He didn’t have a lot of sympathy to go around, but the dog’s pathetic state moved him, and he shared his half-eaten sandwich. When the dog had finished eating, she sat next to him and shyly licked his hand. At the crossroads of despair, a homeless man unexpectedly found love.
The police were talking to the woman who’d helped me. In the ambulance, an E.M.T began wiping dried blood off my face. I overheard the police say, “I’m arresting you for vagrancy.” I looked out the back of the ambulance and saw that my benefactor was being handcuffed.
When I was 12, my father, bless him, had said, “The men in white are feared. If you say something you’re not supposed to say, the men in white will come and take you away. You will never be heard from again. God knows what happens to you after they take you away.”
The guards believed he was either guilty of something very big, or mentally compromised in some way. They transferred John to the locked psychiatric facility at Highland Hospital and put two undercover men in his hospital room who posed as fellow psych patients in legal jeopardy.
A uniformed man behind thick glass projected impatience. I immediately spotted a number of disintegrator guns built into the walls. I then realized I stood atop a steel grating that would allow for easy, vacuum-powered disposal of my gaseous and liquid remains, should it go that way.
Dr. Baker asked, “Where did you learn this ability?” “There is a training complex on Mars,” I replied. The nurse and the psych tech chortled involuntarily. Dr. Baker glared and said, “Maybe a jolt of electroconvulsive would zap some of that smart-ass out of you.”
I surmised grimly that I was to be put into the Homeless Reservation. I had never heard of anyone leaving there, alive or dead. People disappeared, never to be heard from again. Politicians had arrived at what they believed to be a final solution to the “problem” of homeless people.
After the battle, Zane recovered in an Army hospital, but the guilt never left him. In his recurring dreams, a white-haired, bearded prophet denounces him: “That bullet had your name on it.” His life is changed forever and the image of his friend Xavier was always in his mind.
The drug company knew about the undesirable side-effects but believed psychiatrists would prescribe the drug anyway, at least to those psychiatric clients who regularly made trouble. Enter Jonathan Baxter, who had gone off his medications several times and had been written up in his medical records as being uncooperative and argumentative.
When I die, or after I die, I want to look back at my life and see that I ate that cookie, I drank that vodka, I made love to that woman. I did not shy away from living because of the petty fear that death might come sooner.
The psychoanalyst had an agenda. Jonathan had been found to be too intelligent. Janice Williams, the therapist, had been told to use an intelligence reducing unit during the session. Janice’s commander, who went by a number and not a name — Alpha Centauri aliens didn’t use names — had ordered John’s intelligence reduced.
Stefa had told him that people were meant to sleep indoors and urged him to find a way to get off the street. She was so right. He had been on the street too long. He needed to talk to her and all he could do was curse at the wind.