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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 11. Wrong Help

No warnings for this chapter. Responses to questions raised by the characters in this chapter can be made in the Forum.

June 13

Town again. Another little city on the river. I haven’t made up my mind yet if I want to try staying here for a while or not. I’m out of food. I’m out of water, too, which is one reason I looked for a place to crash in a town. Although my stomach is gnawing away at my insides, I won’t make the mistake of testing out the dumpsters again.

Tonight, I’m staying in another church – this time the First Presbyterian Church of Marshall. I’m hiding behind a big pile of children’s toys and baby furniture in a small basement room. I think this must be stuff to be given away to poor families or something.

If someone doesn’t look too carefully, my screen will work to hide me for the night. What I can’t believe is that this church has no food in its kitchen except coffee creamer and a few really stale crackers. I ate the crackers, and tried some of the stuff marked 'non-dairy creamer,' but it was pretty gross. It hasn’t done anything to close up the black hole under my ribs.

Tomorrow, I’m going to have to try my luck at finding a lawn to mow, or scavenge something.

I saw the river from the mountain, but it was a long walk getting there. A very beautiful walk, but a long one. The trees are beginning to take on that deep green summer color, but there was none of the tropical heat I’d sweltered through a few days ago. The road along the river turned into this major highway, which I really didn’t like. Too many big trucks, too much traffic. Too many eyes to notice me. On the other hand, the road led me here to the little burg of Marshall.

On the mountain, and later on, as I plodded on the good road that I knew would take me back to the river, I started thinking. I know what I’m running away from. I don’t want to be arrested for killing Dad, and I don’t want anything to do with Uncle Ray. But sitting on the mountaintop, looking out over everything, I wondered what it is I am running towards.

I mean, can I really have choices, or am I just at the hands of fate here? Pretending for a second that I can get away for good, can I really choose to live my own life?

The truth is, I don’t really know what I want. But what I do know is that I can't rely on luck. I ran out of luck years ago. Whatever fate has in mind for me isn’t going to be very pleasant. All I know now is that I saw clouds moving in tonight, and I’m really, really hungry. Stopping over somewhere with shelter in this town seemed like a good idea, even if it was just under a bridge or something.

I remembered the kitchen in the last church I stayed in a couple of weeks ago, and I thought there might be some free food. Maybe a little hot water. The back door was open, so I walked right in.

The lights were on, and I heard voices coming from a room to my left. Of course, I had to be stupid and I peeked in at the door to see what was going on.

A group of people sat around a big table, listening to a large, handsome man with a short haircut who stood at his place. He stopped speaking to look at me.

“Come on in,” he boomed out, breaking into a welcoming smile. Suddenly everyone in the room was looking at me. I could have run, but I froze. Stupid, stupid. Now how many people had seen me?

“Anyone is welcome here,” the big man beckoned. He pointed to a chair at the far end of the table. “There’s a seat saved for you.”

Who did they think I was? I sat. I fidgeted with my hands in my lap. I didn’t really hear the big man talking. I became aware as he sat down and asked, “Does anyone want to speak?”

I looked around. The gathering was an assortment of men and women – mostly men – of varying ages and builds. Nearly everyone had a Styrofoam cup of coffee in their hand. Another man stood. “My name is Stewart, and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi, Stewart,” my tablemates chorused.

“I’ve had a good couple of days. I’ve wanted to drink, but I stayed away.” His hands twisted in front of him. “I called my wife to see if she’ll see me. She said she’d think about it.”

Stewart sat down. His neighbor, a shorter grey haired woman sitting on Stewart’s right, reached out and squeezed his arm encouragingly.

The meeting proceeded for a while in this way, each person talking about the difficulties each had faced with alcohol over the past few days, and how they had dealt with them. Clearly, I had stumbled into the wrong meeting. The moment I dreaded came up eventually.

