Stories by Alan section
Selection from "Eureka Moon"
A fictional story about some desperate
individuals in a
Northern California town in 1996...
Walking along the waterfront, I can see others of my kind
wandering up and down the dimly lit streets.  When I say
"my kind," I mean those of us who are homeless up in Eureka.
There are actually quite a few of us.  Most of us are former
fishermen or sawmill workers.  Eureka has seen some real
hard economic times for the past six years.  They say that
our economy is on the rebound and that tourism is picking up.
Nobody has offered me a job so I guess I really can't agree.
I just wander around at night, wearing a knit cap on my head with a knapsack slung over my shoulder, waiting.  It seems like
that's all my life has been reduced to is a waiting game: waiting for an opportunity to score cigarettes, money or alcohol.  Drinking
is about the only way I can have some fun these days (when I can score some booze or the money to buy it).  My friends and I
call it a "score" when we're able to steal or find things.  Usually, I like to score on my own and hope my homeless friends aren't
around when it happens, because if they are, they'll want some of what I have and I don't like to share.
c. 1996 by
As I walk up first street, I can see Woodley Island across the bay.  Anchored all around the shore of the island are many fishing
boats.  I've always enjoyed this view, mainly because the lights from Eureka and Woodley Island reflect from the surface of the dark
water.  The sight of it is really quite enchanting.  I stop at the corner of first and "F" to light a cigarette.  I take off my gloves.  I can
feel the chilly night air biting into my hands.  I feel along the coarse hairs of my wool jacket for its pocket.  As I feel the hairy texture
of my jacket, I am reminded of my own face which has gone for so long without a shave.
I inhale from my cigarette, knowing full well the tobacco companies don't care whether we live or die.  All they really seem to care
about is their profit margin.  Some people say they'll quit smoking, while they're smoking and receiving the pleasure from the
nicotine, it's a convenient thing to say.  Then their strength weakens after they haven't had a cigarette for a while.  I'm glad I don't
have that problem because I could really care less about my health.  I get my dinners from a taco bell dumpster on the main drag
after they're closed.
I blow out a gust of smoke from my mouth.  Up here in Eureka at the tail end of winter, it still appears as if you're smoking even
when you're not.  Sometimes I go up to people and try to bum a cigarette in error thinking that the warm air they're breathing out
into the chilly night air is actually cigarette smoke.
At about this time, some twerpy tourist couple pulls up alongside me in a Pinto station wagon wanting to know where the Hotel
Carter is.  Their window was rolled down slightly, unfortunately not enough where I could reach in and grab something.  They
were a younger couple, maybe in their mid-twenties.  They're not offering me any money so I tell them to keep going north on
the 101 freeway (even though I knew the hotel was close by on third and "L").  At that particular moment I think it would be
funny if they would keep on driving all the way up to Crescent City.  The car drives away and I chuckle to myself.
A few moments later, I pause and look up at the stars above me.  There's so much beauty in nature and the ceiling of pitch black
above me with the tiny light embers always amazes me.  Eureka doesn't have the air pollutants that the big cities do so the stars
are crisp and sharp when you look that them.  I look down at my cigarette and it's nearly burned to the end by now.  I glance
down at my scuffy boot and then let my cigarette fall to the sidewalk and then stomp it out with my boot.  Behind me, I can hear
footsteps drawing near, they almost sound familiar.  I turn around and see one of my kind approaching.  He's a skinny little runt
named Brad.  He's younger than me (about 22 years old) with red messy hair and a red beard.  His face is speckled with freckles.
Even though he's young, his face is worn like the life he's had.
Brad has always had this unique talent.  He has a habit of looking at the ground and looking sideways out of his eyes to see things
as he's walking around.  Brad has mastered this art of looking at the ground so well that he can even recognize people without
looking up.  He proves that again tonight by greeting me without looking up, "Hey Karl, did you score anything tonight?"  Brad's
eyes were still scanning the sidewalk underneath that messy hair of his.  It appears as if he's watching something that only he can
see but I can't.  Sometimes I wonder if he has some sort of mental condition that makes him act this way.
I think of my own fruitless night before I reply, "No, I didn't.  Did you?"  I watch him as he begins to respond, he lifts his head a
bit and exposes his large pupils.  "With a good tale of sadness, I was able to get five bucks off a tourist earlier tonight."  I begin
to be interested in our conversation as Brad reveals he has come across some money.  "Did you spend it all yet?"  I say this trying
to hide my greed as best as I can.  "You mean, did I drink it all yet?  Yes, I sure did, Karl.  I had me some good old Thunderbird
tonight."  Right at this point, my hopes begin to sink in my chest.
Brad interrupts my disappointment by saying, "I'm glad I ran into you."  I ask, "why?"  Brad replies, "Well, Don wants me to
meet him down at the clearing by sawmill he used to work at in a couple of hours.  He says he's got a big score working and he
needs my help.  I figured you might want to be in on it."  My initial thought is that I don't want to walk all the way over to the
other end of town and into the redwoods to get to that clearing.  I think carefully that this is the first time that Don has ever
described a score as being "big" so I think it must be.  "Sure, I'll meet you down there in two hours," I reply.  Brad and I parted
ways and walked down the sidewalks into the night.
I walk down 1st street in the south-westerly direction.  I am feeling somewhat weak from the pangs of hunger and think that it
might be a good idea to eat.  There's a bunch of touristy gift shops and eateries in this neighborhood so past experience has taught
me it's a good area to score some grub.  As I walk past the shops, most of which are still open at this hour of the evening, I envy
the warm glow inside and the few tourists waddling about inside who have money to spend.  All up and down first street there are
intermittent wood-encased trash cans where the tourists throw their trash.  I look in the first one and see only crumpled receipts,
paper and empty recyclable bottles.

