, especially children, Chas?" Windy asked.

"Windy, the city, county, and state have limited funding. There is no way they can house the many homeless kids on our streets. Even the ones we do take into custody are exposed to violent, homophobic institutions. These are runaway and throwaway kids, who leave intolerable homes. They aren't bad. They are born to bad parents. Don't miss the fact, 40% of homeless kids are LGBTQ, most have been driven out. Do we really need to punish them more? I don't think so, and that's the situation as I know it," Sgt. Noel said with authority. So, remember to social distance, Windy. If you see someone who looks like they could use a meal, or a few kind words, give them a smile. No one is homeless because they love the great outdoors, Ms. West. No one. And with that, I bid you adieu. I see I have a customer waiting for me."

A smallish boy stood behind Coach Grip's van. He was pale and very thin.

"How can I help you, son?" Sgt. Noel asked.

"I have very small feet. Someone stole my shoes and I've been wearing these," he said, lifting his feet out of too big loafers. My feet hurt," he said.

"You OK, son?" Sgt. Noel asked,

"I don't know," the boy said, leaning on the back bumper for support.

"Mr. Jordan," Sgt. Noel said loudly.

"Yeah, sergeant," Mr. Jordan said.

"I've got a problem. I need your help," Sgt. Noel said.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

A few minutes later, Mr. Jordan and his son, Bart, were pulling into the driveway of the Jordan's doctor's house. The young boy, whose name was Timmy, could hardly get out of the backseat. Bart used both arms to help him up.

"You're exposing yourself to whatever he may have," Dr. Westphalia said.

"I'll be fine," Bart said, as Timmy steadied himself for the walk into the house.

"I have an office in the back. It's just a table and emergency gear. Bring him back here. The boy's malnourished. Where are you from, son," Dr. Westphalia asked.

"I shouldn't say," Timmy said.

"What's your name, son," the doctor asked.

"Timmy. My name is Timmy. I shouldn't give my last name," the boy said.

"He's with the homeless kids," Mr. Jordan said. "I suspect he's one of them."

"Sit on the table, son. I want to listen to your heart. Can you do that?"

"Yes, sir," Timmy said.

"Anything I can do, Anthony?" a woman about the doctor's age asked from the doorway.

"Yes, get out some of your chicken soup. Make a tuna sandwich. He's malnourished. How much do you weigh, son," the doctor asked.

"I don't know," Timmy said.

"Will you eat some soup for me?" The doctor asked.

"Yes, sir. I think I can," Timmy said.

"When is the last time you ate?"

"I had a little spaghetti off a friend's plate an hour ago. Before that, I had part of a sandwich someone gave me yesterday. They got it out of the dumpster. People throw away perfectly good sandwiches, you know. Isn't that crazy," Timmy said in what was almost a speech for him.

"Yes, and besides malnourishment, food poisoning is one of the great hazards of being homeless. Son, you can't eat things out of a dumpster. They are called dumpsters for a reason. You should be at home. You should be eating nourishing meals your mother prepares," the doctor said.

Timmy laughed.

"I'm going to give you some medication. It won't taste very good, but it should help your stomach calm down. In an hour, we'll feed you some of my wife's delightful soup. You love it, and if you don't love it, I wouldn't tell my wife that, if you know what's good for you."

Timmy laughed again.

He was warm for the first time in days.

In a few minutes his color got better. Even on a metal table, Timmy managed to fall asleep.

"Bart, can I trust you to sit with him?" The doctor asked. "I want to talk to your father."

"Sure, Dr. Westphalia. I'll sit with him. Is he going to be OK?"

"He should be. I'd test him for the virus, but I don't have any tests. If I send him to the hospital, well, he wouldn't be homeless any longer. They'd see he was taken into custody. I won't do that to the boy, but if push comes to shove, and there's no other way, I'll turn him over to the authorities."

The doctor and Mr. Jordan walked into the hallway outside the examining room.

"Adrian, I don't think it's anything serious. Under the circumstances, he shouldn't be put out to eat out of a dumpster for a few days. I've seen you on television. I know what you're up to, and I can only say that I admire you for taking an interest in our cities less fortunate, but this kid isn't going to live if he stays on the street. He's weak. He's vulnerable, and someone is going to get a hold of him who wish him no good."

