As the ambulance slowly drove off, Thomas noticed a white pigeon fly over the vehicle carrying the lifeless body of Miss Betty. Thomas thought that was strange. Most of the pigeons he saw around town were ring-neck pigeons. To make this even more peculiar, this pigeon has a small red dot, almost like a blood spatter on it’s left wing. It was flying that low. He thought there was some significance in this scene. Maybe it was a kindly pigeon saying farewell for the peanuts that Miss Betty would feed them from time to time. Jack was amazed by the sight. “Look at that pigeon, Thomas. Ain’t that something? He’s saying goodbye to Miss Betty,” Jack said. Thomas smiled at his little friend. What would become of Jack if something happened to him, Thomas thought. Thomas was amazed he had survived the past three years on the streets. At least, that is what Jack told them. Jack got confused a lot. Numbers, time, even colors confused him. In his world, they just didn’t have much relevance. Hence, his inability to hold a job or seek gainful employment. He needed medical help like many, if not all of the homeless people in Louisville. Jack was small, weak-minded and far, far too trusting of people. He didn’t have any possessions when Thomas came into the community. He now has a tarp, cart and warm blankets due to Thomas. Everyone knew to leave Jack alone. They had preyed on little Jack for the last time. “What say we go to the Salvation Army to see if we can find some blankets for tonight. It’s supposed to get down in the twenties tonight. The blankets you have now are showing a little wear and tear,” Thomas said to Jack. “That sounds good to me, Thomas. You take care of me good, don’t you, Thomas? I will remember that down in the twenties means it is cold and that is bad,” said the innocent little homeless man. Jack had the body of of a man approximately in his mid-thirties and the mind of a ten year old boy. “That’s very good, Jack. You remember that. Now, let’s go see what they got,” Jack said.
Both Jack and Thomas came back with several thick blankets, padding to sleep on and assorted snacks for the cold night ahead. There was a threat of snow for the night. The Mission House will be full, as will other shelters for the homeless on cold, blustery nights. Maybe if Miss Betty had stayed at the homeless shelters as she was encouraged to do, maybe she would still be alive, Thomas thought. As for him and Jack, they both will stay in their respective tents for the duration of the day and night. It was nights like that tonight that made Thomas long for a home of his own, a place he could lay his head down at night. Thomas thought of the Robert Frost quote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Maybe it’s time for me to go “home,” Thomas mused. His behavior, his adamant refusal to conform and his stubbornness had cost him time in prison, the love of a woman who cherished him. All that was gone now. But, at age 45, Thomas still had time to reinvent himself, to start anew, to slip the surly bonds of his abhorrent behavior. But, all that will have to wait. He had to make plans to make it past a cold, cold night. Jack did not seem to understand the seriousness of the night ahead. They said the temperature would be in the twenties. But, the chill factor would be in the low teens. He encouraged Jack to go to the shelters available. But, Jack wasn’t going without Thomas. There was no way in hell Thomas was going to a shelter and be cooped in with all those people. Still, Thomas considered going because of Jack. “Jack, you know on second thought, maybe we should go to a shelter tonight. It may just get too cold for us. We the only two left here. That should tell you something, little buddy,” Jack said. “Now, Thomas I know you don’t want to go to no shelter. Thank you for thinking of me, Thomas. But, I be alright. I promise, I won’t be dead like Miss Betty,” Jack replied. “Okay then. But, let’s double up our tarps together so we can be close. And keep those damn blankets on you tonight,” warned Thomas.
Thomas woke up needing to go pee. He cracked up the tarp to see the time at the First Louisville Bank. It was 2:11 in the morning. Jack was still sound asleep. According to the bank temperature, it was 21 degrees. No telling what the wind chill was. Thomas hurriedly ran to the drainage ditch to pee and got back in the tarp. He closed the tarp back up with the duct tape. It was too damn cold to be outside like this, Thomas thought. He thought about waking Jack up to go to the shelter at the Mission House. But, he was sleeping so soundly, he didn’t want to rouse him. Plus, even though it was just a ten minute walk, it would seem much colder with that 10-15 MPH breeze coming out of the north. No, best to just wait until the morning, get some coffee and rest in the lobby for a couple of hours. Thomas thought little Jack would welcome that. It would mean being up close and personal with a lot of people whom Thomas did not know or want to know. But, he was willing to make that sacrifice for Jack. Jack had not even moved when Thomas opened up the tarp to go pee. He made enough noise for Jack to at least move or be startled. “Jack….Jack, are you okay little buddy?” asked Thomas. There was no movement from Jack. This time Thomas shook him more strongly. “JACK!!! JACK, ARE YOU OKAY?” asked a desperate Thomas Gordon. Thomas grabbed Jack and pulled him over to his back. Jack was just barely breathing and his breathing was labored. Thomas was now at Defcon 1. Thomas lifted Jack up to a sitting position. Jack was unconscious and barely breathing. What was Thomas to do? Leave Jack and seek help? Or try to carry him to the Mission House? Thomas knew he had to act and act fast or Jack would be DOA at a local hospital. Time was running out…quickly.