“I see there’s a new face here tonight,” the big man spoke, turning his pleasant, honest face directly to me. People looked in my direction expectantly.

I stood.

“Hi. My name’s Eric. I’m new here.”

“Hi, Eric,” the group intoned.

“I really don’t know what to say...”

I stood there, tongue tied, waiting for someone to call the cops or throw me out.

The big man came to my rescue.

“That’s OK, Eric. If you’re not ready tonight, that’s all right. There isn’t any rush. Everyone here has had tough times, haven’t we?”

I saw everyone nodding.

“Just know we are all here so we can support each other.”

More nodding.

“Um, thanks,” I mumbled. I took that as my cue to sit down.

Not long after, the meeting broke up. The big man cornered me before I could flee. The room emptied out around us.

“So, Eric. How did you know to come here?”

“Uh, I just…saw the sign.”

“Good, good,” he smiled at me. “And you want to turn your life around.”

It was a statement, not a question. And, not surprisingly, it was one I could agree with.

I nodded.

He continued. “But you’re not sure if you can do it.”

Here I disagreed. Who was I kidding? My whole stupid plan for getting something to eat had backfired. I was secure in the arms of fate, and fate was being its usual nasty self. I hadn’t even gotten a cup of coffee. I knew for sure I’d never get turned around. My life was destined for crap; everything I touch turns shitty. But I didn’t want to tell him so. So I stood there, not knowing what to say to this earnest man who didn’t even know me, trying to tell me that I could somehow get it back together.

I shook my head.

“Look,” he tried again. “The program works. You may not believe that now. The first step is admitting you have a problem.”

Well, I sure had lots of those. Hunger was the first one; living on the run was another. And the one thing that caused it all – liking boys – was a third. But here’s the thing. None of it was my fault. I mean, is being a guy who likes guys really a problem? For me, the answer is obviously ‘yes;’ for others, maybe ‘no.’ But in either case, I don’t think it’s a problem anyone can cure.

The big man watched me, waiting for an answer.

“I understand.”

He relaxed. “All right. We can talk again on Wednesday after the next meeting.” He didn’t seek my agreement. He expected it. He seemed so sure and so confident. I have to admit, I wanted some of that.

“Can you help me get things cleaned up?”

I could do that. “Sure.”

I helped gather discarded cups and trash and followed him down the hall to the kitchen. He showed me how to clean out the coffee maker and where to take the trash, while he washed spoons and wiped down counters.

All the while, the big man tried hard to make lighter conversation. I chipped in an occasional nod or grunt, but I wasn’t going to offer anything. I felt like I was being watched, tested, evaluated. I didn’t like it, and clenched and unclenched my hand.

As I got ready to slip away, he stopped me, and gripped my shoulder.

“Hey, Eric, listen…if you’re in trouble… or if you think you’re gonna get drunk or stoned, I want you to call me, OK?”

He pressed a card into my hand. ‘Ozzie Francis,’ it read, with a phone number.

“I mean it. You can stay sober, with help.”

I didn’t say what I wanted to say. I didn’t say: “Ozzie, you haven’t a fucking clue of what you’re talking about, and if you really want to help, you’d buy me dinner.”

I didn’t say that. The big man, Ozzie, meant well, and maybe he would have fed me if I’d asked. But that would have meant more questions, more probing, and I did not want to lie to this man. Inevitably, in the name of Doing the Right Thing, I would be turned over to the police, or talked into turning myself in. Anyhow, if I looked skinny and dirty and unhealthy, it wasn’t a result of a drinking problem. It was my eating problem – or, not-eating problem, that was the difficulty. I stared at the card dumbly.

“Thanks,” I whispered. I slipped through the swinging door, down the hallway and away.

Many, many thanks to Craftingmom for her very kind and generous editing.

Reviews of any kind or description are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Interesting scenario - wandering into an AA meeting by mistake. Everyone wants to know his story, expecting him to share his tale of alcohol abuse. He would like to tell his story, but can't because they aren't prepared for THAT kind of abuse. One wonders what would have happened if he stood up in front of the group and told them what had happened to him.