"I know the kids have a rough road to go down. I'm doing what I can," Mr. Jordan said.

"Well, I recommend you take this one home. Give him a day or two in a warm bed. Feed him up before you put him back out there. He might survive it. He might not. I wouldn't want to bet on it."

"I can do that. The Mrs. might need a little convincing, but I think she'll see the wisdom in letting him stay for a couple of days. Bart will love the idea. He's all in for helping homeless kids, Tony. Thanks for seeing him. I appreciate it."

"What are friends for, Adrian? Agnes was talking about making sandwiches and soup, taking them down to where the homeless hang out. Maybe we can talk about that over a cup of coffee one morning," Dr. Westphalia said.

"We can do that. You don't think he has the virus, do you? Timmy?"

"No, Adrian, I don't think so. Food poisoning. A little good food and some rest in a warm bed is all he needs. I haven't seen anything but the flu so far, but there are cases on the other side of town. I'm sure we'll be seeing it before long. Social distancing and staying in, if you can, is the way to go at this juncture."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Adrian Jordan steered the car into the driveway. He was still composing in his mind what he might say to his wife about having a house guest for a couple of days. It's the kind of thing no one is prepared to present to his wife, especially as proper a wife as he had. One simply didn't bring home someone off the street.

"Come on," Bart said, leading the way into the house with Timmy in tow. Adrian followed in time for his wife to sweep into the hallway and place a kiss on his cheek.

"Oh, Bart has brought home one of his soccer friends. How are you? I'm Bart's mom," Mrs. Jordan said.

"I'm just Timmy," Timmy said, standing a little behind Bart, and out of the line of fire, just in case.

"Just Timmy?" Karen Jordan said to herself, calculating the meaning of the words.

She looked toward her husband for guidance.

"Hi, dear. We've just come from Dr. Westphalia's. Timmy needs to stay in a couple of days. I thought we could handle that," Mr. Jordan said.

"He's sick? Not the virus, I hope."

"No, nothing like that," Mr. Jordan said.

"A touch of food poisoning, mom. He ate a sandwich from a dumpster. Dr. Westphalia says he'll be fine. No virus or anything like that," Bart said.

"Dumpster?" Mrs. Jordan said. "He's ... one of the kids you're helping."

Bart looked at his father. His father looked at his wife. Timmy looked at the three of them.

"I don't eat much. I'm quiet," he said, selling his virtues.

"He's quiet," Karen Jordan said. "He's pale. He's skinny as a rail. Are you hungry, child?"

"The doctor's wife just gave me some nice soup and half a tuna sandwich, before he'd let me leave, but I'm always hungry," Timmy said.

"What do you like?" Mrs. Jordan asked.

"Anything that doesn't taste like it came out of a dumpster," Timmy said, and Mrs. Jordan's hand went straight to her mouth.

"I'm sure I can live up to that standard," she said. "Come on back to the kitchen. I'll give you a glass of milk and we'll see what we can rustle up," she said.

Bart patted his father on the back, as they headed for the kitchen.

"You done good, dad," Bart said.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"Agnes wants to do something for the kids on Sunday, after mass. She mentioned soup and sandwiches. I was thinking. You have that big stone crock in the garage. Didn't your mother use to serve soup out of that at the garden club?"

"Yes, she did, Adrian. I can help with soup and sandwiches. Between the two of us, we can feed a small army, as long as soup suits them," Karen said.

"Have you ever known a hungry kid to turn down soup and sandwiches?"

"No, but I don't know what homeless kids eat," she said.

"A lot of the time, they don't eat, Karen," Mr. Jordan said.

"What about the virus, Adrian?"

"Sgt. Noel, he's the gay coordination officer, says that we simply stay an arm's length apart, and we're fine. Besides, we'll get plastic gloves, and you fill a bowl, put it on a plate beside a sandwich, and you hand it to the kids as they pass. As long as we aren't standing close, the social distancing works, and Sgt. Noel keeps the line at a proper distance, and no one will stand there for long. If we set up at the corner of the strip mall, down the block from Giuseppe's, there is plenty of room to sit or stand. None of those stores are open, except for a postal annex at the far corner. It's close to where the kids seem to gather."

