Chapter 9: The Wafting Meat Cloud

See previous posts for Chapters 1-8 of my first novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

In the dead dark of night – well okay, there were street lights – Harold toted a bag of meat back towards the city park, with Marty in tow. Marty was kind of like a sidecar. He carried the crate of produce. And so the two drifters traipsed down the sidewalk, past the temples of consumption, with spoils of their own.

“So Harold, Harold – we gon’ cook that meat?”

“Yeah, sure do. Just a little farther.”

Marty was ready to follow the angel into the depths of hell which he’d probably already almost reached. Trespassing in Oak Park at midnight was no big deal.

The duo meandered along the asphalt path, past the green sign into the grove of sturdy trees. They came to a picnic table and alongside, a charcoal grill. Black chunks clung on to the narrow bars, so Harold grabbed a stick and scraped off some of the residue of previous daylight picnics. Marty sat at the table clumsily sorting.

“Great haul we got tonight, Harold. Lots of stuff.”

“Gather some sticks, Marty. We need to get this fire going.”

“Yes guardian, of course, guardian. Right to it.”

Marty began clumsily hunting and gathering what was easy to find.

In their minds they could both already hear the sizzle of the meat and their nostrils tingled in anticipation of the wafting meat cloud.

“I’m not sure what this is – I’m just going to throw it on.”


“Okay, okay. Looks good, Harold. Here ya go. Fire it up.”

Harold pulled a coveted match from an inner trench coat pocket. It fizzled in the night and cast an orange glow onto their hungry dirty faces. Carefully, with a slight tremor in his right hand, Harold lit the rummaged pile under the grate. Instantly the men began salivating.

“Hoo!” said an owl in the tree, and there was a rustle in the bushes.

“S’okay. Them city creatures just jealous of this haul, right?

“That’s right – leave the owl to the rodents and the roaches to the trash.”

Their minds were made lucid by the wafting meat cloud.

“No, no, no – no scrap for us tonight.”

“This here’s a feast!”

Chuckling, Marty tossed a couple of sausages on the hot charcoal stained grill. The flesh of the beef was turning a dark brown gray with the passage of impatient minutes. The two men were verily salivating at this point.

Harold grabbed another stick and turned the meat to cook it evenly. They didn’t call him “King Of The Drifters” for nothing. Despite the harshness of his lifestyle, he had a certain resourcefulness, and what worker bees would call attention to detail, that defied the pull of depression. It’s true. At St. Mary’s shelter they’d say, “Here comes the King.” Nobody said this to his face in order not to betray reverence and because they thought it would go to his head. But really – go to his head? Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? To Marty, though, he remained the guardian angel who stuck up for the meeker of the meek.

The immediate air was now thick with the aroma of sausage and beef. Unfortunately, the owl and the raccoon weren’t the only creatures who’d caught wind of the meal. Not so far off a squadcar was cozied up to the curb for night park watch. Really the officers were just chilling out. Officer McGovern had rolled down the window to smoke a joint, out of consideration for Officer Bryant, who was a non-smoker.

“I should report your ass.”

“My ass, huh? I know you’ve been checking it out.”

“Oh Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Officer McGovern blew a smoke ring out the window.

“Come on, you know I have certain medical needs.”

“Medical needs my ass.”

“Oh so now we’re on to the topic of your ass.”

Officer Bryant shook her head and they both laughed.

“Lord, please give us something to do.”

She turned up the radio volume. It was the pop station:

“Now it’s time to hear from local club heroes DJ Tusk & Chanteuse. This is the radio premiere of their first single. It’s called “Fire It Up.”

McGovern should have laughed at the title, but the song wasn’t about weed and he was too lost in his fragmented thoughts to register double entrendre.

Sniff. Sniff.

“What’s that smell?” Bryant craned her neck out the window.

“Are you kidding me – I mean, are you shitting me?”

“No, outside. It smells like meat. It smells like someone’s having a barbecue or something.”

McGovern waved away a puff of smoke.

Sniff. Sniff.

“You’re right. That smells delicious.”

“Oh shit! We need to go check this out. I bet you it’s coming from the park.”

“What kind of bozos would be grilling at this hour?”

“Let’s find out.”

“I am so hungry.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you are.”

They both chortled as they climbed out of the squadcar.


“Harold, Harold, what was that?”

“Don’t know – somebody closing a door.”

Harold kept eating. It was the best meal he’d had in a while. The fact that they were trespassing in Oak Park was the last thing on his mind. It had not occurred to him that his sausage fest was about to be crashed.

“Ah hah! Gotcha!”

“Well look, it’s just a couple of drifters.”

The cops had only minimally used their flashlights in order to ensure the element of surprise. They were slightly disappointed at how easy it had been to find Harold and Marty. The wafting meat cloud was so strong, and it led them by their noses to the grill site.

“Spare a sausage?”

“McGovern! We have to take them down to the station.”

“Come on, really? Fellas, this is some feast here. But I gotta ask you to vacate the premises.”

“Okay, just a minute, Officer.”

Harold was busy gnawing on some beef.

“Just a minute??”

“Relax, Bryant. I am starving. I mean, you know. It’s relative.”

“Here.” Marty passed Officer McGovern a sausage.

“Mm, generous of you... Oh yes! This is delicious!”

McGovern bit ecstatically into the juicy meat.

“Here.” Marty reached to hand Bryant a sausage.

“Oh fine. Thanks. What’s your name?”

“Marty, and this here’s my guardian angel Harold.”

“Okay...wow.” The cops looked at each other with funny expressions.

They went back to eating. The meat juice ran down the corners of their mouths.

“We’ll give this a minute - and thank you – but you’re trespassing and we’re going to have to take you down to the station.”

“Come on--”

“No exceptions to the rule, McGovern. That’s protocol.”

McGovern lowered his voice.

“Is it?”

“Yeah, I think so... Actually, I’m not sure.”

The wafting meat cloud had slowed their protocol processing speed.

“We’ll wait until the fire dies out, then take them to the shelter.”

“Fine. That’s jail enough I guess, isn’t it?

“Yeah, locked up in life.”

Their voices were low, yet audible to Harold since he was chewing slowly.

“I can hear what you’re sayin.’”

“Oh...right. Excuse us.”

“Just give us a lift back to St. Mary’s...and don’t forget – we fed you.”

Marty opened his eyes wide at the guardian’s masterfulness.