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On 10/16/2015 10:15 AM, Diogenes said:

Interesting scenario - wandering into an AA meeting by mistake. Everyone wants to know his story, expecting him to share his tale of alcohol abuse. He would like to tell his story, but can't because they aren't prepared for THAT kind of abuse. One wonders what would have happened if he stood up in front of the group and told them what had happened to him.

Exactly. Completely other sort of support group meeting. Poor Eric/Stefan has no idea of what is going on, and the AA members really see him through their own eyes - and he's too scared and untrusting to set them straight. Have known something like this in actuality, though not as tragic.

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Great little chapter Parker!
At first I thought it was a regular church meeting and I thought he might get some help, but AA? Now that was a brilliant little twist!
Eric/Stefan is taking care of himself, and that's the good news. He's just missing getting help, and that's the sad news.
Can't wait for the next chapter!

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On 10/17/2015 06:30 PM, skinnydragon said:

Great little chapter Parker!

At first I thought it was a regular church meeting and I thought he might get some help, but AA? Now that was a brilliant little twist!

Eric/Stefan is taking care of himself, and that's the good news. He's just missing getting help, and that's the sad news.

Can't wait for the next chapter!

Poor Eric seems to miss his chances at help frequently. But as Tim pointed out on the forum, kids on the run don't often trust adults. In fact, they may take a long time to trust anyone. It's also interesting to note that many, many churches open their doors to AA-type meetings at all hours. That Eric found one such place is not completely surprising.

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Man this poor kid never lands in the right place. I sort of hoped he'd spill his guts but not yet. It's not easy trusting when you've been out there on your own.
Nice chapter, Parker

 

tim

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On 10/27/2015 10:48 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Man this poor kid never lands in the right place. I sort of hoped he'd spill his guts but not yet. It's not easy trusting when you've been out there on your own.

Nice chapter, Parker

 

tim

No, not easy at all. Eric/Stephan will keep making his way, stubbornly independent. That kind of stubbornness can get him into trouble, though it is also his best characteristic, too.

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That was awkward! There was help, but somehow it was the wrong kind of help. Is that even possible? Could he have talked to Ozzie?

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On 10/30/2015 05:42 PM, aditus said:

That was awkward! There was help, but somehow it was the wrong kind of help. Is that even possible? Could he have talked to Ozzie?

Yes, very awkward. Funny how when one expects one kind of difficulty, the solutions all look t he same sort of way. And perhaps Eric/Stefan could have talked with Ozzie. Stefan is unlikely to trust anyone for a long time.

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An AA meeting. That was not what I was expecting. Even though it seemed like a good place to tell his story you kind of know he won't, because he has no clue who thes people are and no reason to trust them. Could the guy who gave him the card be on the level? It sucks to be so wary of everyone..

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On 11/02/2015 08:14 AM, Defiance19 said:

An AA meeting. That was not what I was expecting. Even though it seemed like a good place to tell his story you kind of know he won't, because he has no clue who thes people are and no reason to trust them. Could the guy who gave him the card be on the level? It sucks to be so wary of everyone..

Whether Ozzie is on the level is a big unanswered question. But it's one of those cases when what a person sees is colored by one's expectations. The AA coordinator doesn't see Eric for who he is.

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Cool chapter. That hungry feeling can be terrible. I'm really enjoying this story. It is very well written.

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On 12/08/2015 10:50 AM, WolfM said:

Cool chapter. That hungry feeling can be terrible. I'm really enjoying this story. It is very well written.

Thank you, for your continued reading and for your review. And yes, Eric knows that hungry feeling far too well. I appreciate your kind words.

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I think Ozzie would have at least seen him fed but would also have felt compelled to turn him in, the kid needs help. Fortunately/unfortunately Ozzie didn't see "Eric" for what he was because he was too easily mistaken for what Ozzie expected.
Good chapter.