"You've thought this out," Karen Jordan said.

"Actually, after Agnes mentioned it, your son thought it out. He didn't include you, but with you and Agnes both working toward the same goal, neither of you will be over worked, and all the kids can get fed," Adrian said. "At least they'll get warm food a couple of days a week."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The following morning, Karen's day starts with a mystery, shortly after she unloaded the dryer.

An hour after she got up, Karen was taking Timmy's clothes up to the guest room, after she washed and ironed them. When she came back downstairs, she had a puzzled look on her face.

"What's wrong?" Adrian asked, looking over top of the morning paper.

"I took Timmy's clothes up to his room. He's not there."

"He's not there," Adrian said, putting down his paper and standing up.

"He's in Bart's room," she said.

"They're talking?"

"They're sleeping. Timmy is sleeping in our son's arms," Karen said.

Adrian didn't know what to say.

"What do you think?" Karen asked.

"You think we should do something?"

"Do what? They're sleeping together. The boy has been here a few hours and he's sleeping with our son. Do you think bringing a street kid home was a good idea?" Karen asked.

"Bart wasn't going to let me take him back downtown. The boy was sick. What do you think?" Adrian asked.

"I don't know what to think," Karen said, as she sat down.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

An hour later, Bart came downstairs, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

"Are you OK," his mother asked.

"I'm fine," Bart said. "What's with the wide-eyed looks. Did I do something?"

"I took Timmy's clothes up to the guest room," Karen said. "He wasn't there."

"Oh, that. He was scared. He hasn't be shut indoors by himself for months, and in a strange house, he was afraid. He came into my room and asked if he could sleep with me, on account he was scared. I didn't see why not. I can't catch food poisoning."

"What else did he say," Karen asked.

"Mother!" Adrian said. "We don't want to do anything to make it so he doesn't trust Bart. He obviously trusts him."

"Did he say anything you should keep secret, Bart," his mother asked.

"No, not really. He's been on the street for three months. His father is religious. Timmy, being a little effeminate, mostly has girlfriends, because the boys hate him. He likes to dance, and he asked his father to let him join the theater club at school. His father assumed he's gay, and he decided to beat the gay out of him. You know, being a good Christian an all. When I was going to Sunday School, the teacher used to say, anytime we were faced with a perplexing problem, 'What would Jesus do?" Somehow, beat the hell out of your kid never came to mind, but I'm not an adult," Bart said with hostility.

"That's terrible," Karen said. "How could someone's father do that to him?"

"Is he gay, Bart," his father asked.

"He doesn't know what he is. He's my age, even though he looks twelve. He's been too busy trying to survive being fifteen to worry about his sexuality."

"Are you gay?" his mother asked. "I mean, it's OK if you are, but have you thought about it?"

"Do I need to decide right now? I haven't had breakfast, mom," Bart said.

Mr Jordan laughed.

"No, you don't need to make up your mind, until you're good and ready," his mother said. "He didn't touch you, did he?"

"Mom! No, he didn't touch me. He was scared. He came into my room and asked if he could sleep with me. I saw no reason why not. I sensed he was lonely. I moved the covers so he could get into bed. That's when he wanted to talk. He told me about his father. He told me about why he left home. He asked me about you guys. He asked me about school. He wanted to hear about soccer. After a while he got quiet. I was starting to fall asleep. Then he asked me if I'd mind putting my arms around him. I had to think about that one, but I remembered he said he was scared, and if he wanted me to hold him, it was the least I could do," Bart said.

"What happened when you put your arms around him?" His mother asked.

"He cried, mom. It wasn't sobbing or hysterical. I could feel him crying. I think it was the fact he felt safe and he knew he was OK here. That kind of tears. He fell asleep after a few more minutes. I fell asleep right after he did. I don't think we moved all night. I woke up in the same spot, and when I got up, he rolled over, but I don't think he woke up," Bart said.

