Romance Fiction posted October 28, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
An Unexpected Romance

A Ragged Romance

by DonandVicki

Unexpected Romance Contest Winner 
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

I have long since given up caring about the stares anymore. All the tourists passed me by, giving me a wide berth, some walking in the gutter, just to stay clear of me. I sat close to the building, soaking in some of its warmth. I had a tin can for donations, a shopping cart full of my stash, blankets and such. All this and a cardboard sign that read 'Homeless Veteran, please help'.

My old field jacket, that I have worn since I was released from the army back in 1970, was zipped up tight. I had a hoodie over my head trying to block out the cold coming off the San Francisco Bay. My hangout was near Fisherman's Wharf, lots of tourists and my smell blended in with the fish odor and seagull shit on the wharf. My jacket and clothes were ragged and mud smeared. The wharf and smells all mingled together creating an atmosphere, that seemed acceptable or at least understandable.

The cold salt air brought the fog in early and the tourists went back to their warm hotel rooms or some cozy bar, to enjoy their creature comforts. I picked up my can and sign and headed down the wharf, pushing my cart with my left arm. I was badly wounded in a fire fight in Nam and by the time they got me to a field hospital, the wound had turned gangrenous.

At first the field surgeons only had to remove my right hand and part of my forearm. By the time I got back to the states, to Walter Reed hospital, they were able to stop the infection by removing my whole arm. This can make pushing a shopping cart a bit of a challenge. I slowly made my way to the Am/Pm convenience store on Hyde St. To pick up two bottles of anti-freeze... vodka, this would help me get through the cold evening and provide a little entertainment.

An old China man greeted me as I walked into the store, with a cheerful nod.

"The usual?"

"Make it two, Chin. Today was a good day."

"Two bottles cheap vodka? You big spendah, I see you tomorrow?"

I felt generous and left a fifty cent tip for Chin, "Yup, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

It was a several block push to Alioto's Restaurant, this is where I hung out at night. There were three dumpsters behind this restaurant and is always a good spot to find food and a place to sleep. Sometimes I would have to dig deep into the garbage, past the sickly sweet smell of the rotting seafood, dirty diapers and other odds and ends thrown in. Out of the three dumpsters, I could usually find enough to eat.

The warmth from the fermenting garbage would give off enough heat, that it was tempting to crawl down inside to escape the cold night air to get some sleep. Most homeless know to avoid this because in San Francisco, the trash is picked up in the wee hours of the morning and this could prove to be deadly. Believe me, it has happened.

I needed a drink before I took my usual dumpster dive. I was about to take one bottle out of my shopping cart when I heard a voice behind me.

"Hey pal, you got any food to eat?"

I looked and saw another homeless person, a woman about my age, pushing her cart over to my dumpster. I quickly tucked the bottle of booze back under my blankets. I took my left foot and kicked the dumpster hard.

"This is where I eat." I said, hoping that this would gross her out and leave me alone.

"I like seafood." she said with a wide grin.

"You smell like seafood," I laughed.

"Look who's talkin, Captain Morgan."

"Then get your ass up in there and find us something to eat." I was hoping that this would be the last straw and she would take her cart and leave.

Without saying a word, she jumped up and swung one leg over the side and disappeared into the dumpster's maw... Moments later her head looked over the edge and smiled.

"Look what I found." She held up half of a sourdough loaf.

"I'll tell you what sweetheart, if you can find something in there to go with that, I've got a bottle in my stash that we can share."

"You've got a deal, sailor."

She went back down in the dumpster and I could hear her digging around in the pungent mess, Then I heard a loud,... "Jackpot."

She stood up and handed me a black garbage sack, I helped her get back over the side of the big dumpster. I looked inside the sack and saw what appeared to be breaded shrimp.

"Yum." I said, "We may have to drink some booze to get past the smell."

