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Vagabonds

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The man sold all his worldly possessions: his clothes, a blanket, a pillow, and a few cans of food. Then he stole Jarvis Jenkins’ identity. He paid a man named Alfonzo to get rid of Jarvis Jenkins. The man slid into Jarvis Jenkins’ place.

The next morning, the new Jarvis woke up in the old Jarvis’ bed. He took a shower, shaved, put on his new Park Ranger uniform. The new Jarvis actually looked a lot like the old Jarvis after getting cleaned up. He admired himself in the mirror.

The new Jarvis drove to work. He drove in old Jarvis’ nice car, wore his new leather boots, and used his strong-smelling aftershave. After he got out of the car, he felt dizzy. It had been so long since he had been in a moving vehicle!

The new Jarvis parked his car and went a small building with a green roof. It smelled like an ashtray in there. A clock hung on the wall. 7:55 a.m. On time. The new Jarvis scribbled his name on a sign-in sheet and walked away.

The new Jarvis began to tend to his duties. He trimmed the bushes, watered the plants, informed visitors of new sites, all with a puffed chest and waving arms, just like the way the old Jarvis did it.

The new Jarvis continued his work until sunset. When the time came for him to leave, he simply sat on a bench. He watched the sun go down. Tears came out of his eyes. Finally, he lived on the other side of life, finally, he was free! He shut his eyes and began to doze.

He heard someone whispering. He opened his eyes. It was after sunset. He heard the noise again. He took his gun out of its holster.

“Who are you?” the new Jarvis said. “Identify yourself or I’ll shoot!”

After a minute, a man’s voice cried out, “Please, sir, no!”

The new Jarvis took out his flashlight. He saw not only a man, but also a group of haggard, wild-looking people. The new Jarvis saw a woman squeezing her hand over her child’s mouth. Another little girl with bright blue eyes stared at him.

“Who are you?” the new Jarvis asked.

“We’re homeless now,” the man said. “We live here, in the park. Oh God, please don’t drive us away!”

The new Jarvis looked at the people. Yes, they were people. Through the rags and dirt, they were people, just like him. Just like him.

“I didn’t see you,” the new Jarvis said. He went home.

The next day, the new Jarvis went to work. He brought with him bags of clothes, shoes, and canned goods. At the end of the day, he put the bags where he saw the people and waited. The people came out of the shadows and raided the bags.

The new Jarvis watched them. He saw the little girl with the blue eyes open the bag and pull out a nice blue dress and hold it against herself. She spun around with it.

The new Jarvis came out of the shadows.

“You!” a woman screeched. She held a child’s hand. “What do you want with us? We didn’t do anything to you!”

The new Jarvis held up his hands. “I have nothing on me! No gun, no flashlight…nothing! I mean no harm!

“I was once like you, trying to find the other side of life! Well, I have found it! Are you doing that? Don’t you want to find the other side of life too?” The new Jarvis wrung his hands. For a second, he was one of these people again, wild, no home, no belonging, living to survive.

The new Jarvis beckoned the people to sit down. He told his story under the moonlight, his being born into poverty, his hunger for success in life, how he sold everything in his previous life to take what the world owed him. The people were enraptured by the story; he was the man who had made it, the one who had done what they dreamed of doing!

“And I will help you! I will help you to reach this new side of life!” The people were close to him now. The little girl who picked out the blue dress leaned on his knee. Who was this man? This powerful man who had everything he wanted and needed?

The people nodded. The new Jarvis said, “Stay at the park and under my guidance, I will help you to reach the other side of life!”

The new Jarvis and the people laughed under the moonlight.

The next day, something bothered the new Jarvis. He knew that some way or another someone might find out about him housing the people and they would tell his boss and he would get fired.

He decided he would prevent that. If he became the manager of the park, no one would suspect him of doing such a thing!

He formulated a plan. He would take down the other employees, one by one. He put weed killer in the water for plants during their shifts, he would put pebbles in their fertilizer; he would haphazardly cut the bushes they were responsible for.

Soon the other employees fell, just as planned. Only a few were left, and all of them looked terrible in comparison to the new Jarvis.

One day, the new Jarvis’ boss called him into his office. He was a shrewd old man with big glasses and gelled white hair.

“Jarvis,” he said. “Between you and me, it’s getting harder and harder to manage the park. I need some help. I’m promoting you to manager for Sectors A through F.”

“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down,” the new Jarvis said. He shook his boss’ hand and smiled.

The new Jarvis took on his responsibilities immediately. He hired some of his people. They could buy their own clothes and food now, but the park would remain their home.

He noticed the little girl with the bright blue eyes and dress wasn’t getting any clothes or food from anyone. When he asked one of the people about this he said,

“She just showed up one day. She doesn’t say nothing, hasn’t since she came. Don’t even know her name. We give her what we can, but we come first.”

The new Jarvis took the girl under his wing. He bought her clothes, fed her, but she insisted on staying at the park. Sometimes the new Jarvis stayed at the park with her; he told her stories about when he was her age, showed her how to do things. She would smile, but never laugh, not one sound came from her.