"I only asked you about being gay, because a mother worries about things like that. When I went to take Timmy's clothes into the guest room, for when he got up this morning, he wasn't there. I opened the door to your room, and I saw you two together. I mean, I saw the way you were holding him. I asked not because there's anything wrong with being gay, but it's a hard life, because of people like Timmy's father. Why can't people simply let each other be?"

"I'll know who I like, when the time comes. I'm in no hurry," Bart said. "Right now I like soccer. Before I decide, any chance you can rustle me up a few pancakes and some bacon?" Bart asked. "I can think better on a full stomach."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

After Timmy got up, and had breakfast, Bart took him into the backyard to show him his tree house and the birdhouses he'd made in shop class. His mother and father sat at the table drinking coffee and picking apart the Sunday paper.

"I've seen that look on your face before, Adrian. What is on your mind?" Karen asked, as she set aside the papers entertainment section.

"What are we going to do with the boy? We can't just keep him," he said.

"No, we can't. Feeding and clothing homeless children is one thing, bringing them home to live with us is quite another. There are laws, Adrian. He has lived on the street with God knows who. We have Bart to think about. Do you really want to expose your son to a street kid? It's something to think about."

Adrian was thinking about the situation. There was someone who could probably give them some information on helping a boy like Timmy. Putting him back on the street didn't sound like a good idea, and Bart wasn't going to sit still for that, although Karen hadn't gotten far enough to think about Bart's feelings on the subject.

Adrian dialed his phone and pushed speaker, sitting it in the middle of the table.

"Sgt. Noel," said the voice on the other end of the line. "Mr. Jordan, how are you this fine morning?"

"Fine. How are you?"

"I'm fine, and what did the doctor say about Timmy?" Sgt. Noel asked. "Please tell me he doesn't have that virus."

"No, food poisoning. The doctor gave him some medication. His wife fed him some soup and a sandwich before we left," Adrian said.

"And you took him home," Sgt. Noel said, with disappointment in his voice.

"Yes, I wanted him to have a bath, a good nights sleep, and my wife, Karen, laundered and ironed his clothes," he said.

"Now he'll be the best dressed kid on the street. Do you know what you've done, Mr. Jordan? I don't mean to be cruel, but you've taken that kid off the street. You've taken him home. You exposed him to a halfway normal family. You treated him like he had some value, and now you're going to take him back downtown and dump him off," Sgt. Noel said unpleasantly. "You did the worst thing you could have done for a kid like Timmy. He's fragile. He may not make it, Jordan, and you did exactly the wrong thing. I'm sorry, I have no patience for people who add abuse on top of abuse. I know, it made you feel good, and, by the way, your son is probably your best feature, Jordan, but you can't toy with these kids lives. Your son had a lot better grasp on the situation than you do. I knew what was going to happen when you decided to take him to the doctor."

"What if I keep him?" Adrian Jordan said, as his wife looked at him. "What if I want him to stay here? Go to school. Finish growing up. Have a shot."

"Do you know what you're saying? I tried to get Timmy's last name. I wanted to find out where he came from, and who his people are. The older kids already told him not to tell anyone his last name or where he's from. He's someone's kid. You can't simply let him stay with you. There are laws. His people have rights. You'd be up to your ass in lawsuits before you turned around, Jordan."

"What are his options? How can you get him off the street? I won't take him back down there," Adrian said, becoming firm in his position.

"Kids who can't live at home, are breaking the law. Kids who aren't in school, are breaking the law. If they get picked up, and sooner or later, many end up in custody, they're locked up until their eighteen, because they aren't at home and in school. With the shortage of funding, you can imagine the conditions in state institutions," Sgt. Noel said. "Outside parties are discouraged from getting involved in a homeless kid's life."

"Why is that? Don't they deserve to have a roof over their head and regular meals? Did you see Timmy's condition? If I want to help Timmy, why can't I? He already has made the decision he can't live at home. Why can't he decide to give us a try and see if we don't do a better job for him?"

"Because that isn't how it works, Jordan. Most of them can't live at home. That's why they're on the street. They can find a way to survive with other kids like them, because teenagers are resourceful. They can't go to school, because the system doesn't allow them to go to school. When it comes to getting fed, and things are getting better on that front, with Covenant House and Gay Centers pitching in. With people like you, they're getting more and more help."

