A Night at the Shelter
by Jean Boucher
Daniel is wasted! Drunk, so it seems. I try not to judge. I’m not exactly sure. Actually, what I thought was a bottle of vodka was really Selsun Blue. ‘Why is he carrying around bottle of Selsun Blue?’
Stammering, he came in from the night. 2am, and the door slammed. But the last six inches of his blanket didn’t make it. Now he is standing there, struggling, in perpetual tug-of-war. All his effort and energies directed at overcoming this blanket in the door. This fascinates me! How long will this grown man tug at this blanket stuck in the door? He has dropped his plastic bags and is singularly focused on blanket-pulling. I walk over, my arms outstretched, prepared for crucifixion, “Can you just open the door!?”
This is revelatory to him.
He turns, looks at me, looks at the door, and obeys. He stumbles, shoves the door, pulls the blanket. Stumbles back: blanket, bags, Selsun Blue. A few steps and begins setting up camp on the floor.
“What’s your name?”
“Daniel . . . Daniel what?”
“Daniel Ba Bon”
“Daniel Bone, Ba Ba Boone. Daniel Boone!”
I walk over to check-in and search for his name. My goodness, I realize, ‘He’s not Daniel Boone, of course he isn’t Daniel Boone, He’s just wasted!’
It doesn’t matter.
I walk back. “Do you want another blanket?”
I walk to the box; he stumbles behind me, halfway. Stumbles back, and begins his nest, for the night, on the floor.
It’s culd, it’s culd, . . . cold!” he mumbles, trying to spread his blanket. He struggles, lies down: half-open/half-folded, diagonal blanket across his chest, like, like, some mystically-lost half-deacon. He settles in; somehow, nestling into the flatness of the church hall floor, somehow, finding comfort.
He starts talking to himself.
I walk over. He is staring, half-eyed in the half-darkness. He turns to me, quietly, calm, and open. “Daniel,” I say, making sure we have eye contact, “Daniel . . . Good night!”
“Good night, little brother!”
He closes his eyes and pulls his blanket close. But even in fetal position, he is only half covered. I grab another blanket and spread it over him; as if beginning to set a table: a feast in the night. In the dim light, he is still aware. “God bless you!” he says, “God bless you!”
And I am blessed, as no half-deacon has ever blessed me before.
Jean Boucher, a border educator and former mechanical engineer, lives in community at the Restoration Project in Tucson. Having lived on the margins in both Mexico and Brazil, he likes to write it as he sees it and is hoping we can get God out of our box. Jean has his MA degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and is adjunct faculty at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio.