TTF Chapter 6: Under The Stars

Ted decided to spend the night on that park bench.  He stretched out.  The wood was weathered and full of splinters from being exposed to the weather.  This was the most dangerous situation Ted had voluntarily put himself through.  Voluntarily was not the right word for it.  If Lars had been more compassionate, Ted would be living his admittedly imperfect life with a leaky, yet still mostly functional roof over his head.  It was all Lars’ fault!  That realization made Ted feel good.  Sleep was going to be an extra special struggle.  The only articles of clothing Ted had was the suit he was wearing.  The suit provided needed warmth against the chill of the night.  However, it was not the easiest thing to sleep in, but he certainly wasn’t going to disrobe outside.  Ted had to figure out a better long term solution.  After hours of thinking about his situation, by some miracle, sleep did eventually come.  Unfortunately it was short lived.

“Give me the bench, or I’ll cut you!”  A mysterious voice yelled.

Ted was understandably startled.  In the dim light of a street lamp overlooking the bench, Ted saw a figure who’s face was obscured by something unknown to Ted because he was too focused on the knife blade pointed directly at his neck.

“OK, you can have the bench.”  Ted said, with more than a hint of resignation in his voice.  He was not going to fight anyone on his first night of being homeless.  Hopefully he wouldn’t have to fight anyone ever.

The obscure figure took over the bench while Ted found refuge under the tree next to it.  The figure removed the hood, revealing the facial features of a woman.

“You’re not very good at being homeless.”  She said.

“It’s literally my first night.”  Ted replied.

“I’m sorry.”  She said.  “You’re still getting used to a massive life change.”

“Pretty much.” Ted grumbled.

“You have many things to learn.   The first of which is to never give up anything you happen to come across when you are homeless.  You should have fought me for the bench.”  She explained.

“I would never fight a woman.  Let alone anything worse.”  Ted claimed.

“You’re not going to last long out here.”  She stated.  “Since you pose no threat to me, I will watch your back as well.”

“What is your name?”  Ted asked.

“Allison.  Yours?”

“Ted.”

They sat in silence while Ted pondered his next move.  Across the street Ted could see a hotel.  If they could get inside, their luck would change for the better in one way or another.

“Come with me.”  Ted commanded.  “We are going to sneak into that hotel.”

“There is no way I’m sleeping with you just because you think you are a sweet talker!”  Allison screamed.

“That’s not what I was getting at.”  Ted deadpanned.  It would be nice to sleep in a hotel bed by himself, but his financial resources were severely limited.  He had to stretch things for at least a month.  Luxuries were out.  Smart thinking was in, and two heads were better than one.

Under the cover of darkness that was starting to recede, Ted and Allison made their way around to the back of the hotel.  Peering around an outcropping in the architectural design of the building, they noticed a lone hotel worker smoking a cigarette.  The doorway leading back to the drudgery of his daily existence was open a crack.

“I don’t mean to be sexist.” Ted said.  “Could you distract him in one way or another?  I need to get in that door.  Please, wait for me.  It will be worth it.”

“Sure thing.”  Allison said.

They made their move.  Allison strolled over to the hotel employee to engage him in pleasant conversation.  Ted made a run for the door, tripping over the threshold and falling flat on his face.  Eternally frightened, and boosted by adrenaline, Ted picked himself up and dashed toward the service elevator.  Pressing the up button Ted prayed to God for the very first time, hoping that the elevator would be empty.   Allison could have absolutely done this part of the plan better than him, but there was no way Ted would have been able to keep that employee entertained long enough to get through the door in the first place.  Let alone do anything else involved in this scheme.

The elevator doors opened.  Mercifully, the elevator was empty.  Ted quickly got in and pressed the button to go up to the lobby.  The doors closed smoothly.

Upon reaching the lobby, Ted strolled around a corner toward the front desk.  He was lucky it was early morning and the receptionist hadn’t paid attention to the direction he was coming from.

“What can I do for you, sir?”  She asked, like she meant it.

Ted had never been called sir before.  Not once in his life.  He liked it.

“I am in need of a few toiletries I forgot at home.”  Ted replied.

“No problem!”  The receptionist said cheerfully.  She disappeared into a little room off to the side.

Ted was relishing the fact that this conversation was going so well.  Everyone he talked to had an obvious amount of authority over him.  They were always telling him what to do, along with the consequences that would happen to him if he didn’t do things the way they wanted.

In this case, while the receptionist did have some authority, as long as Ted was reasonable, he could get what he needed.  He realized that wearing the suit, his only piece of clothing, also didn’t hurt.  His mother had always told him that nobody messes with anyone who wears a suit, even if it’s wrinkly and worn.  This was the first time he had seen that in action in a social situation that involved him.   Ted was pleased as punch.  He immediately regretted thinking of that metaphor.  How can we know punch is ever pleased?  It must know it’s just going to end up in someone’s guts.  There can’t be anything pleasing about that.

Before he could think about the happiness of punch any longer, the receptionist returned with a bag filled with tooth brushes, tooth paste, and anything else Ted might possibly need for a good bathroom experience.  Ted thanked her.

“I’d just like to remind you that our breakfast buffet is starting.”  She said.

“I’m there!”  Ted replied enthusiastically.

Ted ate a reasonable amount of food, still shocked that this plan was working, all thanks to Allison, and the suit he was wearing.  After he had his fill, Ted found a Styrofoam container and filled it with seconds.  This would be Allison’s reward for going along with his crazy idea.  He returned the way he’d come, snatching Allison in mid stride.  The hotel employee, perplexed by this sudden unfortunate change of events, reluctantly returned to his cigarette.  He was going to milk this break for all it was worth.

“I got us some breakfast and bathroom things, but we can’t stay here!”  Ted explained.

“You’re expecting me to run and eat at the same time?”  Allison asked.

“Do you have a better idea?” Ted queried.

Hearing nothing, he continued running with Allison at his side, matching him stride for stride.  Ted’s life was more exciting than ever before.  In one moment of insane thought, Ted was almost glad this whole situation happened to him.  Almost.  The two of them ran off into the rising sun, each anxiously thinking about what would happen next.  So far, they made a good team.

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