"Why can't they be allowed to go to school? No kid is on the street because he likes the great outdoors. I heard you say that. They need help to go to school and have a place to stay. That isn't much to ask," Mr. Jordan said.

"By not living at home and attending school, they are breaking the law. The system doesn't allow any arrangement like the one you describe. The system has no sympathy for law breakers. If they don't live at home, it's their problem."

"I know you don't believe that Noel. I heard what you said to Windy West," Jordan said. "The system is wrong. These kids need to be able to stay somewhere safe, if they can find such a place, where they want to stay. They need to go to school. You aren't the system, and you know I'm right."

"It's a complicated system that was in place when I got here. I have no power, and I'm not in a position to change it. There isn't enough money to care for all the homeless kids, and there is no provision to let people, who have good intentions, to be substitute parents."

"The state must make certain, beyond any doubt, that these children are only in the best of homes, or approved foster homes. The state needs to watch over homeless kids," Sgt. Noel said.

"Listen to you. Who's blowing smoke now, Noel? I want to help these kids. The state cares about the state. The state cares about obedience. The state isn't helping them, because the state sees them as disobedient waifs that must be disciplined," Jordan said. "It's time real people stand up and start making noise to demand the fate of homeless children be put in the hands of the people. The state cannot solve the problem of homeless kids. It needs to step aside, because the state cannot feel."

"As long as you know what you're up against. The state doesn't ask for your cooperation. It demands obedience. They exact a price for those who defy the morality they've enshrined into law, Jordan. You need to tread lightly."

"Noel, my son opened my eyes to the abuse of homeless kids by the system. I can't do much for most of those kids I put coats on, but, by God, I can do something for Timmy, and that's what I plan to do. If I need to fight, I'll fight. I called you to ask for your advice, and you've just made me more angry."

"Good! Now, get a good lawyer, because you're going to need one. If you cross a gung-ho prosecutor, who doesn't see beyond the law, he's going to do his best to hurt you, Jordan. You'll need a good lawyer because of that. I enforce the laws. If you come at this with the welfare of those kids in mind, laws can be changed. Overcome the idea these kids need to be punished, which is the popular hogwash of the day, and we can go about helping them become productive adults, who are a valuable asset to society," Sgt. Noel said.

"Dr. Westphalia told me about his grandfather, during the depression. Thousands of kids were homeless, and on the street, begging for food. The state hired a train, loaded it with homeless kids, and they took the kids out into farm country. Farmers got on the train at each stop, picking out the biggest boys, and they went to work on farms, no questions asked," Jordan said. "That's how much the state cared about homeless kids during the depression."

"That was then. This is now. The state no longer sees orphan trains as the solution to the problem, but if push came to shove, they'd do it again," Sgt. Noel said. "The law is only the law, because it's what men decided on at the time. No one undoes inappropriate or bad laws. Maybe we can sneak up on them, and they'll be so shocked, we can get these absurd laws changed."

"Kids who are thrown away or forced to runaway have rights. Those rights may not be recognized, because they have no power, but most people, if they knew how they are forced to live, would do something about it," Jordan said.

"Kids who live on the street have a shortened lifespan. A third don't live to see eighteen. Suicide and disease takes most of these. A third are institutionalized. The kids who are institutionalized will be in and out of institutions for the duration of their lives. They never grow into productive adults. A third of street kids will survive the streets, and go on to live ordinary lives. How fucked up they are is anyone's guess. They could do fine. What kind of lives they have is another subject. If they don't end up back in the system, they see it as a good outcome."

"That's good to know, Noel, but it isn't acceptable," Jordan said. "What do I do. I have a good lawyer. Timmy's father tried to beat the gay out of him. That's why he left home," Adrian said. "I'd like to beat that moron. I know you know what I need to do."

"The problem being, no court is going to grant you custody, if the father wants Timmy back, forget it. If he says he doesn't beat his kid, he'll get custody," Sgt. Noel said. "And someone will be picking his body up shortly thereafter."

"You can help me to avoid that outcome," Jordan said.

