Depression Is More Than A State of MindBy Marian Mendez
Page 1 of 4
It was big, bright red, and lovingly polished. And in someone else's
hand. For a moment, all Will felt was a mild annoyance. He'd been patronizing
Apple Annie's cart for so long he felt a proprietary attitude. That was the
apple he'd spotted as he approached. It really ought to have been his. |
But the man turned aside without dropping a coin into the old woman's bowl, and Will's annoyance turned to righteous anger. Will signaled silently to his companion and they followed the man into the alley behind Annie's stand.
The man noticed almost immediately and backed up to the brick wall, not quite touching it. Didn't want to get himself dirty, Will thought in contempt, seeing the expensive suit. The man was about his own height and build, but stood with an arrogant erectness that made him seem taller. They hemmed the man in on either side.
"What do you want?" the man asked, his clipped, aristocratic tones an insult in themselves. His gaze flicked up at Will's friend, who towered over both of them. Then he turned his attention to Will, ignoring the other.
Despite himself, Will was mildly impressed. Olaf was a gentle man at heart, but most people didn't see that at first. They'd used his size to intimidate more than a few victims in the various games they played to live. This man wasn't intimidated. He was afraid, Will could see that in the way his hands shook, but he wasn't intimidated. Will hesitated, but the other made the mistake of noticing that also, and the gleam of triumph in those cold, brown eyes angered Will all over again.
"I want you to pay for the apple. Stealing from a blind, old lady- you ought to be ashamed of yourself. And you were pretty obvious about it. Leave the thieving to them as knows how to do it with a bit of style."
"Oh, that's good. That's absolutely perfect. A pick-pocket and his clod-hopping friend are going to teach me morals?" the superior attitude positively dripped from his precisely enunciated words.
"Yes." Will rolled up his sleeves, knowing full well that Olaf would take care of him. They were friends. Had been ever since he'd gotten Olaf off the chain gang.
Abruptly the man reached into his pocket, produced the apple and tossed it into a pile of rags. "Take it, then." He was flushed, and his eyes glittered wildly, his hands shaking even more.
"I want you to pay for it," Will insisted. "One way or another."
The man crouched slightly. "It'll have to be the other, then."
This wasn't right. This guy must be crazy. Dressed the way he was, he must have money coming out his ears. Why would he fight rather than pay a nickel? Will backed up a step and the man lunged for him, suddenly fierce, a straight razor clenched in one hand. Will ducked, and the man ran into the solidity of Olaf's right fist. He crumpled and Olaf caught him.
"I didn't hit him that hard," Olaf said, worry creasing his broad forehead. He held the other man under the arms, keeping him from the filth of the gutter.
Will picked up the razor, folded it carefully and patted the other down. "Nothing." He started in surprise, then searched the man more thoroughly. No weapons beside the razor, and no money, none at all. There was an expensive wallet, but it was empty. "Well, how d'ya like that, Olaf? He's stony broke. Mr. Fancy-Pants, toffee-nosed, pretty boy, is flat on his uppers."
"He's sick," Olaf commented. "Feverish." Now Olaf's round face turned mournful as they saw the flush and the shaking hands in a new light.
"Wasn't our fault," Will said, although he was beginning to feel a bit guilty himself. The fine clothes looked rather worn at close range, and the Italian leather shoes were scuffed and down at the heels. Another rich man who'd fallen out of his ivory tower. A lot of them had literally jumped four years ago when the market crashed. "Dump him. He'll be all right."
"No, he won't." Olaf could be stubborn. Especially when he thought something 'just wasn't right'. In some ways he was a liability.
Will sighed. "All right. But we'll take him to Cally. We can't afford a pet."
"Thanks, Will." Olaf draped the unconscious man over his shoulder. There were so many drunks in this part of town, no one would notice one more. These days, folks didn't have much energy to spare for questions, anyway.
Will paused by Annie's cart, to drop in a dime and pick an apple for himself. Annie's black eyes stared vacantly through her dark glasses as she smiled and said, "God Bless you sir." Once the trio were around the corner, she ducked into the alley and picked up the apple in the rag pile, inspected it closely, wiped it off and placed it back on the stand. "Apples? Apples?" she cried piteously, "buy an apple from a poor, old, blind woman?"
"Let us in, Cally," Will didn't quite shout. He was embarrassed enough about his good deed without drawing attention to it at the back door of the All Soul's Mission.
The young woman who eventually opened the door stood in the entrance, her hands on her slender hips, eying Will and Olaf aggressively. She glanced at Olaf's burden and sniffed. "Rolling drunks? That's a come-down for you, Will."
"He's sick," Will said, weakly. "Just give him a place to doss, Cally. He won't be no trouble, " he said, trying to convince himself.
Cally lifted the man's head to peer into his face. "Pretty," she commented. "Con- man or gigolo?"
"I don't think so."
"Who is he? What's wrong with him?" Cally's foot tapped as Will fumbled for answers. "Why did you bring him to me, Will?"
Will smiled, winningly. "Because you're an angel of mercy?"
Cally laughed and stepped aside, allowing them to enter. "Put him in the back room. And Will," she put a hand on Will's chest, stopping him from following Olaf, "this had better not be one of your tricks."
Cally frowned down at the man lying on the cot. She really should be more stern. Freeing the masses was much more important than any one person, herself included. Still, she couldn't very well free the masses by herself. Last winter she'd thought the revolution was upon them, but since Roosevelt had taken office, people had hope that things would be better and weren't interested in fighting the system.
