This story is by Heath Byers and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Where the hell are all these homeless fuckers coming from?” asked deputy A.H. while standing on a cliff overlooking the homeless camp.
“Can’t rightly say…never seen so many in one place, not before this shithole appeared,” replied the sheriff.
“They need to go on back to wherever the hell they came from,” shouted the deputy, hoping they might somehow hear him.
The sheriff and deputy were standing by…awaiting the order to bust up the homeless camp.
Zott poked at the campfire with a piece of oak. It crackled, popped and threw sparks onto his pants. He looked around at the other men who were trying to keep warm and asked, “How cold we s’pposed to get tonight?”
A few of the men grumbled out words under their breath, but were too busy trying to keep warm to talk about how cold it was gonna get. They were already too damn cold.
In order to survive, most of the homeless had become sub-humans, zombies…the life in them was hiding behind dark and empty eyes.
Zott had been thinking about how he might save the camp from being busted up, but over and over his mind had churned up nothing. He felt very fragile standing at the feet of giant monsters. He wondered why he didn’t just kill himself–do the job for the greedy bastards. Maybe keep some of his dignity.
Suddenly, he got an idea…maybe losing his life was the answer after all.
He looked around the camp and counted as many people as he could. He figured there had to be close to a thousand in the whole place…It was time for all of them to go trick or treating!
Quickly, Zott spread the word to several of the other “leaders” throughout the camp. He finally had a plan…something concrete. It was time. They would all take action and just maybe he could help them save their asses.
The leaders listened to his plan and most all of them called it crazy. “How in the hell are we going to be able to trick or treat for the homeless, when we are the homeless? They’ll call the law on us before we even have a chance to ring the doorbell,” interrupted one of the leaders with more scars than skin on his face.
Zott continued, “I know, I know, it all sounds crazy, but it’s gotta work and it will. You just leave “Johnny Law” to me. I’m gonna have them all far far away from here, by the time I’m done.”
The leaders shook their heads in disbelief. They really wanted to know how he planned on getting the law out of their way. Zott told them to get ready and not to worry about what he was going to do. “Ask for donations, ask for anything that could help all of you buy this piece of property and build homes on it,” he pleaded.
“It won’t work…people ain’t that generous to ugly, stinky monsters like us,” said another leader. “They will look at us and hate us, cuz we’re living versions of their worst nightmares.” He rubbed his huge forehead and pulled the faded, ragged baseball cap down over his eyes.
“That might be true, but you gotta smile and pretend like you’re only in very good costumes!” said Zott.
“Zott might be right. What do we got to lose? and everything to gain,” replied a leader that had been chewing on a twig and rubbing his toes in the dirt too close to the fire. “Shit!” he suddenly shouted. “I knew that was gonna happen. Son of a bitch!” An ember had snuck into the dirt and he curled his toes right on top of it. He rubbed the burn on a cold piece of rock until his exposed foot went numb from the cold.
“Hope it don’t snow,” said a lady with a dozen or so bags stuffed into her shopping cart. That’d ruin the whole party. That’d make me sad, something awful.”
“It ain’t gonna snow. You get your shopping cart ready…You’re going trick or treating!” said Zott.
Most of the homeless gathered at the camp entrance at seven pm. The brave ones headed down into the neighborhoods, keeping a close eye out for the law. They split off into groups as planned, and disappeared into the masses celebrating All Hallowes’ Eve.
Zott climbed into the old tanker truck that belonged to the Almighty Apple Cider Company. He had seen it running up and down the main highway the past few weeks. He hot-wired the engine and it came to life, shaking the cab. The rhythm of its diesel engine made him feel relaxed and strangely comfortable. Then, he remembered his grandfather had owned an old farm truck, and it had sounded similar to this one. “This here is definitely an old beast!” he said chuckling. He put it into gear and rolled out onto the highway.
The clouds were moving quickly by the moon. The temperature had dropped fast after sundown, and it was getting colder by the hour.
Zott turned the heater to full blast and prayed it could make the chill go away. He pulled the truck to within a hundred yards or so of the cliff. The same cliff where the sheriff and deputy had been earlier. The wind had picked up and the trees made soft, crackling sounds. The truck engine continued its rhythm.
“I’ve got to do this….” he whispered, trying to build up his courage. He reached into his coat pocket and removed the whiskey. He slugged down a long shot, savoring the charcoaled oak flavors and the burning on the back of his throat. He listened closely to the comforting rhythm of the engine. He could also hear the wind whistling through the cracks of the old beast. It was almost seven. He knew that if he didn’t do it, the camp would be destroyed. Suddenly, a bead of sweat dripped into his right eye. He pulled his coat sleeve across his face. He had not noticed how hot it had gotten inside the cab.
“Let’s do this!”Zott yelled. “This is for you, mom! I love you. I will always love you!” He put the beast into gear and slammed the gas pedal down! It jerked and struggled, but it quickly started to build up speed. Zott had gotten very close to the edge of the cliff when he opened the door and threw himself out. He rolled into the dirt and was only stopped short of going over the edge by a small clump of weeds.
The truck crashed into the ground below, and the explosion lit up the entire valley. Zott picked his head up out of the dirt. Smiled. He looked at the bright explosion and said proudly, “Every lawman and fireman will soon be wanting to know who the hell did this.” He drank the last of the whiskey and quickly ran into the woods…laughing to himself–happy to have scored one for the little guys. Grateful he had somehow managed to survive and witness his victory.
To those that have no homes….