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Homeless, old and invisible on the streets

Updated on August 25, 2016

The Upstairs Apartment in Downtown Olympia

The Upstairs Apartment in Downtown Olympia
The Upstairs Apartment in Downtown Olympia | Source

About this Challenge

This is my response to a Writers Challenge set by Author William Holland (Billybuc) The story is set in seedy Downtown Olympia, The events and persons portrayed here are entirely fictitious.

Sally Gulbrandsen (c)

Seedy Downtown!

Graffiti
Graffiti | Source

Was it Only Yesterday?

Was it really only yesterday that I walked from the apartment, with my short skirt reaching to just below my Arse. Was it only yesterday that you heard my high heels mark their usual route down the dark streets?

My red umbrella served to protect me from the falling rain, while filth and debris floated all around me. The driving rain diluted the usual foul stench of urine and kept the occasional fleeting rat from venturing out.

Sheets of brown cardboard failed to protect the homeless man from the elements. Neither he nor I acknowledged one another. Huddled beneath the sodden brown cardboard, thin arms pulled tight around his knees while he tried desperately to control his shaking body. I left him there alone in his own cold misery.

On my way home with the rain still pissing down. I heard the sound of a car drive alongside me and inside sat four drunken men. They peered out at me through the half-open car windows as only drunken men of their ilk can. Hey, there sweetheart you want to have a good time? Do you want a lift home? There was more than a suggestion of what I might be expected to provide at our final destination.

I ignored them. I kept my umbrella pulled down low and I walked as fast as I was could in those ridiculous red heels. They drove alongside me, keeping up with me so I ducked into the back alley which led to my apartment. It was so dark down there. I was walking fast, but it seemed I was not fast enough for them because before long I thought I heard the sound of hurried footsteps coming from behind. I stopped to listen. Was it a fox, a stray cat or mongrel? I picked up a loose stone and tossed it behind as if to scare them away. I heard the stone fall into the darkness and then I heard the sound of hurried steps and voices coming at me through the driving rain.

Fear gripped me and without warning someone flung themselves at me, sending me and my purse flying to the ground. I screamed in terror and then a large wet hand descended on my mouth. I tasted stale nicotine and booze so I sunk my teeth deep into his horrible thick flesh He hit me, real hard, the blow sent me spinning into the sodden ground while a wedding ring cut through the flesh on my lips. The taste of blood filled my mouth.

He yelped in pain, the bitch he yelled to the others, she bit me. So together they held me down, tearing my underwear from my behind. The four of them, like rabid dogs in their drunken frenzy, took from me in turns what was not theirs to take in the first place. One by one they had their way with me then left me lying there; delivering a few final kicks to my backside whilst they adjusted their trouser zips, smug mouths and mud trodden boots, all three of them going back to their wives, while inside of me, their tiny sperm swam as if for their lives depended on me. Abandoned like a mongrel they left me there to lick my wounds. I crawled shakily to my knees, mud and blood trickling down between my knees. I knelt there helpless; hands on the ground whimpering like a dog, fumbling for my purse in the muddy darkness.

Abandoned like a mongrel they left me there to lick my wounds. I crawled shakily to my knees, mud and blood trickling down between my knees. I knelt there helpless; hands on the ground whimpering like a dog, fumbling for my purse in the muddy darkness.

Lass, can I help you? The homeless old man stood there in the soaking rain, his long grey greasy hair dripping in the rain. The driving rain sent droplets of water tumbling down through his greasy strands of hair. His face was etched with concern and grey stubble as he stood there with legs spread apart, like a giraffe drinking from a puddle. His pale blue rheumy eyes peered down at me. Are you alright Lass, can I be of any assistance? The voice when it came, so surprisingly soft, so educated and so very formal.

Without waiting for a reply, he lifted me from the ground, held me like a child in his thin arms. His thin undernourished body staggered under the unaccustomed weight, but somehow he kept on holding me. I felt his thin bones pushing through the sodden clothing. Stale alcohol fumes wafted across my face. Water blended with the mud and blood. Water squished from holes in the worn out shoes. He stumbled with his burden down the back streets, carrying me with some difficulty but he finally made it up the three flights of stairs to the apartment.

I fumbled with my muddy wet purse and handed him the keys. He opened the door and placed me tenderly down on the couch. Still breathing heavily he stumbled across the room to the open bathroom door clutching a large bath towel to his chest. He clumsily patted the blood from my face and wiped the mud, blood and water from my hair. Would you like me to call the cops he asked? No, I said it will just be their word against mine, who would believe me?

Shivering with shock and cold, I heard the sound of running water and unexpectedly the scent of lavender wafted out towards me. I saw him place fresh towels on the rail and then he came back into the room and without asking he poured a long stiff drink from the bottle of vodka as he stood there. He lifted the glass to his mouth and downed the contents in one go. Then he poured another but, instead of drinking it he walked across to the open bathroom door and left it sitting on the edge of the bath for me. Lock the door behind you child he said, you have a nice bath Lass, you'll feel better in the morning. The door close quietly behind him and the sound of his footprints faded slowly behind him.

In the months ahead we passed one another at the bottom of the stairs. He acknowledged me with a tilt of his hat. He watched me with a quiet kindness and some empathy especially when he saw I was with child. I saw the kindness in his eyes, but not a word passed between us about what happened that night but we both knew that it would forever bind us together just like thick treacle?

They found him one night, cold and very dead beneath the stairs. In his top pocket, they found a single sheet of paper, witnessed by two people. His vast fortune he left to me and my unborn child.

I alone attended his funeral. His gravestone lies close to the churchyard stairs where he once lived.

It reads:-

Fred Ward. He who remained invisible, right to the finish line. May God Bless Him

Homeless - Being Poor in America is now a Crime

Helping to Create Awareness

Will this story affect the way you look at homeless people in the future?

See results

Asleep under the Heavens

© 2015 Sally Gulbrandsen

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    • sallybea profile image
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      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

      Alun, like you I admit that I have read very few novels over the past 20 years, concentrating on non-fiction and learning my craft and teaching others how to felt through my writing and photography. It was a compromise which has had its rewards but I do so love putting myself into characters like these.

      I learned early on that fiction does not attract the same amount of traffic which other types of writing do so I focused my writing on that which did.

      I loved how this challenge. It drew me in, sucking the life blood out of me. I could have been there living inside the characters. I was quite drained at the end.

      I hope I will be able to pursue more of this type of writing in the future when I get the time to put together my life story as a book of fiction.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a perceptive comment. It really does mean a great deal to me.

      Sally

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 4 months ago from Essex, UK

      I must admit Sally I'm not a reader of fiction generally - the last novel I read was 20 years ago believe it or not! - but I read this work of yours and found it very moving. I can also recognise the talent you have in the descriptive phrases which bring the scenes to life in a very evocative way - particularly the grime and squalor of the neighbourhood, and the fear and sheer vileness and lack of humanity in the attack, contrasted with the humanity of the aftermath.

      Well done. If you haven't already done so, maybe you should write more stories, here on HubPages, or elsewhere? Alun

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 19 months ago from Norfolk

      brakel2

      Hi Audrey,

      I was greeted the morning with your lovely comment in my inbox and it made my day! I loved this challenge because it took me down an emotional journey which appeared to suck out the life blood out of me as I wrote:) I don't often get a chance to write in this way and I very much enjoyed the experience. I especially enjoyed receiving your comment, for which I thank you.

      Sally

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 19 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Sally What a fantastic story, filled with emotions and twists and turns and one of your best I have read. You could picture all the characters with your descriptive words. They became so real. The language was apropos. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Audrey Also sharing.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 19 months ago from Norfolk

      carter06

      I loved this writing challenge. It is amazing how much emotional energy it took to write this one. It really was a challenge I simply could not ignore. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 19 months ago from Cronulla NSW

      Just found this Sally and had to comment..great story, drew me in straight away with its emotionally charged themes of homelessness and ladies of the night..so very sad in it's truth..good job Sally..Cheers

    • tendo profile image

      tendo 2 years ago from Harare, Zimbabwe

      Sally, don't be sorry at all, your writing is that powerful!! Keep writing, don't stop

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      D.A.L.

      I am delighted you found time to read my response to this challenge.

      I loved this challenge. I do have every intention of writing more fiction in the future. Perhaps I can now write the book or books which I have wanted to write for so long:)

      I very much appreciate the tweet, vote up, awesome and interesting.

      Your comment and visit are valued as always,

      Sally

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Sally,nearly missed this one. What a brilliant response to your challenge. The story was gripping and I felt I was watching a video,not just reading the text,this is an amazing talent,you have. Although the characters were ficticious you made them so real . You release your creative writing more often. Voted up,awesome,interesting.Tweeted.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      The Examiner-1

      High praise indeed from you Kevin. I completely agree with you, ladies of the night can get some bad press, so too do those sleeping rough. I tried to put myself in their situation and I found it both emotionally draining and a lot of fun to write. So glad you enjoyed my take on this challenge. Thank you too for the vote up and the pin, much appreciated:)

      Sally

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      That story had a way of being both pitiful and beautiful Sally. You feel sorry for that woman yet that was a lovely story. I loved it. I shared it, voted it up, and I pinned it.

      Kevin

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Prabhjot Saini

      Your visit and comment is valued and appreciated. Thanks too for the vote up.

      Sally

    • Prabhjot Saini profile image

      Prabhjot 2 years ago from Delhi, India

      Tragic story with so many emotions..... voted up

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      tendo

      No, definitely not a true story, I stated that it was fiction at the top of the story:) Sorry if you are still in shock. I had a lot of fun writing this challenge.

      I very much appreciate your stopping by, thank you very much.

    • tendo profile image

      tendo 2 years ago from Harare, Zimbabwe

      oh my. This is just so horrible, the events captured here, yet so gripping....I am still in shock and somewhat numb! Is this a real story? It reads so real....

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      MsDora

      Thank you so much, it means a lot to me to hear you say that. I very much enjoyed the challenge.

      Best wishes,

      Sally

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sally, what a story-tell you are! You're an all-rounder with your pen. Great presentation in response to the challenge!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Emese Fromm

      You are very welcome. Glad you enjoyed my response to Billy's challenge and my apologies for making you feel teary eyed.

      Best wishes,

      Sally

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseRéka 2 years ago from The Desert

      Such an emotional story, and you made it sound so real! Great writing! I'm still teary-eyed... Thank you!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Jodah

      Yours and your wife's support is valued and appreciated. I know wet felting is not your bag but one has to do what is necessary to help pay the bills.

      I have a couple of tutorials coming up for in preparation for Valentine's day so hope you wife enjoy those.

      Thanks Jodah

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Rhonda Lytle

      Wonderful comment too, I could not have asked for a better reaction,

      Thank you so much.

      Sally.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A pleasure to read another of your hubs Sally. Wet felted slippers and bags etc aren't my line of interest but I have passed links to your hubs onto my wife who has printed them out to use. Whenever I see that you have written any other type of creative writing etc I try to have a read and am always impressed.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 2 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      Talk about a ripping social commentary cloaked in fiction, this is it. In such a short space you sure managed to grab my attention, rip my heart out and make me think all at the same time. Awesome, though tragic even with the happy ending. Really, marvelously done, gritty, believable and biting.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Jodah

      I am delighted that you enjoyed my response to Billy's challenge. It really has produced some amazing writing and I have been so pleased with the response to my own effort. It is a real pleasure to find you on one of my pages. Thank you very much Jodah.

      Sally

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Sally, you have written an amazing story here. So glad you accepted the challenge. This is one of my favourite responses among a host of wonderful stories. So descriptive and heart wrenching. Loved the ending to. You are a very talented writer.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      fpherj48

      I am afraid that Billy has awakened the Sleeping Giant. I had forgotten how satisfying really can be to write:)

      I am very glad that you enjoyed this story. Thanks for the vote up

      +++

      Thank you so much,

      Sally

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Sally......Simply stunning. Please do not wait for the next challenge to give your readers another work of such raw emotions. You have done beautifully!....Bravo!...UP+++

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      SAQIB6608

      We learn from one another and it makes me so happy to know that this story was enjoyed by you.

      Best wishes,

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      travmaj

      You are so right but unfortunately there are so many invisible people on our streets, an increasing problem but those people on the streets or pavements are real human beings who somehow ended up there due to some misfortune It never alters the fact that underneath they have suffered, poverty, pain or loss. In rare cases they are there because they choose to be there. I am so glad you enjoyed the challenge Billy set. It certainly gave me the opportunity to write away from my comfort zone.

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      AudreyHowitt

      I appreciate your very kind comment Audrey, thank you very much.

      Sally

    • SAQIB6608 profile image

      SAQIB 2 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

      Well I must appreciate. Wonderful read. Thrilling & lessonful.

      Regards,

      Saqib

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Oh Sally, talk about gripping, this really made me squirm, and get angry and seriously sad. Such a mixture of emotions. It's a difficult topic but you wrote it so well. Thank goodness for the ending, although I imagine the pain would never truly be erased.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      Tearful story for me--and you do handle the subject with such grace--

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Availiasvision

      Thank you for the compliment. It really does means a lot to me to know that so many excellent writers here have reacted so favorably to this piece. I very much enjoyed writing it and I am delighted that you liked it too.

      Thank you,

      Sally

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Sally, You have produced a very powerful and heart-wrenching story; one of the best I have read on this site. You grip the reader in from the get-go and then we're committed and along for the ride.

      It's a dark subject, but you handle it gracefully. I love characters who are misunderstood.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Faith Reeper

      It means so much to me to receive such high praise from you. I really took on board this challenge. This one had my name on it and was an irresistible challenge - I just had to do it and I am so glad I have. I sense another chapter of my life beginning:)

      Thanks so much for the pin, tweet G+ and share.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, Sally, this is brilliantly written! You are truly a great writer and should write creatively more often for all to enjoy. This story grips one right from the start and doesn't let go. This one does bring the tears for we truly never know others with whom we may cross paths in this life.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Thank you for sharing your great writing here.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      tobusiness - The simple answer is a sad one I am afraid. It has always been my understanding that fiction and poetry on HubPages does not pay the bills and as much as I am desperate to write it, I need to write what people are searching for. Fortunately I like what I do in that department but I intend to write more fiction in the future, perhaps a book or two:)

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

      Sally

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Wow..why haven't we seen this side of you before? This was beautifully done, you evoked such a depth of emotions, from anger and disgust to sadness and and an ocean of empathy. Exceptional!!

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Sara Sarwar Riaz

      Thank you for stopping by to comment on one of my very rare pieces of fiction. I am delighted with the response I have had from writing this piece. It was such a pleasure to get stuck into something so far away from my comfort zone.

      I very much appreciate your well considered comment.

      Best wishes,

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      ocfireflies

      Lovely to find you gracing my pages again Kim. I have missed you and I do hope that this new year will bring you many Blessings too.

      I so enjoyed this task, a change for me to be writing about things which people are searching for and which help me earn a few pennies.

      I am so glad you enjoyed this tale and also, thanks for the congratulations on the purse tutorial. That was a nice surprise too. I did love making that dear little purse too.

      Sally.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 2 years ago from North Carolina

      WOW and more WOW--What a gripping tale told in such a real way indicating all of the horrors of such an attack. But saving us the readers with the tenderness of the end. V+ for sure!

      Good to see you. Congratulations on your HOTD. Hoping you are having a Happy New Year.