One day, the new Jarvis was trimming the bushes, something he still did, even as manager.

He heard a noise. He looked over his shoulder and saw a woman in a suit talking to a couple. She handed them a clipboard and they signing the papers on it. The new Jarvis went towards them.

“What’s going on here?” the new Jarvis said.

The woman looked at him. Her hair was styled into soft waves and makeup covered her face.

“Hello,” the woman said. “I’m Jillian Wright, a real estate agent.” She shook the new Jarvis’ hand.
“Jarvis Jenkins.”
She held her hands together. “I am selling land to this couple. They want to build a house here so their child can go to a park whenever he wants! Isn’t that exciting?”

The new Jarvis puffed out his chest. “You can’t do that! This land is property of the state!”

“Actually, private citizens do own some of the land in the park. My agency buys it from them and sells it to people looking to build homes in unique places. Oh, are you done?” Jillian took the clipboard from the couple. She flipped through the pages. “Okay… as soon as I file this, the land will be yours!” Jillian walked away with the couple, chatting about what kind of house they would build.

The new Jarvis watched the house being built. There was nothing he could do about it. He hated it; it was sickening. An ugly wooden frame tarnished the scene of the flowers and trees, and then he watched as sweaty men in unnaturally bright orange vests put the flesh onto the skeleton.

The new Jarvis was walking the blue-eyed girl down to the other people when she tugged on his sleeve. The girl pointed to the house.

It looked like a drop of honey on the horizon, but the new Jarvis could hear a slight buzzing sound coming from it. A housewarming party, he suspected.

The girl tugged on his shirt again and stared at him. He looked down at her and rubbed her head.

“Don’t worry,” the new Jarvis said. “There won’t be any more.”

As the new Jarvis walked the girl to the people, he still heard the buzzing come from the house. He watched the people laugh and eat, and he ate with them. When he went home, the buzz still pounded against his eardrum.

New houses popped up one by one. The drops of honey grew closer and closer to the people, when would it drown them?

The new Jarvis planted cigarette butts and broken beer bottles around the houses. He accused Jillian Wright of being careless in choosing who should live in the park, and that she should never set foot on park grounds again!

This went to the papers. Jillian Wright was an acclaimed real estate agent, she was known for picking the right house for the people and the right people for the house. More background research into the residents showed that none of them had any record of smoking or drinking heavily. Jarvis Jenkins was called an over-eccentric man who was unfriendly to people living in the park.

The houses came at an ever-increasing rate. The new Jarvis and his people were becoming trapped. Some of them had left the park grounds entirely; they could see people in their houses from their hiding place. The little girl now stayed with the new Jarvis. The new Jarvis sent the girl to school now. He bought her all her school supplies, and he had begun to read up on how to adopt a child. She got the mail for him, unloaded the dishwasher, and was happy to help him, to have a home. In the midst of all the chaos, that little girl with the bright blue eyes was what grounded him.

Only a few people were left at the park, and almost all of them talked of leaving. The little girl’s eyes widened when they said this and she bit her nails.

Finally, only a family of three were left. The girl with the blue eyes now looked more anxious than ever, and something seemed to be wrong with her, something more than the people disappearing.

The new Jarvis confronted her.

“What’s wrong?” The new Jarvis said. “Something seems to be bothering you lately.” The new Jarvis and the girl sat at the kitchen table at their house. The girl slowly took a crumpled envelope from her pocket. The new Jarvis saw the words “Court Notice” on the front, but didn’t have time to read it all, there was a knock at the door.

Two policemen stood at the door. They told him that he had to go to court. His stomach turned over. The new Jarvis put on a suit and stuffed fistfuls of money in his pocket. His heart raced and he was sweating. The police car followed his own to the courthouse.

When the new Jarvis and the girl arrived at the courthouse, the new Jarvis lost his composure.

Alfonzo, Jillian Wright, and most of the people he protected in the park were there. And one other person. Jarvis Jenkins.

He looked thin and haggard, just as the new Jarvis Jenkins looked when he switched places with him.

The new Jarvis Jenkins sat in the witness seat. A lawyer questioned him, interrogated him, yelled at him, lobbed question after question at him. It was difficult to get anything useful out of him, identity theft was a hard case. The new Jarvis Jenkins only nodded and nodded, and soon the truth began to pour out. It was him! The real Jarvis Jenkins!

At the end, Jarvis Jenkins stood up and said, “Please, sir, please! No charges will be pressed against you! Just give me my life back!” Jarvis Jenkins was crying.

The man just kept nodding. He was so dizzy. He tried thinking of a way out, but he was trapped.

The man left the courthouse. Just a man. Nothing more. The little girl followed him.

The man looked down at her. She looked up at him. Her eyes were huge, what will you do now?

“Don’t worry, it will be okay…” the man said. Yes, it would be okay. Somewhere out there, there was a single father and his daughter whose identities were waiting to be stolen.



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