She started laughing, almost maniacally, I thought, at least she seems to be a good sport. I pulled out a bottle of vodka and twisted off the cap. I took a long deep pull on the clear liquid and I could feel the warm burn all the way to my toes. Then I sat back, closed my eyes and felt the warmth creep all the way back up to my brain.

"Ahhhhhh." I let out a sigh.

"Over the teeth and through the gums." She took the bottle and took a long swig.

"That may help kill some of the germs." I said.

"Inside of you or on the shrimp?" She laughed.

"Both, I hope."

The vodka started to loosen me up and I was feeling that, 'All's well that ends well' feeling in the pit of my stomach. The smells and ugliness of the world seemed to disappear for a moment. I pulled some shrimp out of the bag and handed a small handful to her.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Valerie." she said as she put a shrimp in her mouth.

"What's yours?"

"Pete." I said, stuffing several of the cold, but tasty morsels in my mouth.

"What happened to your arm Pete?"

"I lost it in the war."

"Which one, there's a few going on."

"Vietnam, 1969, Tet Offensive."

"Wow, that must have been awful," she said softly.

"I didn't realize that I had been hit till I tried to pick up the rifle that I had dropped." I took another deep drink and wiped my lips, "I had several operations before I left Vietnam to try and save my hand, but by the time I got back to the states, the doctors had to remove the whole arm because of gangrene."

Valerie's mouth was open and her eyes were teared up, "Oh my God Pete, what hospital did they send you to when you got back?"

"Walter Reed."

"You have got to be kidding me..."

"Nope, I was there until they discharged me."

Her eyes were opened wide, "Pete, I was an Army nurse there about that same time. I was a surgical nurse, we may have met and never knew it."

We were both silent for a few moments, my heart suddenly started to warm up to her, I had a feeling of closeness that I hadn't felt in quite some time.

"Do you have any Meth, Pete?"

The question stunned me and I started to mentally back away from her.

"I don't do drugs, The Army and booze has destroyed enough of me." I said coldly.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to put you off. I got hooked on drugs at Walter Reed. I got all the morphine that I needed, that, weed, booze and more booze. My life went to shit, just like yours."

"You need to get off that stuff, you will end up in Potter's field, I see 'em taking bodies outta here every day."

"I wish I could, I have been trying for years now to kick the stuff," she cried in her sleeve, "
What the hell difference would it make in this f....d up world anyway?"

"Maybe we could help each other?"

She let out another cackle of a laugh, she was so funny that I couldn't help but put my arm around her and hug her. She tightened up at first, but as our bodies warmed each other, she loosened up.

"The blind leading the blind?" her voice was muffled by my jacket.

"Maybe you need someone to help you and care about you, I would love to kick the booze, Maybe we could help each other out?"

"Let's just start with the dope," she said, giving me a deep and long kiss.

It's amazing, when you are in love, lust, whatever, how all the senses are dulled, except for that tingle that spreads from your toes up to your groin and up into your consciousness. The smells and all the ugliness of the world around you seem to disappear.

"Wow." she said.

"Yeah, wow, where did that come from?"

"Is there anything left in that bottle?" she asked, trying to change the subject.

"Not much, but not to worry," I said pulling myself up with my good arm, "I've got another bottle in my cart."

We sat and drank, told lies to each other and laughed. I hadn't felt this way in a long, long time. We looked at the stars and cuddled close. The world seemed right again.

"We will start tomorrow." I said


Neither one of us believing the other. We finished both bottles, got our blankets out and covered up for the long, cold night. As I spooned up close to her, our warmth spread like a tender wildfire, I thought that the night would not be long enough for me.

Writing Prompt
The topic for this contest is: Unexpected Romance. The story brings two people together, two people who don't necessarily realize that they belong together but the audience is rooting for them.

Unexpected Romance
Contest Winner


I have often wondered, what it would feel like to be homeless? I see a lot of vets that are homeless, knowing that there is help available for them. Why do they choose to reject society?... Maybe it is us who have failed and rejected them?
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