Woody Hawes woke up and tried to remember where he was.  There were men waking up around him and they seemed to know where they were. “Must be some kind of rescue mission” he thought.  Salvation Army wouldn’t let you in if you were juiced, so this had to be another flop in Hartford.  He’d crashed in most of them.  They varied from place to place.  Some weren’t too particular about alcohol consumption and as long as you kept to yourself and didn’t bother they let you stay.  His head ached.  The hangovers diminished as you drank.  This one was good for two aspirin.  He checked himself to see if he’d soiled himself.  Nope, clean all over.  His clothes were dirty but you couldn’t find a dry cleaner who let you wait while they cleaned and your address was iffy.  He’d had a home, once.  Circumstances made it necessary to relocate.  That was a long time ago.  He chose shelters while it was cold and he couldn’t scrape together enough for a fourth class hotel.  He climbed out of bed and felt around in his pockets.  He found some crumpled bills.  He didn’t check them because some of his roommates weren’t too picky about personal property.  Some weren’t above begging by force.  He was wary about those around him, at least when he was sober.  Woody hoped there wouldn’t be a sermon this morning.  He’d tolerate one if it went along with breakfast.  He couldn’t take one if it kept him from filling his belly.  He heard enough about how God watched out for his children but seemed to let Woody and his kind fall through the cracks.  He used to ignore the invisible people but now he was one of them.  It was something he got accustomed to but didn’t like.  He pulled a toothbrush out of his jacket pocket.  He kept it rolled up under his pillow.  People would kill for a warm coat.  He followed the moving mass of men to a washroom.  He found an empty sink. He splashed cold water on his face and brushed his teeth.  He didn’t smell anything like food so he headed out the door.  Outside it was frigid.  He pulled his coat around him and ducked his head into the wind.  He got his bearings.  He was on Sigourney Street.  There was a diner nearby.  Maybe he could get some hours on the dish machine or mopping floors.  “Food first, then work.”  He ducked into a doorway and counted his bills.  Four singles, enough for a couple of eggs and coffee.  He walked down the street to the stainless steel relic and went in.

          Finding a seat posed a problem.  He couldn’t sit next to some office drone who’d complain to managment about letting bums in.  Usually when he was tossed out, he’d get a chance to go around back and eat his meal in the kitchen.  The counter wasn’t crowded and he found a seat by the kitchen door.  He could smell the soup for lunch simmering on the stove.  He looked through the window in the door and could see the dishwasher was overloaded with breakfast dishes.  Suzanne the waitress took his order and poured him a cup.  “Rene’s out.  Must have had a bad night.  Gus’ll let you fill in today.” She told him.  Gus wasn’t the typical manager.  He was able to fix problems and keep the owners happy.  Woody would approach him when he was done eating.  Woody sympathized with Rene, but he wasn’t going to let an opportunity slip by.  If Rene were to be gone, he’d step up.  In the meantime he read a Courant somebody left on the counter and dug in to his eggs and toast.

  (More tommorrow)