      Many Blessings,

      Kim

    • Sara Sarwar Riaz profile image

      Sara Sarwar Riaz 2 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Your story definitely tugged at many heartstrings. You commenced it with a gruesome reality that unfortunately befalls many people living in such circumstances, and yet ended it on a note of optimism, resulting from the kindness of another soul. May the kindness of hearts be seen and noticed… and eventually overcome all adversity in this world.

      A beautiful piece of writing, detailed and heart wrenching.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      DDE

      Thank you so much Devika. That really means a lot to me especially coming from you. I am so glad you felt I achieved what I set out to do which was just to entertain with my writing. My thanks should go to Billy for setting the perfect challenge for us.

      Hope you are having a terrific week-end

      Sally

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Brilliantly approached! You have shown your true talent in your own way. A beautifully told story and this challenge is taken on greatly by you.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Flourishanyway

      I have not done much since my younger days but I intend to do more, We all have a book inside us and it is something I hope I can get around to doing rather sooner than later. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

      Sally

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      You really should do more creative writing, Sally. Sometimes in tragedy there is kindness. I like how that came out in this story of yours.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      always exploring

      It is good to know that this story hit the sweet spot. It is my feeling that to some extent we are all at some in our lives invisible. It takes courage to step forward to demand the attention each one of us deserve. I recall my young son coming home from a try-out for the cricket team. He was a superb sportsman but he came home with the saddest expression I had ever seen. Mum he said, they didn't notice me. The following year he had a teacher who saw his potential and as a result my son left Junior High with the top award for each sport he played. We should not look to others to come to us - rather I think we should all try to find the courage to get noticed.

      There is goodness in almost everyone, we just have to look for it.

      Thank you for stopping by to comment.

      Best wishes

      Sally

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Well I must admit that I'm sitting here with tears flowing. Such a beautiful story. The kind man spent his life unnoticed, yet he was so sweet and kind. Makes me wonder why people can't see the goodness in people until it's too late? Thank you so much..

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      DJ

      As always I am never disappointed by your well considered comments.

      I loved doing this challenge. Writing something like this sucks the life out of me. I guess I transfer all my emotions into it. I thank my lucky stars that I don't have to do it every week:)

      Thank you DJ.

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      annart

      It was a joy to write and I am so glad that you felt sympathy for the old man for inside there was someone who someone lost his way. I believe his family were so much poorer for not knowing him.

      Thank you so much Ann.

      Sally

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      A gripping tale of horrific deeds that occur nightly in some parts of our

      world. How tragic that men's actions effect the weak and benevolent.

      There are those that simply live, others who thrive and still others who

      flourish. Most times we do not know the answers as to why.

      Sally, your story portrays those who take and those who give. It gives us hope that there can be an unexpected pleasant ending, when none is expected.

      You did a good job with this challenge. You should feel proud for

      producing a bit of fiction.

      Good work, Sally.

      DJ.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Superbly written, beautiful story. This is full of so many emotions and so well told. I was crying, for the old man more than anything. Well done!

      Ann

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Lady Guinevere

      This was an irresistible challenge and exactly the sort of creative writing I love to do.

      Thank you so much for stopping by to comment.

      It is much appreciated.

      Sally

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      colorfulone

      Lovely to find you gracing yet another of my pages. Thank you so much

      Sally

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      That was a neat twist to Bill's challenge. Very good.

    • sallybea profile image
      Author

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Thank you so much Billy. Whew this creative writing lark takes it out of one. I have not been able to sleep since you posted this challenge. I don't think I could survive another one though it was a real pleasure for me to dip my fingers into ink and write from the heart. It has been a while.

      Sally

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Aw, to be able to be touch at the very heart of a need by an angel in skin.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well shoot, Sally. You had me crying with this one. A tragic story and yet a beautiful one. So very well-written, a side of you we have rarely seen, and a side of you I wish we would see more.

      Thank you so much for taking the challenge. This was a pleasure to read, my friend.

      Happy weekend to you!

      bill

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