"I'm not going anywhere, Jordan. Talk to your attorney. I've given you the best information I have. If your attorney wants to talk to me, that's fine. I don't know what I can tell him that I haven't told you. I can't be seen as aiding you. That would be bad for both of us. If I see you treading water, I'll throw you a lifeline, but I can't do anything official on your behalf. That's the best I can do."

The phone call ended.

"Bart?" Karen asked. "Are you sure this is the best thing for him?"

"Your son will be the first one to object if I try to take Timmy back into town and drop him off. He's the one who made me aware of the problem, your son is way ahead of us, but like Timmy, he has no rights, even when he knows the right thing to do, Karen."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mr. Jordan dialed the phone and placed it back in the center of the table.

"Harris, Jordan."

"It's Sunday. Sunday is a day of rest. I never work on Sundays. Not before noon anyway. When I hear from you on Sunday, and before noon, I know it'll be about work," Harris said.

"I have a problem with a kid. I need to pick your brain," Mr. Jordan said.

"A problem with a kid. How novel. If you solve that one, you can call on Sunday to let me know how you managed it," Harris said.

"I'm serious. Bart has become interested in helping homeless kids," Jordan said.

"Everyone in town knows that. You were all over television yesterday. Windy West is sweet on Sgt. Noel. You see the way she looks at him?" Harris said.

"No, I was a little busy," Jordan said.

"You are wearing gloves and masks, when the television cameras are turned off, I hope. We don't have much of that covid-19 yet, but you need to protect yourself when you've interacting with a vulnerable community like homeless children. You need to set an example, Jordan," Harris said.

"Noel is bringing suitable masks and gloves when we do this again. What do you know about homeless kids living in alleys and doorways downtown?"

"I'm on the board at Covenant House. I give them legal advice. There are several organizations that try to feed the kids and offer them medical aid. It is a growing problem, because street kids are almost half LGBTQ, and the city has almost no money to assist homeless kids. If you're gay and homeless, forget about it," Harris said. "Which is nothing unusual, the country and state have no money to do anything for them, except lock them up if they have the misfortune to cross the wrong path."

"What does Covenant House do, Harris?" he asked.

"They feed and house homeless kids. There are more and more homeless kids all the time, and many kids do not trust adults of any stripe. You've got to realize that their situation was desperate enough that they left home. In the case of LGBTQ kids, they are thrown out by their parents. Now, for normal people, the home is a sanctuary for their kids. It takes a special kind of parent to throw away a kid, but many so called religious families do just that, and I know you can't imagine what that does to a child, but if you can't trust your parents, who can you trust? The answer is usually no one but another homeless kid," Harris said.

"We took one of the kids to a doctor yesterday. He was sick," Jordan said.

"Not with the virus, I hope," Harris said.

"No, food poisoning," Jordan said.

"Don't tell me. He ate out of a dumpster recently," Harris said.

"How'd you know that?" Jordan asked.

"Restaurant owners use to pour bleach or ammonia on top of the food they throw away each day, and they threw away tons of it. When I made the rounds, and I explained that the food in their dumpsters was the only food kids get some days, they didn't understand. Once I explained the problem, they stopped tainting the food, and some even take it to where it can be distributed to the homeless. Trying to talk kids out of eating out of a dumpster, when the food is good food, isn't as easy as talking the owners out of tainting it," Harris said.

"That's awful," Jordan said. "Yes, Timmy ate out of a dumpster the day before. He was still sick from food poisoning, but the doctor said he was basically OK, except he's malnourished and way too thin for his age and size. I brought him home last night," Jordan said.

"You didn't!" Harris said.

"I did. Sgt. Noel has already given me the lecture. I wanted to give him a night in a warm bed, a chance to take a bath, and to have Karen wash his clothes. It was the least I could do. He was sick, Harris. I couldn't leave him out there."

"If you said, hey, kid, I'm going to take you home, feed you up, let you get a safe night's sleep, and then I'm going to take you back and dump you off, then, you might have been on safe ground, but I know you didn't tell him that. You simply took him home and exposed him to what family life should be like. You know, he's probably never seen normal family life. He wouldn't be on the street if he had, Jordan. Feed them, cloth them, don't take them home with you unless you explain yourself to them. Is the kid still there?"