I check another trash can about 20 yards down the street and see a food wrapper that is bulging as if there still might be food
inside.  I look closer and it looks like a foil wrapper.  I reach in and pick up the crumpled wad and examined it.  As I peeled back
the layers of foil, I noticed a half-eaten hamburger inside.  The burger and its surrounding foil is cold to the touch, which isn't a
surprise as it is below 40 degrees here in the night air.  The hamburger could have been left in the trash can within the last 10
minutes or the last few hours.  Such things make no difference to me now.  I've lived on the streets here for almost two years and
eating a half-eaten, cold hamburger is just me living another day in my life trying to survive.  I chew down on the hamburger and
eat every last bite.

I continue walking down 1st street in the same direction.  1st street is also called "Waterfront Drive" as it makes its way along the
Humboldt Bay inlet.  As I pass "A" street and continue down the street, the shops and restaurants are now gone, replaced by
warehouses, industrialized buildings and vacant buildings alongside the railroad tracks.  It's really dark in this section of town, not
a lot of street lighting.  This is definitely a dangerous part of town because at night there's not a lot of industry going on and the
police patrols are rare so it's pretty desolate.  You're pretty much on your own if you run into the wrong person.

It's at times like this when I have to think back to better days when my life was better, when my life was normal.  I moved to
Eureka from San Francisco in 1994.  I had a wife named Jayne and a baby at the time.  I came up here for a job transfer and I
ended up getting laid off within 2 years of having started.  Most of the homeless people up here in Eureka have something to do
with the ocean, lumber, boats or fishing.  That wasn't the case for me.  I worked as a manager in a grocery store which got closed
down.  I tried looking for work but couldn't find anything.  My wife grew frustrated from the lack of income and took the baby
and her car and everything she could pack and moved back to her parents' house in the San Fernando Valley.  I guess she was a
fair weather fan.  I tried staying in our rental house and kept looking for jobs but the economy just took a nose dive and before I
knew it I was evicted and out on the street.

I walked past the end of an alleyway between two buildings and heard something in the shadows about 50 yards down the alley,
it sounded like footsteps but it was pitch black that far back in the alley.  After I passed the alleyway's view, I quickly walked
across Waterfront Drive, the street around me was calm and silent.  I walked over the sidewalk on the other side of Waterfront
drive and onto a strip of dirt and grass that was near the railroad tracks which travel alongside the Humboldt Bay inlet.  The cold
night air was biting into my face as I walked faster but I wanted to put as much distance between myself and the noise I heard
back in that alleyway.  I looked back out of the corner of my eye and saw a shadowy silhouette standing near the corner of the
building at the end of the alleyway.  This person was watching me.

I crossed the railroad tracks and came to a rocky area that drops off to reveal a small sandy beach below.  The drop off was
maybe about 3 feet and the width of the rocky area was about 3 feet as well.  In the moonlight, the water laps below against the
little sandy beach in tiny two-inch tall waves.  In order to keep a strong pace ahead of the stranger in the background, I jumped
over the rocks to the sand down below.  The sand cushioned the impact of my fall as my boots landed with a pronounced
"thud"-like sound.  The waters of the bay's were relatively still.  The glow of the moon reflected off the surface like silver lamay.
Though I was on a lower patch of ground on the inlet's beach, I could see the stranger walking at a modest pace across the
street. I continued walking down the beach in a southwesterly direction.

After some 10 minutes of walking, I passed the Bayshore Mall.  It's Eureka's only mall.  I remember I used to shop with my wife
there when I had a job.  I used to watch movies at the mall's theater and I remember the last movie I saw was "Independence
Day" with Will Smith.  The collective buildings in the mall are in the distance, hundreds of yards away.  I see some cars in the
parking lot, maybe 50 or so.  It's getting closer to 9 in the evening so most people are probably wrapping up their business in the
mall around this time.  I look across the railroad tracks to see if I could see the unknown stranger anywhere nearby but I couldn't
see anything  The lights of the mall obscure some of the surrounding areas in darkness and there are many trees and bushes off in
the distance the stranger could be standing behind.  If he was someone I knew, he probably would have hailed me with a shout or
call my name.  Most of the homeless people I know around this town call me by name.  I have to be careful because one never
knows who they're dealing with on the streets.  As I see the pine and redwood trees off in the distance of the forest, and realize
my destination is the Elk River area, I'm reminded of something else.

