It’s a cold December day. Bus number 17 has made its last stop of the night. One lone passenger gets off the bus. He’s carrying a backpack across his shoulder. It’s late, around 11:00 pm, and he’s tired, very tired. His last chance at finding a bed is just a few feet ahead. A shelter where sometimes he can find a place to sleep, but only if he’s lucky. Tonight he is not so lucky; the shelter doesn’t have a free bed. He knows of an abandoned building not far from where he now stands. He draws near the building, carefully glancing around the area, hoping that no one else is approaching. He steps inside and quietly places his backpack on the ground in a corner where the draft from outside is felt least. He lays himself down on the ground, using the backpack as a pillow. Despite the cold, in moments the teen is fast asleep.His body rests for only a couple of hours. The cold and the wind have proven to be too much. Nowadays, he sleeps and eats when Lady Luck smiles on him. His arm reaches down, grabs his backpack, and the teen once more hits the streets of Tylerville, Indiana. The mind and the body are grumbling for want of sleep, food and companionship. His loneliness is often more than he can bear. It’s been four months since he was kicked out of his home in Boise, Idaho. Four months since anyone has said “I love you” or played a game of basketball with him. His tears have wet his backpack on many a night since then. He was sent to Tylerville to live with a great aunt.
His story starts as he left his home and was dropped off at the bus station. His dad gave him enough money to cover transportation and then he was loaded on the bus. Alone and afraid, he made his way across the country on the bus. When he arrived at his aunt’s address, he found the burned out shell of a house. Here he fell to ground and cried for several hours before heading out into the world that is his new home. Since then so many people have looked at him and kept on moving, while others have given either food or some spare money to him. Today is no different than any other recent day for the homeless boy… or is it?
On the other side of town, Ian Richards and Trace Andrews are just now waking up. Trace showers while Ian makes breakfast. The couple is completely unaware that somewhere in the city a kid is starting the journey to his alternative school where, for at least a few hours each day, he can stay warm and get food in his stomach. For Trace and Ian, this routine, or something like it, has been followed the past six years and neither guy seems to mind it at all. When Trace is done in the shower, it’s Ian’s turn and then the guys make their lunches, exchange kisses, and head out the door to work. Ian teaches zoology and biology while Trace is a police officer.
As Ian drives to work, he spots our homeless teen. All he sees is a kid walking down the street and has no thought that there might be an issue. Trace, on the other hand, takes in the entire picture. He notices the messed up hair, the dirty appearance of the boy’s clothes, and the tear in the back of his coat. Ian isn’t bothered by what he sees at all. Trace, on the other hand, snaps a picture. He can’t get the image out of his head. This teen has been bugging him all day.
The worry isn’t completely warranted though. The teen is, after all, headed towards school. A private organization pays for the supplies, the technologies needed for the school to function, as well as the salary of the teachers and staff. Our homeless kid goes to school from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm every day except Saturday and Sunday. He is able to have breakfast, lunch, and warmth. Sadly, the teachers and staff can be a little blind at times. They are quick to assume the kids are from one of the many shelters in the area, so they aren’t aware that this one is lucky if he gets to have a warm bed once a week, at the most. What the boy doesn’t know is that he’s been spotted by Trace Andrews.
Trace has made it a point keep an eye out for the kid all day. Now, as his shift comes to a close, he spots the teen again. He follows the teen to an abandoned home. As an officer, he could take action because the kid’s trespassing, but a quiet voice says “No, leave the boy alone.” So he drives to the station to turn in his paperwork.
Ian has stayed late to work on grades and on the way home, he too sees the boy. This time though, he is aware of the kid’s appearance and his direction of travel. He knows there is nothing along this stretch of road except for a few businesses, a few apartment buildings, and a homeless shelter. Putting the obvious clues together, he decides this wanderer is homeless. What can he do today?
He struggles with what action he should take. Maybe, he should offer a ride, but then he would be breaking a promise to Trace; he promised to never pick up anyone who was hitchhiking or asking for help. Still, this kid isn’t thumbing for a ride. Ian drives by and rationalizes to himself that the teen wouldn’t accept a ride anyway. As he pulls up to his safe, warm house, he parks his car and then heads inside to see Trace.
They give each other a hug and a kiss and then Ian tells Trace about the homeless kid he saw today in the area of the North Brook Shelter. Trace digs out his camera and turns it on. Quickly, he flips through the pictures until he comes across the kid. He shows the picture to Ian.
“Is this your homeless kid?”
Ian studies the image on the camera’s screen.
“Yeah that’s him, so you saw him too, huh?”
