I’m always looking for a nice house to rent. A decent house, not a fancy one, with a backyard and a carport. Apple trees would make it almost perfect. I look in decent neighborhoods, not too nice, not too rough . . . just decent.
It was a nice mid-morning day. As I drove down a side street I saw a lovely blue house with white trim. White shutters would have been nice, but white trim always appeal to me. They make the house seem crisp and clean. I like that. It had a “Rent” sign in the living room window. I parked my fifteen year old Subaru Outback in front and walked up to the door past three apple trees. No one answered my knock. I noted the area code on the sign and wrote down the address and the phone number in my pocket notebook. I peeked in the window. The room was completely empty. I wandered to the back yard. No more apple trees, but there was a pear tree. The pears were not quite ripe, but close. I picked two. Put one in my purse and took a bite out of the second as I walked toward the alley.
The alley had a roadbed of gravel. Perfect. The crunch of approaching vehicles is enough to wake me. There was a two car carport with a simple gate from the back yard. I walked back through the yard and out to my car.
I drove around several blocks to search for other possible homes to rent. Nothing suited me. I drove to the mall and parked. It was just before the lunch rush. I did some window shopping and found a rest room, where I refreshed myself and put on a sweater and cap that made me look a little older and reliable. I walked outside and toward my car. I stopped three people and told them someone had grabbed my purse and I had to go visit my sister in the hospital. “I’m from out of town and I just need a couple of dollars for gas.” Two of the three helped. I didn’t need the money that much, but a little extra in my pocket works wonders. Plus, it’s nice to talk to people and sometimes they assist with suggestions that help. I like people.
I drove to another neighborhood where I saw a small market. I parked and went inside and soon eyed a bulletin board. I found several leads and wrote down the addresses and the phone numbers. I spent the rest of the afternoon just cruising and looking around. At a local park and community garden I helped myself to some fresh veggies and sat down at a picnic table and began making calls. I was in luck, the blue house clicked. I set up an appointment for showing on Friday afternoon. This was Monday. I gave my phone number just in case the place was rented before I got the tour. I let the owner know I really liked it. “Please, let me know if someone is interested, perhaps I can get away earlier in the week to see it.”
I looked up Dollar Tree locations and visited the closest one for a loaf of bread, a pack of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, and a carton of milk. At a nearby Safeway, I visited the bathroom, did my duty, and cleaned up. Next, I visited the library. They’re not open as late as they used to be, but still they have books and magazines to read, and restrooms. At dusk, I drove back to blue house, circled the block and then crept down the alley crunching my way to the carport. Once I parked, I climbed in the back of my Subaru and went to sleep.
Both at the market and the library I had seen a flyer about Safe Parking. I really needed Free Parking or rather Safe Free Parking. I had taken a flyer with me as I left the library. I woke up early, before most people leave for work and drove to a nearby park. It was a little on the cool side so I left my car and heater running. As I looked at the flyer I recalled an interview on radio. NPR? or something else, but it was about a Safe Parking group in Santa Barbara. Local churches and businesses let homeless people living in their cars, trucks, and RVs park overnight in their parking lots. There is usually a port-a-potty or two. You need to sign up, but they keep your name secret to keep husbands and crazy boyfriends away. I was so happy reading the details that I failed in my due diligence and missed the red car pulling into the parking lot. Luckily someone walked their dog close by and I looked up just in time to see my ex’s car door slam and him come running toward my car.
Feeling cut off I slipped the car into 4-wheel and shot forward into the park nearly bowling over the guy and his dog who had just walked past me a few minutes before. I turned too sharply and slid about fifteen feet and saw Billy pull a gun out of his belt. I tried reverse and forward but my tires just spun in the wet soggy ground. My head sunk down to by chest and I rested my forehead on the steering wheel waiting for the .38 special I knew was coming . . . but nothing happened. I looked left and right, but couldn’t get a good view. Adjusting the rearview mirror I saw Billy running away just inches from the snout of a German Sheppard as he pulled along a chain leash behind him.
The dog owner came over immediately to see if I was okay. He put a few boughs of fir by my drive wheels for traction and I was able to drive back to the parking lot. As I got out of my car, I saw the dog owner take out a large unsealed poop bag and slide Billy’s .38 into it along with a business card. It fit nicely in my purse.
I never saw Billy again, but I did check out Safe Parking, which gave me a haven until I got a job and rented a blue house with apples, pears, a carport, and a gravel alley. You just never know.
Cynthia Endicott says
Nice! I know an older gentleman coming out of rehab and his daughter who have a home in the Lake Louise neighborhood have been searching for a rental so they can make improvements to their home to help him live safely. Very, very difficult to find a reasonably priced rental in the greater Lakewood/ Steilacoom area. Sweet story.
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting.
I wrote the story after hears that the Safe Parking idea is coming to Tacoma. I have a follow up article coming out in a day or two about it. Making sure everyone is safe is always a good idea. The best of luck to your friend.
Thanks for sharing.
Kris Quinn says
I often look at a homeless person and wonder how that person became homeless. I’ve heard some stories because I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with homeless people by volunteering at my parish.
Your story, Don, gradually reveals the story of a homeless woman. She is resilient, a quality that eventually saves her from despair and death. Much of her character is revealed in this short story — well done!
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting.
I volunteered for two or three years with Pierce County Homeless Connect at the Tacoma Dome as a member of the Tacoma Exchange Club. I think with the people our of work from COVID and businesses closing, we could see many more homeless people on the streets and end the parks. Thank you for the kinds words on the story.
Thanks for sharing.