Scratch-scratch ... SCREEE ... scratch . . . what . . . cold . . . blanket . . .
Sitting up I saw a bus pulling in . . . brakes . . . other sound? . . . rubbing . . . what time . . . cold . . . only six . . . coffee . . . scratch, scratch . . . hard bed . . . scratch—
Two big, bright red eyes were looking up at me when I peered over the edge of the bench. "Hi little fellow."
The little white mouse reached its right foot out to the bench I'd been sleeping on ... scratch ... and sat back looking at me. It's eyes followed my hand as I slowly lowered it . . . will it get on . . . then looked back up before reaching out and touching my finger softly. It sat back and watched me again . . . you're safe sweetie . . . won't hurt you . . .
Minutes passed before it put a foot on my hand again, holding it there and studying me for another minute before climbing into my palm and curling into a ball. Bringing it closer to my face it squirmed . . . escaped pet . . . turning to keep me in view "Hi, I'm David and I don't have much but you're welcome to share it with me."
I've been on the street for six years so my world consists of a shopping cart with a few clothes, blankets and other things I like to think I own. On a particularly cold winter night five years ago, Ralph, an Australian Shepard mix quivering from end to end crawled into the box I was using as a home laid down and adopted me. He wasn’t that clean, but neither was I and I’m not sure who had the stronger body odor. We both smelled about the same when it rained.
We got to the point where with a bark, snort or growl and a bit of squirming body language I knew what he wanted and he seemed to understand what I said. I’m mostly convinced that we could read read each other’s minds. We put many miles on us walking, riding when we could.
Last summer when we got to this little town of 20,000 Ralph was having problems walking and I found a vet that would trade seeing him for me cleaning up and any other odd jobs she needed.
“Do you know how old he is?”
“No. I just met him four and a half years ago. We kind of adopted each other. We sleep together.”
“I can tell. I’d guess him at seventeen or eighteen, I’m surprised he can still walk with the arthritis he has.”
“I noticed him limping the last few weeks. I had to carry him quite a lot and it hurt him.”
“I trust any man that would carry his dog for miles. My names Bonnie and I f you’ll do some chores for me I’ve got a room you can use. It has a bathroom with a shower. There’s a washer and dryer in the hall with lots of soap.”
“Deal. Thank you, it’s very kind. We could both use a good cleaning up.”
“There’s a hair dryer too, don’t let him stay wet, he’ll get chilled.”
“Yes, ma’am, thank you again. I’m David.”
We stayed for the 24 days he had left, sleeping in a room at her clinic. When he died she was there and put her arm around my shoulder, she had tears too. I still help her out and she pays me, but I don’t sleep there any more.
I miss Ralph, life became a lot bleaker and colder when he left. It’s very hard without someone to love and I was hoping this little creature would love me, I already did her.
I sleep where I can now and, Tom, the manager of the bus station/truck stop lets me stay inside when it's cold. My sweeping and cleaning toilets for him saves him hiring someone. I get free coffee and a muffin for breakfast and whatever sandwiches were on the menu that day for lunch and dinner. I’m a cheap employee. I get to use the showers and washer/dryer they have for the long haul truckers too
"Ralph would have liked you. What'll I call you?"
"Skeek it is. C'mon Skeek, let's go get coffee and a muffin. I get 'em free here. You drink coffee?"
"Great, Ralph liked it too. You brought back some old memories. Squeet is Navy slang for Let’s Go Eat. I haven’t thought about the ship I spent 3 years aboard in years. An aircraft carrier they scrapped years ago like they did me."
The grocery cart squeaked as I pushed for the coffee shop with Skeek curled up in my palm. It’s cold in the main waiting room of the bus station, but it’s freezing outside. I appreciate Tom letting me stay inside and was looking forward to coffee and a muffin for me and my new fiend.
“Hi, David, you just get in? It’s pretty cold out there.”
“Hi, Dana. No, I was on a bench and my new friend woke me,” holding her up to show Dana, “Her name is Skeek.”
“Oh, god, that’s going to cause problems. They had an invasion of mice two years ago and Tom is paranoid about it.”
“It’s a pet mouse that got lost, won’t Tom understand?”
“Probably not, can you hide her?”
I opened the old London Fog I’d found, a wool navy P-Coat and two sweaters to the first shirt that had a breast pocket and Skeek climbed right in when I held my hand to it. “There, sweetheart, how’s that?”
“How cute, she can talk, Denice will love it. Coffee?”
“Please. Maybe a little something sweet for my new sweetheart, Skeek?”
“Of course, how about an apple danish don’t let Tom see her though, he’ll get majorly pissed.”
“There you go, Skeek says it’s not a problem too.”