Maybe things would be better, for some people, but there would always be those who were trodden underfoot by the rich, the selfish, callous rich. This man had been a member of that class, the petty bourgeois. Brought low by their own economic manipulations. She ought to feel satisfaction in her enemy's sufferings. Unfortunately, the unconscious man looked more like an innocent child than a wicked plutocrat.
"What?" Will looked shocked, "I always thought you were a nice girl, Cally."
"I'm also a trained nurse. He hasn't got anything I haven't already seen. If it will make you feel better, I'll go for the first aid kit while you do it." She strode out of the room without looking to see if they obeyed.
When she returned with a bucket of warm soapy water and the aid kit, the man was covered by a shabby blanket and his clothes were draped over a chair. She put down the bucket and flung the blanket back despite Will's protests. She examined the man thoroughly. "Mostly exhaustion," she decided. "I don't think he's actually very ill, just worn out. Nothing unusual. I've seen it in dozens of bums. Except that he's cleaner than most bums."
"Thank you," came an acid voice that startled them all. The man was awake and staring at her. He pulled the blanket up into his lap and reached his hand out. "My clothes, if you don't mind." He said it as if he expected to be obeyed, and Will automatically responded, his hand actually on the clothes before Cally stopped him with a word.
"No. You aren't going anywhere."
"Kidnapping?" The man gave a short, bitter laugh. "Once it would have been worth your while." His eyes went completely black. "Once there would have been someone willing and able to pay for me."
"Who are you?" Cally asked.
"Nobody. Not now."
"Even a nobody has a name," Will said. "I'm Will Restal, that's Olaf Gan," he pointed to the large man standing silently at the bedside, "and the lovely lady is Cally Auron."
"Well, now, you've proved your point. Even nobodies have names."
Cally started forward, angry, but stopped when she saw the man fight to rise onto one elbow, and fail. "You're sick, so I will make allowances, but they will only go so far. This is the All Soul's Mission. You are safe here, and may stay until you are better."
"A soup kitchen? No, thank you, I've never cared for charity." The man managed to sit up. "I'm sure you can find more worthy recipients of your concern."
"Undoubtedly. Very well. If you can get up and get your clothes, you may leave. We won't stop you." Cally stepped back.
The man glared, pushed his legs out of the bed, and wrapped the blanket around himself. "Would you mind turning your back?"
"No, not at all." Cally turned, and waited. There was a thump, followed by quiet, but heartfelt, cursing. She turned back to see the man on the floor, weakly pushing Olaf's hands away.
"Olaf, leave him alone." She knelt by the man and said, "Do you really want to die? I won't waste my time on a suicide. There are too many other people who haven't given up." She met the man's eyes and waited.
After a long moment, he sighed and said, "My name is Carr Avon."
Cally smiled. "Let's get you back in bed, Mr. Avon."
"Carr. You may call me Carr."
Will rubbed his hands together. "Well, Carr, old chum, I guess Olaf and I can leave you in Cally's capable hands. Sorry about the misunderstanding."
"Avon to you."
"Avon? If you insist," Will grinned. "Not Mr. Avon, just Avon?"
Much later, long after Will and Olaf had left and the soup had run out, Cally heard a knock at the back door once more.
"Breakfast is at six. Clothing is distributed on Thursdays. We have no dormitory facilities or any money," Cally said in a practiced, no nonsense tone, as she opened the door.
"Pity about the money." A tall, curly-headed man stood there, smiling at her.
"Rog! When did you get back? How did it go?" Cally asked, flinging her arms around the man. "Why didn't you write?"
"Wait, wait, one question at a time." He patted her, gave her a brief hug, then disentangled himself and picked up a small leather satchel. "Let's get inside first."
"Of course." Cally led the way. "Oh, I've given your bed to a man Will brought in today."
The tall man laughed. "Where am I to sleep?" He grinned, teasing.
"I wouldn't want to upset Jane," Cally replied, calmly.
"There's nothing between us," he protested.
"Not for lack of desire- on either side. It's very frustrating for Jane, you know." Cally linked arms companionably with Rog.
"It's frustrating for me, too. She deserves better than me. My name's been dragged through the mud, I can't offer it to any woman, not until I've cleared myself."
"Jane doesn't care about that. She loves you."
"You know, for a dedicated Young Communist, you spend a great deal of time worrying about people's feelings."
"Under Communism, you would never have been falsely accused and made to take the blame for a crooked politician." Cally's eyes glowed with fervor.
"I won't argue with you." Rog stopped, pulling Cally to a standstill. "Hello." Carr Avon stood in the hall, propped up in the doorway, staring silently at Cally. "Is this the man you mentioned?" Rog extended his right hand, "I'm Roger Blake. Pleased to meet you, Mr. ...?"
"Avon," Cally supplied, "Carr Avon."
Avon didn't take his eyes from Cally. "Communist?" he accused, "One of those idealistic fools who advocate beggaring the successful to make life rosy for the incompetent?"
Cally stiffened. Rog replied, calmly enough, "One of those idealistic fools who has taken you in off the street."
"I didn't ask for help. I don't need any help." Avon straightened.
"Don't be an idiot, man. You can barely stand," Rog said. "Besides, Communism does have its good points. Don't you think the rich owe it to the less fortunate to help them?"
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