Friday, March 18, 2016

The Abused: Chapter 10


            Finley Sullivan, a homeless man who looked to be about 40 to 45, stood in the rainforest with the drizzle of first morning’s rain sending a damp mist that sprinkled his greasy black hair. Finley had lived in San Francisco before they cracked down on the homeless. Before he was picked up by what was in his estimation a kind of “Big Brother” squadron of political “goody-goodies” dedicated to clean up the City by the Bay. They had him hauled before county services for relocation – anywhere else as long as it was outside of the city and the new mayor could brag he had solved the homeless problem.
            Before it had happened Finley had been dully warned and advised he should depart on his own lest he find himself somewhere he didn’t want to be.

Finley was sleeping on his usual bench in Golden Gate Park when the maintenance man Freddy sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle in his lap. He pushed his buddies’ legs over and sat down on the edge of the bench. He opened the paper as Finley roused from his drunken stupor having drunk a healthy amount of boxed cheap wine after panhandling the tourists the day before.
Freddy passed his friend a plain donut and black coffee just as he began to sit up.
“Thanks man,” whispered Finley in a gravelly morning voice.
“You tossed back a few last night,” nodded Freddy to three empty wine boxes strewn around the bench. “You know I love you man, but the city’s getting all pissy about the homeless mess. You know man it won’t be long.”
Finley shoved the donut in his mouth and spit crumbs while he chewed and replied, “What do you mean … ‘long’?”
“They’re going to nab your bum ass and kick you to some place you probably won’t like,” he warned. “And there won’t be ole Freddy here to scrape your dirty shit up off the bench.”
“Eh,” waved off Finley.
He shrugged. He’d been homeless now a good five years since he had been disbarred for bribing juries to get his crooked white-collar thieves off. One of the court clerks had witnessed an exchange between Finley, Esquire, and a jury foreman for a corporate fraud case in which a defective tractor engine blew up and had killed numerous farmhands. Turns out the corporate bean counters knew from the get-go about the defect, but the engines were already out there and the cheap corporate suits valued money over human life. No recall got issued, and dead bodies piled up until a whistleblower by the name of Bo Schmidt turned over information about the company’s deadly practices to the judicial system.
Finley took the case and figured he would do what he always did to win – bribe the jury. So that “exchange” the clerk saw was the day he slipped a bribe to the foreman in a rolled-up newspaper where a suspicious enveloped fell out the other end. A huge investigation later and Finely got disbarred from the California Bar Association. His wife of five-years Angela left him and took off with his son Finley Jr. Soon his penchant for high-priced cars and mansions in Pacific Heights were no longer feasible. His reputation was so tainted he couldn’t even get a job as an errand boy much less a law clerk. He filed bankruptcy and before he knew it, he was living off the good people of San Francisco and tourists who felt sorry for the homeless and pitched dollar bills at him. To his utter astonishment he could sometimes make as much as $200 to $300 a day – tax-free just begging on the wealthy streets of San Francisco.
Without any real desire or incentive to clean up, Finley got used to living on the streets. He bathed at the local YMCA only when his smell got so repellant that not even tourists would give him money. He wore dirty, stained clothes essentially to build his case as a homeless man since the money being tossed his way could have actually paid for nice clothes and rent at a local boarding house. Finley didn’t even care anymore whether or not he enjoyed four walls and a hot bath. He missed his wife and son terribly. It had become easier though to stay off the grid. Then child support services weren’t chasing him, and honestly he lived a lazy life of bad booze, drunken squalor, and shitty food.

Freddy stared at his buddy. “You know man, how long I been bring you hot coffee and a donut? What? A year? You good at makin’ me laugh man. I’m going to miss your smelly ass.”
Finley sat up a little more upright. “You really think they’re gonna haul me off? You know I was a—”
“Yeah, I know. You got rights, blah, blah, blah. They don’t care man. This new mayor … he want to brag he kicked your homeless ass off the streets, cholo! You’s got to go.”
“Huh, well let ‘em. I’ve been through worse.”
Freddy whose real name was Frederico, got up. “Well, you won’t last amigo. But … maybe you can wash up and get back to doin’ somethin’ more worthwhile than laying your gordo culo round on park benches and beggin’ for dinero.”

Just as Freddy warned, Finley was indeed picked up. What was ironic was that before going to “county hold,” which was a nice way of saying “jail” Finley was alcoholic. By the time he got released he was popping God-knows-what pills and high all of the time courtesy of his fellow “hold-mates”. San Francisco moved his “fat ass” as Frederico called it in Spanish to the itt-bitty town of Yreka only to have the former attorney trash a local bar while high on meth. Finley was suddenly Yreka’s homeless problem – and now drug problem as Finley started dabbling in selling the stuff.
By the time he trashed the bar, he was out of his mind. He couldn’t think straight anymore. Somewhere along the way, he lost his memory too. So when he went before the Judge, a one Judge Cromwell, he didn’t even remember they had been college buddies at McGeorge School of Law. Judge Cromwell took one look at his disheveled and addictive former friend and had mercy on him. Instead of jail time, Finley got sent to rehab for six months.
And before he left, Judge Cromwell stopped by his temporary home, the local jail holding tank. Cromwell sat down in Finley’s cell and stared at his old buddy. He crossed his legs and a single tear formed in the corner of his eye.
“Do you remember me at all?”
“Uh… what?”
“We went to law school together.”
Finley looked dazed. “I’m a lawyer?”
“Yes, and you were a good one – at one time. A good man, too.”
Cromwell got up. He handed his friend a new wallet loaded with cash. “You go all right. Clean it up. Be the good man again.”
Finley took the wallet and nodded slowly. He burst into tears. Cromwell couldn’t stand the scene and slapped his shoulder. He then quietly left.
Finley never made it to rehab. He took the money, got wasted, and passed out in the Greyhound station and missed his bus bound for Portland. When he woke up, he got on the wrong bus and instead found himself dropped off in Port Angeles. This is how he wound up wandering aimlessly around the rainforest. And this is why there were not eight patients upon check-in for the current six-month session. Finley was a lost man all the way around.

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