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Raccoon Eyes

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The wind bit against my sweatshirt as I walked aimlessly down the street. Who knew being homeless would be so boring? But at least it gave me time to think.

Two days on the streets. I wondered briefly what would happen if I died while on this charity thing. Unlikely, but possible. I could freeze to death. Maybe it wasn’t that cold, but all I had were the clothes on my back. At least I knew that I could go two days without food or water. It would be painful, but I’d survive.

I’d need shelter. My church might be open all night, if I was lucky. Worst-case scenario I could just hole up in a doorway. The thought of it made me shiver, but I calmed down by reminding myself that I would only be out here for two days. Then I could go on with my life. My house, my room, my warm bed at night. Three meals a day.

Just two days. I chanted inside my head. Just two days.

As I was walking, I noticed a woman coming down the sidewalk towards me. She wasn’t old, but still bent and stooped. She wore cargo shorts and a tie-dye tee shirt, despite the cold. On her feet were sandals that any sane person would’ve thrown away months ago. She was pushing a shopping cart filled with useless odds and ends - junk really. And her hair was a crazy halo of twisted knots, her face bruised and scratched, as if she had been recently attacked by some kind of small animal. But that wasn’t what made me notice her. It was her eyes. As she got closer, I could see them - small, black, and shifting constantly, as if knowing that any minute some lightning bolt from the sky would hit them, and there was nothing they could do.

I had seen eyes like that before, when my dad and I had gone raccoon hunting. It wasn’t complicated. You let the dogs loose, and they chased the raccoon until it scrambled into a tree. Then you shot it. I remembered shooting a raccoon through the head as it stared at me with its small, black, shifty eyes.

The woman’s eyes mirrored the raccoon’s perfectly.

Before my brain could fully realize what my body was doing, I was jogging towards the woman, already pulling off my sweatshirt.

“Here,” I said, handing her the lump of cloth. “And these too,” I said, bending down to unlace my shoes. “C’mon, we’re about the same size. Let’s trade.” It had to have been at least forty out there, probably less with wind chill, but I didn’t seem to notice. I handed her my shoes and waited for her to kick off the old sandals. She took the shoes, and the sweatshirt, and suddenly pulled me into a hug. “Thank you.” She whispered softly. And then she left.

The last thing I remembered is her eyes looking nothing like a raccoon’s.




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