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On 12/31/2015 08:08 AM, dughlas said:

I think Ozzie would have at least seen him fed but would also have felt compelled to turn him in, the kid needs help. Fortunately/unfortunately Ozzie didn't see "Eric" for what he was because he was too easily mistaken for what Ozzie expected.

Good chapter.

What is the saying? If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail? I think that's it. And certainly, that's Ozzie's character all over in this case. Eric/Stefan needs help, but not what Ozzie wants to offer. Thanks for sticking with the story!

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It's odd rereading this story while watching the rebroadcast of San Francisco's LGBT Pride Parade (and recovering from a week and a half of Frameline, the world's oldest and largest LGBT film festival – I saw more than 20 programs, some with multiple movies).

 

It helps me realize all over again, just how lucky I am to live in the SF Bay Area where the LGBT community is so visible, influential, and integrated into the larger communities. A huge LGBT film festival, a Trans March on Friday, a 'Dyke March' on Saturday, a huge Pride Parade today (several hours of which are shown live on broadcast TV every year; each contingent limited to 1500 participants down from 4000 or more!), cities flying Rainbow Flags over their City Halls (including my own city!), and positive coverage on all the local news programs.

 

I can only hope that future Erics will know they aren't alone – even if they grow up in isolated communities far from Progressive large cities and states. I hope that future Erics will stumble across things like Frameline's YouTube channel where you can view free LGBT short films online. I hope that future Erics will see broadcast TV shows like The Real O'Neals or Glee with LGBT teenaged characters played by Openly LGBT actors. I hope that future Erics will be assigned books in school with characters somewhere along the LGBT spectrum – with happier endings than A Separate Peace and more explicitly LGBT than Dumbledore was in Harry Potter (were JRR Tolkien's Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin Gay?).

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On 06/27/2016 03:31 PM, droughtquake said:

It's odd rereading this story while watching the rebroadcast of San Francisco's LGBT Pride Parade (and recovering from a week and a half of Frameline, the world's oldest and largest LGBT film festival – I saw more than 20 programs, some with multiple movies).

 

It helps me realize all over again, just how lucky I am to live in the SF Bay Area where the LGBT community is so visible, influential, and integrated into the larger communities. A huge LGBT film festival, a Trans March on Friday, a 'Dyke March' on Saturday, a huge Pride Parade today (several hours of which are shown live on broadcast TV every year; each contingent limited to 1500 participants down from 4000 or more!), cities flying Rainbow Flags over their City Halls (including my own city!), and positive coverage on all the local news programs.

 

I can only hope that future Erics will know they aren't alone – even if they grow up in isolated communities far from Progressive large cities and states. I hope that future Erics will stumble across things like Frameline's YouTube channel where you can view free LGBT short films online. I hope that future Erics will see broadcast TV shows like The Real O'Neals or Glee with LGBT teenaged characters played by Openly LGBT actors. I hope that future Erics will be assigned books in school with characters somewhere along the LGBT spectrum – with happier endings than A Separate Peace and more explicitly LGBT than Dumbledore was in Harry Potter (were JRR Tolkien's Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin Gay?).

I think your hopes for future Erics will be fulfilled. I think there will be more and more TV and film and media models for Erics of the years to come. I believe future Erics will grow up with more love and concern and support, too.Even in the backwater where I live, LGBT teens are able to be more open and feel safer than they could even a few years ago. The bigots have lost the larger battle and they know it. It remains to us to write those novels, those books and those stories which schools will add their reading lists for future Erics to enjoy and identify with. Thanks for your reflections.

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Poor Stephan, he's still ashamed to ask for help.

Stefan cannot trust this man Ozzie. He has little strength for trust. The first person he relies on is himself. The longer he manages to stay free, the stronger that reliance and self-trust becomes.

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