"He's out back with Bart. I think they're hanging out in the tree house at the moment," Jordan said.

"I have a phone number you need to write down," Harris said.

"OK, Karen is ready to write," Jordan said.

"1-866-488-7386. 1-866-488-7386."

"Karen, read that back to me," her husband said.

"1-866-488-7386," she read.

"That is the number for the Trevor Project. They have trained counselors who are there 24/7 to talk to teens in crisis. They are especially there for LGBTQ kids. In plain English, it's a suicide prevention hot line. It sounds to me like Timmy is a candidate who might need to talk to someone," Harris said. "These kids are more vulnerable than you will ever understand. That's why we lose so many to suicide."

"You really think that's a possibility? I mean necessary?" Jordan said.

"Homeless kids, LGBTQ kids, are far more likely to commit suicide. They are raised in fear and they're tortured enough to want to leave home. Imagine that if you will, a child decides he's safer if he leaves home. They don't have any idea what is waiting for them out on the street, but they are willing to risk it to escape the torture they're living with," Harris said.

"Torture?" Jordan said.

"Call it torment, if you like. Mental torment is far more damaging than being beaten. A beating ends. The horrible things parents say, stay with you," Harris said. "There is no end to it."

"What if I want to keep Timmy?"

"You really want to challenge the state? Do you know what your up against?"

"He isn't at home. We'd be able to give him a home, so he can get his education. see to his needs. We're a normal family. Doesn't he deserve a shot at having a normal life?"

"You're applying logic to an illogical situation. Certainly getting street kids into a half way decent living circumstances is the wise thing to do, but you aren't dealing with logic. You're dealing with the state. You're dealing with politicians. You're dealing with laws that make it extremely difficult to do what you want to do, Adrian," Harris said.

"Hence the phone call to you. How do I help this kid, Harris, and stay on the right side of the legal system?" Adrian asked. "Keep in mind your concern for my health at the beginning of this call. Timmy is vulnerable. Should he catch the virus, I doubt he survives. He needs to be in a safe home, where he is well fed, and where he can return to school, so he has a chance at having a productive life. You are my attorney, Harris. Tell me how we do it," Adrian said.

"What you did up until the time you left the doctor's office would be labeled as the act of a good Samaritan. Once you took him home and gave him shelter, you were on shaky legal ground," Harris said. "The law is clear. You have no standing when it comes to Timmy."

"The law is wrong. It needs to be changed. No one wants these kids, Harris. They aren't safe out there when there's a virus capable of killing them, running rampant. The state can't afford to do what needs to be done. They have no interest in doing anything but punishing them for not living at home. " Adrian said. "If nothing else, they should go after the parents of homeless kids, and force them to pay for their food, housing, and education. It you are going to throw away your kid, you're going to pay to take care of him, until he's eighteen."

"It's a good plan, but it's not even on the radar, Adrian," Harris said.

"It's time to put it on the radar before these kids start dying," Adrian said. "With this virus spreading, it's an entirely new ballgame. These kids need to be in safe homes."

"That's an argument that might get some traction. I can talk to some other attorneys that donate time to Covenant House. See what they think. The safety of homeless kids is one of our major concerns, The government is our major impediment," Harris said.

"I want Timmy put into my custody. I want him off the street. Put me in front of a judge, and I'll tell him, If he refuses my attempt to help Timmy, and something happens to him, I'll sue his ass off. Does that make sense to you?"

"It does, Adrian. It won't make a lot of points with the judge, but it might make him think twice. He'll have to consider that you aren't related to Timmy, and while you have no standing, your argument is sound at this particular time. Street kids are likely to get sick first. They'll be the last to be treated."

"If push comes to shove, I'll find out who Timmy's parents are, and I'll sue the hell out of them, right after I sue the judge," Adrian said.