Ian studied his partner’s face. Ian knew something about this kid was bugging Trace. Of course he has no way of knowing that earlier today Trace had shown the picture to a few of the officers in his department and then tried to ID the kid. For close to three hours, people at the department combed through hundreds of missing persons reports. Right now, Trace is pouring through another pile of missing persons reports, hoping that one of them will provide information about their John Doe. While Trace works on the pile of papers in front of him, Ian is off to make dinner.
As Trace combs through the stack of papers, his police radio goes off.
“Tylerville to Officer Andrews!” a man’s voice echoes through the speaker.
“Officer Andrews here, go ahead Tylerville.”
The voice on the other end finally has the information that Trace has been waiting for all day long.
“Officer Andrews, I have a hit on your homeless kid. His name is Blake Kimball. He’s from Boise, Idaho. A friend at some point had requested a welfare check and it came back negative. Apparently, the address that we were given comes back to a burned out house. We contacted a few families in Boise with the same last name until we came across the right one. According to the parents, he’s living with a Great Aunt, by the name of Rebecca Kimball. I crosschecked that name with obits and she died about seven months ago. That is all we have on him.”
Trace can’t help but feel a bit sad by the report he received from the station. Now, he is even more worried about this teen. If his hunch his right, this teen has been living out on the streets since he arrived in town.
Ian looks at Trace, who is up from the table, filling the cat’s dish. Worry is stamped across Trace’s face; his mind is filled with what his next move should be. Across town, Blake is stuck in the middle of town, hoping that someone will be kind enough to give him some spare change so he can get a bit of warmth in him.
It’s been a rough day. Blake’s barely been able to get $1.00 from anyone today. It’s as if their holiday caring has been stripped from them. He stuffs the money into the pocket of his coat. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more Blake is depressed. He wants so badly to go back home and partake in the family’s Christmastime traditions. Tonight, one of the kids has already marked the calendar and Mom has placed whatever Christmas Card might have come in the mail on the mantle. Dad is lighting the one of the candles that Mom bought and gathers the family around to read the Christmas Story from the Bible. A tear trails down his face and a stranger, seeing his tears, does his best to comfort the boy. He points him in the direction of a Catholic church.
The man leads Blake inside the building where, if nothing else, it’s warm. A tree decorated in lights and ornaments stands just inside the door. There, in a corner of the entry way, a box sits on the floor.
“You look like you could use some gloves and a coat. Look through the box and when you find what you need, let me know.”
Blake looks through the box and pulls out some gloves and a stocking hat. The coats are all a bit too small.
“Thank you, sir!”
Blake slips on the gloves and puts the hat on his head. He turns to the entrance and walks back out, but stops. He turns and slips his dollar into a donation box. He knows that dollar might have bought him a hot chocolate, but then again, it might also go to buy a gift for someone who really needs it. Blake’s parents have always been proud of Blake’s giving heart. As his dollar disappeared into the box, the man who led him to the church takes note. He reaches into his pocket and also sticks in a bill or two. He wipes away his own teardrop and then they walk back onto the street, each going in his own direction; each headed to a different destination.
Blake knows there is spot nearby where the police look the other way if they find the homeless sleeping. It’s in between a couple of buildings, but it’s free of snow and fairly safe. Blake has slept in this spot on many a night when, for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to make it back to the other end of town. Tomorrow, he would have to fend for himself. Saturday and Sunday are hard on Blake. He gets no breakfast, no lunch, and no warmth unless he’s able to find some kind soul who offers him some money. He wonders if his parents worry about him. He hopes his younger and older brothers don’t miss him too much. Tonight, at least, he is a little warmer, thanks to the kindness of a stranger. Again, he is only able to sleep for a couple hours before someone wakes him up. A police officer has taken it upon himself to point him to a warming shelter where he can warm up and then be taken to a place where he can sleep.
The officer recognizes Blake’s face from a sheet that Officer Andrews put up at the station. After dropping off the boy, he calls Officer Andrews at home.
“Hello.” the voice answers on the other end of the line.
“Hi, Officer Conrad here, I need to speak with Officer Andrews please.”
“Hold on, I’ll get him.”
Ian walks to Trace, who is sitting in the living room. He taps his lover on the shoulder and then hands him the phone.
“Trace here, what’s up?”
“Hey, Officer Conrad here, I just dropped off Blake Kimball at the City Center warming station. I’ve also arranged for him to be taken to the City Center Shelter so he can have a place to rest.”
Trace wonders if he should drive out there and bring the boy home, but he still hasn’t talked it over with Ian and that could just lead to an argument.
“Thanks Michael, I really appreciate it,” Trace says smiling.
“No problem. I’ve got a kid at home about his age.”
“Keep me updated if you hear anything new, okay?”