Some bodies were found hanging from trees in the Elk River area.  I remember hearing the story when I was living in my old rental
house and watching the news and doing such things that normal people with jobs do.  The bodies were decomposed and the
police didn't know how long exactly they had been hanging there, or maybe just had decided not to release such information to
the public.  I walked up and out of the sandy beach strip I was walking on and followed the railroad tracks off into the darkness in
the direction of the Elk River Road area.  Eventually the tracks led off into another direction and I had to start crossing a grassy
meadow to get to Elk River Road.  I could see dim street lights way down in the distance where the road was but I was presently
walking in a shroud of darkness.  It's amazing how being in the dark makes the sense of hearing so sharp.  I could hear every little
cricket with a deafening thunder, every little rabbit or who knows what night time small animals scurrying about in the tall blades of
grass.  I didn't know if the stranger was still following me or not.  After another 10 minutes of walking I finally came upon the edge
of Elk River road.  I crossed the pavement of the rough road with the gravel crunching at times beneath the tread of my scuffy

On the other side of the road was more grassy meadow terrain with bushes here and there.  Off in the distance about 100 yards
was the tree line.  From there on out, it's trees and trees and trees.  I figure about another 15 minutes of walking through the trees
and I'll be at the clearing over by the old saw mill.  I remember one of the first impressions I had when I first drove into the
outskirts of Eureka was the saw mills.  There's several of them and they cut up these huge trees for paper or lumber or whatever
else they need it for.  The mills themselves are kind of alone by themselves at the edge of the woods.  I remember driving into
Eureka and seeing tons and tons of huge cut logs outside of town near the mills alongside the 101 freeway.  I guessed most of
them to be redwood, but I'm not a tree expert.  Seeing that sight, I remember worrying about the owls and the deer and all that
crap.  Of course now, I'm the spotted owl and I'm homeless so forgive me for not feeling the "environmental spirit."

After reflecting once again on my first thoughts about this town, I had finally approached the tree line.  I looked up above me at
these huge giants, the grand creation of mother nature, trees 50-100 feet tall.  Of course, the trees are much bigger deeper back in
the woods.  I don't think as much about the trees now but at night they look more intimidating.  They're like watchers of the forest.
They're nature's sentinels here and you can't see their eyes.  Even in the silence, I can feel their presence.  I walk in between two
of them and disappear into the darkness of the forest.  Behind me I can see the dim lights of the street lights for Elk River Road
barely shining through the trees and all around me is shadows and unknowns.  I stick near the tree line and walk parallel to the
edge of the forest so I can still keep my bearing from the edge.  I stay about 3 trees deep inside the forest so that even if the
mysterious stranger was following me, he would not know where I was within the forest.

After several more minutes of walking I see the Pacific Lumber Company's roof about a mile in the distance and the lights along
the fencing and around the buildings.  I can barely make out the structure, but I know it's there.  To the left of me, off in the
darkness, I see the small glow of a campfire and that's right about the area I remember the clearing to be.  Occasionally, members
of our homeless community camp there.  We haven't been using the site lately to camp, we've been uneasy about letting our
guards down and sleeping in the woods.  The murders last year was just one of many reasons for the chatter about this subject
within the homeless community.

I come to the edge of the clearing and I see Don sitting at the campfire.  I yell, "Don," and he looks up and acknowledges my
presence with a nod.  He has a tin can that he's holding with two sticks about a half-foot above the campfire, he appears to be
cooking something.  "What's in the can?" I asked.  "Not much, just some beans and some residue I scraped from some containers
I found in the trash" he said.  He added, "I've been waiting for you"  I said, "yeah, Brad invited me.  What's up?"  Don looked at
his can for a moment as if to eye the progress of the cooking, Don has a full beard and moustache and he's about 50 years old.
He's wearing the same old worn out overalls and sweater I saw him in last time but then again, I'm in the same clothes I was
wearing last time I saw him as well.

I looked up at the tall trees at the edge of our clearing as I waited for his answer.  The trees are so tall, you can't see the tops of
them when you're looking up from underneath them at the center of the clearing.  The stars are bright little points accenting the
night sky visible from the clearing.  I look back at Don who looked back up at me at the same time.  The orange glow of the
campfire highlighted his high cheek bones on his face.  His eyes were shadowed from the light of the fire underneath his face.  As
we were looking at each other, a sound like a tree branch cracking broke the silence of the night and the crickets.  I guessed the
sound to be coming from about 10 yards north of the campsite.  Don fell silent and looked in the direction of the noise.