"Now, you're talking. I'm good with lawsuits. I also am good at furnishing standing for interested third parties. You have no standing. Wanting to do right by Timmy, doesn't give you standing, but, if I work for Timmy, he has standing in his own welfare. Being his advocate, you receive standing through him. Getting himself placed into the custody of his advocates, Adrian Jordan and his wife Karen, works for me," Harris said. "Don't you love a plan, when it comes together? You certainly have a wonderful lawyer, Adrian. Smart too."

"Yeah, and you knew this is where we were going, when this phone call started?" Adrian asked.

"I did," Harris said. "What kind of lawyer would I be if I didn't? If I've got to work on Sunday, I want you working too. You do realize, we could spend a lot of time at this, and still fail to get the outcome you're after, Adrian? I know that, because the deck is stacked against those kids. The system doesn't regard them as having value."

"In other words, they have no standing in their own lives," Adrian said.

"That's one way to put it," Harris said sadly.

"Standing aside, Harris. I put coats on those valueless children. They're mostly teenagers. I have to look in their eyes, as I make sure they have a coat that fits. Most of them would walk away with an ill fitting coat and never say anything about it, because it is more than they came with," Adrian said.

"They look at me with suspicion, Harris. I can see the question in their expressionless eyes. 'What does he get out of this?' They find it hard to believe that someone is giving them something, and he doesn't want anything from them. Noel says, many of these kids prostitute themselves in order to eat. They often live on the couches of acquaintances, in basements, in alleys and doorways. They are always hungry, never warm this time of year, rarely get enough to eat, and now, many of them will catch covid-19 and die," Adrian said.

"I may not have standing, and a sixteen-year-old, not living at home, might not be able to legally go to school, but the kids I put coats on deserve better. I may not have standing. I don't really care about prosecutors and judges, who use their power to place these kids in custody, when custody is violent, unfeeling, and the means by which the system keeps homeless children off the street. They are wrong. The system is wrong, but I intend to do right by Timmy. He's a good kid. I can do that with you, or without you, Harris, but I will do it."

"I believe you, Adrian. I'll get right to work on it. We're going to put up one hell of a fight," Harris said.

The phone call ended.

Adrian had lost all contact with where he was, and who was listening.

Karen sat staring at her husband. She was less than convinced that taking in a homeless kid was the best thing to do, when the phone call started. Her husband's determination convinced her that they needed to do more.

Adrian's eyes were immediately drawn toward the kitchen door.

Standing just inside the door was a beaming Bart, and a smiling Timmy. Adrian realized, he hadn't seen Timmy smile before. He had a nice smile.

"How much did you two hear?" Adrian asked.

"Enough to know you did good, pop," Bart said.

"No one ever fought for me before, Mr. Jordan," Timmy said. "I'll be OK, now. It's OK if you don't win. Thank you for fighting for me. I know I'll be OK. I didn't know that until right now."

P.S.

Perhaps we are receiving a wake-up call. Perhaps this timeout is meant to allow our earth to begin healing itself. Maybe it's time to allow our water to run pure and to allow the air to be refreshed.

Perhaps sheltering in place is a blessing for those who are caught in a routine they never bargained for. The idea the majority of us are here to work one, two, three jobs, in order to have shelter and food, while a few men are made richer and richer, is nonsense. The idea that man is only good to work, eat, and sleep, with a few hours off to buy more stuff, is ludicrous.

We can no longer stop to smell the roses. The roses have been paved over. We can no longer run in a meadow. The meadows have become super highways. We no longer take a leisurely walk, because life will pass us by if we don't run.

The world is on hold. Maybe the futility of so many lives will become apparent. No one should need to choose between food and medication. No one who works a full time job, should live in poverty, no matter their color.

Maybe we'd get more joy out of life if we cooperated instead of always being in competition. Maybe, during this pause, people will be refreshed, less anxious, and less indoctrinated. Maybe during this pause, we can see the value in helping one another, so all of us can share in the prosperity.

Peace & Love,

Rick


Send Rick an email at quillswritersrealm@yahoo.com

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"A Teenager's Wisdom" Copyright © 1 March 2020 OLYMPIA50 All rights reserved.
    This work may not be duplicated in any form (physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise) without the author's written permission. All applicable copyright laws apply. All individuals depicted are fictional with any resemblance to real persons being purely coincidental.

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