Trace’s mind calms itself down a bit. City Center Shelter is one of the better ones in the area. It keeps a database of everyone who visits the shelter and then turns that information over to numerous charities in the area. Before he goes to bed, Trace goes into the kitchen. He pulls out the peanut butter and jam, some ham, cheese, bread, an apple, an orange. He also takes a small cherry fruit pie and puts it into the bag with a bottle of water. Tomorrow, he’s going to find this kid and give him a little something to fill his stomach. Trace also adds a note that he hopes will help Blake feel loved.
I hope you enjoyed the food and water. If you ever need anything, stop by the police station, call the station, or flag down any officer and give them a message to give to me. I promise that I’ll get back to you.
After wrapping a $5.00 bill in the note and dropping it in, he folded the bag and then went to bed. All night, one thought ran through Trace’s head: “Why wouldn’t this kid try to go home?”
It’s a thought that has crossed Blake’s mind many times since arriving. He’s even thought about calling home in hopes of being allowed to return. The fear of rejection snaps him out of it. Tonight, home is far from his mind. Tonight, thanks to a police officer, he has a safe place to rest his head. It’s been awhile since he’s had a bed and his mind is being allowed to rest a little bit. Morning will be here soon and Blake hopes to just relax before heading out into the snow and the cold.
Ian and Trace have a day off and so, after morning showers and a quick breakfast, they are off to find Blake. Luckily, Officer Conrad’s call last night told them where to find the young man. The news last night beats having to track the kid down. They head straight for the City Center Shelter. Parking the car in the parking lot, they head up to the door with their IDs already on display. They push the intercom, announced themselves and are buzzed into the building. Trace explains to the lady at the desk that they are looking for Blake Kimball. She points out the young man sitting by himself in a corner of the meal room. The guys walk up to Blake Kimball. The fear that Blake must be feeling is quickly becoming evident to Trace and Ian.
“Blake, relax buddy. We are friends of Officer Conrad. My name is Officer Andrews and this is my partner, Ian. I know you must get hungry, so here is a lunch to get you through the day, along with some water. See you later, okay?”
Ian and Trace reach out their hands and shake Blake’s hand. They can feel his arm shaking in fear. They pick up their stuff and head out into the outdoors. Neither guy is really able to relax. They know that before the day is through that at some point that kid will be back on the streets. They also come away from this initial visit knowing that they need to do more. Blake watches from the door as they disappear into the cold.
He walks back to the place where he was sitting and starts digging through the lunch. He pulls out the peanut butter sandwich and begins to eat it. He’s had better food since being out on the streets, but somehow, knowing the source makes this sandwich taste even more special. Before he is able to dig out the orange, the lady from out front approaches him. She sits down and puts her hands on his.
“Blake, I can’t get past the feeling that those two gentlemen are going to change your life. Did they say who they were?”
Blake thought for a second and then he answered her.
“They said that their names were Officer Andrews and the other guy was his partner, Ian.”
She smiled and held his hand.
“It’s not much to go on, but I really believe that they’ll be back.”
Deep inside of himself, Blake wanted them to return. He just didn’t know why. A part of him was also afraid that if they returned, they might hurt him. He’s afraid of being hurt by people who think and act like his parents. Sitting there with this lady, he starts to cry.
“Blake, why are you crying?”
“For the first time since I’ve been kicked out of my house, there are people who actually care about me.”
She leaned in and gave him a big hug. Even after the hug was broken off, a part of him wanted to feel that hug coming from his mom and his dad. He wants nothing more than to be needed by someone… loved by someone. A stray thought runs through his mind… could those guys be the bad guys? People have been kidnapping kids, and other homeless people have been vanishing. Then again, why would those two guys selectively be nice to him? Then he thought about what Officer Conrad did for him, and all the doubt vanished into the air. He digs into the bag and passes by the orange and the water bottle. Briefly, his fingers come into contact with a folded piece of paper. After unfolding it, he can’t believe that they gave him food and money. He put the $5.00 bill in his pocket and then he read the note. A small tear followed the path of the others, down to the bottom of his cheek. Carefully, he passes the note to his new friend. She reads it and then looks at the young man.
“Is there anything I can do to help you out?”
He thought about it, and then he realizes what he wants to do. He has to try; he has to get in contact with his mom. How is he going to do this?
“Can you call the police station? I… I need to get in contact with Officer Andrews.”
At the very mention of that name, her face lights up. She agrees and calls the non-emergency number.
“Hello, Tylerville Police Department, how can I help you?”
“I need to get a message to Officer Andrews on behalf of Blake Kimball.”
“Hold on so I can write down the message. Blake Kimball wants Officer Andrews to get in contact with his mother…”