TTF Chapter 8: Tent City

The tents dotted the wasteland that was the edge of town like a fresh white canvas.  Ted and Allison climbed a barren hill and saw the true scope of the situation.  Thousands of tents as far as the eye could see.  They could see many homeless milling about, trying to make the most of their bleak and hopeless lives.  Banished here because their plight was deemed too unsightly for the city to handle.  If this problem could just remain out of sight, that would be enough for them.   Any rational human knows that problems don’t magically go away just by not looking at them.  Something had to be done.  Allison marched methodically down the hill.  Ted set off behind her and promptly tripped.  He began to roll down the hill more quickly than he could have anticipated.  He landed at the bottom with a thud that was loud enough to draw a considerable amount of attention from the locals.  One pulled him up by his ear.  Seeing that Ted was still well dressed, the stranger promptly punched him in the face.

“Ouch!”  Screamed Ted.

It was at this point that Allison joined the commotion.  She did not intervene, however.  Ted must go through this experience by himself.  No matter how uncomfortable it became.  This was the path of all newcomers to the Tent City.

“Are you a city official come to move us even farther away?  Where are your goons with guns?  Have you come to kill us again?  We’ve had quite enough!”   Too impatient to wait for any sort of response, he stranger punched Ted once more and walked away, leaving Ted to get up on his own strength.  Ted’s brain had other ideas, opting for a black out instead.  The next thing Ted saw was the pure white ceiling of a tent, and Allison standing over him.  She looked disappointed.

“They don’t like newcomers.”  Allison explained flatly.

“That would have been useful to know before I rolled down the hill.”  Ted deadpanned.

“You were supposed to walk with me.  That was the plan.  They would have spared you since it would have been obvious that you were a friend of mine.”  Allison returned.

Ted liked how Allison used the word friend.  His not so secret plan was working after all.

“Since that didn’t work, what do you suppose I do now?  Stay in this tent forever?”  Ted sat up and secretly hoped Allison would say yes.  Ted was tired of fighting for himself.  He wasn’t very good at it.  If the oppositie were true, Ted would still be sleeping in his own bed at this point in his life.

“You must find Vernon, and prove yourself worthy.  Show him that you are one of us.”  Allison stated.

“Why didn’t you explain these things before?”  Ted asked.

“Plans change quickly.  You needed to handle that situation on your own.  I’m not your babysitter.”  Allison said.

Ted turned toward the entrance of Allison’s tent.  He looked back for just a moment.

“GO FIND VERNON!”  Allison screamed. “I have other things to do!”

Ted made himself scarce.  He was slightly saddened at Allison’s outburst.  They just met.  How could she possibly want to be alone after such a wonderful change of fortune?  After all, they had hung out for an entire day and a half at this point  It is entirely possible that Ted thought too much of encounters with other people.   Perhaps if he did what she asked, Ted could win Allison’s attention again.  He set off toward a nearby cluster of tents.  If he had any luck at all, those people might know where Vernon could be found.

Allison flopped on her makeshift bed.  Finding an overdue library book amongst her small pile of acquired belongings, she decided she might actually get to finish it this afternoon, assuming needy Ted took a reasonable amount of time finding Vernon.  She couldn’t understand why he was still clinging to her.   Obviously Ted had survived this long in life on his own.  Now he was helpless, even if he couldn’t se it.  He needed her.  It was annoying.  She flipped open the book, hoping to get lost immediately.  She needed a break.  Hopefully sending Ted on a goose chase like this would afford her several hours peace.

Ted approached the cluster of tents.  Making friends as an adult is hard.  As a child, you are constantly told not to talk to strangers.  Then as an adult, everyone you talk to is trying to hide the true version of themselves, hoping nobody else ever finds out.  One of the funny ironies of life.  Ted tried to knock on the tent “door.”  After a few seconds, his brain informed him that knocking wouldn’t work.  Alternatively Ted attempted to initiate a conversation with a stranger.

“Hello sir and or madam,  Do you happen to know where Vernon lives?”  Ted queried.

“Everyone knows Vernon!  He founded this community.  He lives on the opposite end of this cluster of tents.   His tent is the only pure white tent.  All of the rest of our tents are off white.  That’s how you tell the difference!”  Screamed the stranger.  Ted was really going to have to learn names around here.

“Well, all I know about him is that he’s easily angered and he punches really hard.”  Ted replied, rubbing his ear.  “Would you come out here?  It’s really awkward speaking through the tent.”

“No way, bud,  I’m naked.  You don’t want to see me right now”  The stranger admitted.

Taking him at his word, Ted offered a simple “my name is Ted, what’s yours?”

“Lawson,” the man replied.

“Nice to sort of meet you.”  Ted said.  Even with this small amount of help, finding Vernon was going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Who even does that?  Ted thought.  He immediately tried to get his brain to cooperate with the task at hand.  It was going to be like one of those side scrolling video games where you have to find the princess.  Only this was less entertaining.  Suddenly, a glimmer of hope.

“If you wait half an hour, I’ll go with you.”  Lawson offered cheerfully.

“Excellent,” replied Ted.  He wouldn’t have to do this alone after all.  That was a relief.

Lawson fired up his homemade shower while Ted occupied himself with people watching.  He needed to learn as much as he could about this community as quickly as possible.  He would do something useful before returning to Allison.  Perhaps their friendship would be rekindled.  For the moment, Ted waited patiently for Lawson to finish up his personal business.

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