Friday Firesmith – Road Kill

I got a text from a strange number, and all numbers are strange unless they’re in my contacts. My app for screening strange numbers, Robo-killer, is an aggressive and merciless thing. It doesn’t do nearly as well killing off texts, but we’re getting there. The text reads, “Mike, this is Susan, call me.” And I ignore Susan. She’s likely some Russian sex worker who had read my profile and sees that we live near one another and she would like to show me her breasts for four bucks a month. They found Greg’s body” is the next text and now I know who it is.

I remember the very moment Greg decided to ruin his life. We were both working at a restaurant named “Shoney’s”. I was a cook and Greg was a dishwasher. He was making about four bucks an hour and he came up to me and said, “I think I’ll become a cocaine dealer.” Now, this guy was going to college, had a great girlfriend, Susan, made decent grades, his family was helping support his education, and he wants to be a cocaine dealer. Greg couldn’t sell more cocaine than he snorted and you can guess how quickly things went from stupid to worse.

Greg started stealing. First, he stopped paying his rent and bill at the apartment he shared with two other guys, and he started borrowing money. Then things started disappearing. He sold me an aquarium, a fifty-gallon tank with all the accessories, for twenty-five bucks, and a couple of weeks later I discovered it belonged to one of his roommates. I offered to sell it back to him for the same price and he told me for twenty-five more he would forget the whole ordeal, which was decent of him.

They kicked Greg out and he moved in with Susan. He stole her bike and sold it to a pawn shop. Susan’s parents stepped in and offered Greg a place in their garage, and Susan’s mother got a call while she was at work. Greg was having a yard sale with her stuff in the driveway. He sold some small appliances, and some of the woman’s jewelry. They kicked him out and he lived for a couple of days in the front lawn of his ex-roommates’ apartment, sleeping in his bed next to the street. It was an odd and sad sight. But the first hard rain ended that and Greg took his bed frame to the pawn shop and sold it.

As far as I know, that was the beginning of Greg being totally homeless. That was the first time I remember someone telling me he was seen at Exit 16, holding up a sign, looking for beer money.

Greg’s family quit him after he asked for tuition money and used it to throw one hell of a party. Susan got a restraining order. Everyone learned to let Greg into your home or your car meant he was going to steal something, anything, he could. Once he stole a stack of sticky notes from me. Half a stack actually. I always wondered if he tried to pawn them.

A maintenance worker found his body near the interstate back in May. Because Greg had been homeless since the mid 1980s there really wasn’t a trail to follow, except when he had been arrested, spent time in jail, and picked up for being too drunk to stand up.

Eventually, they did find his family, and they found Susan. She had tried to help him as late as a few years ago. Her husband, Jim, who knew me, and hated me, from the last part of the 80’s, went with me to find Greg, and we were going to get him into rehab, but Greg has slipped away into the void of underpasses and culverts.

There isn’t a cause of death. Drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, kidney failure, liver failure, dehydration, starvation, heart failure, take your pick. The body had been wherever it was found long enough for it to have begun the process of returning to the earth. Greg was in his late fifties and the way he lived was harsh on the body. He had been living on the road for over thirty years.

I don’t have a moral for this story. I really don’t know what I’m trying to say. I’m sad, relieved, and more than numb. A lot of people tried to help Greg, and as hard as they tried Greg tried harder not to be helped. Maybe that’s it, Greg’s final message to the world, and this one is true: You just can’t help some people.

Whatever else happens, I hope they spread his ashes on I-75.
Take Care,
Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
 
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.
 
 
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16 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Road Kill”

    • I was an extension of Greg. He saw Greg, and by default, Greg’s “friends” as part of Susan’s old life, her college life, and that had to go. I couldn’t blame him for it. Greg made Susan look like an idiot more than once. But you have to respect a man who loves a woman enough to go looking for her ex-boyfriend at an overpass to try to save him.

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  1. in the ‘small world’ department; way back in 1983 when I first moved to Valdosta (Moody) – my first night in town was in the hotel behind the Shoney’s on Hill Ave and I ate my first meal in Valdosta at that Shoney’s.. Is that the same Shoney’s you worked at? When were you working there?– I ate there several times between Nov 83 – April 85; no clue if I met either of you but ‘small world’ reminders pop up all the time…

    In one day (earlier in 1883) I was in Denver (Lowry AFB) and I walked out to a theater on Colorado Blvd to see the new Star Wars movie that had just come out… – I was in line to get my tickets and was tapped on the shoulder by my former manager from Six Flags in Atlanta who for some cosmic star wars related coincidence just happened to also be halfway across the country going to the same movie, in the same theater on the same day as myself… – walking home after that movie two Marines pulled up and offered me a ride back to the base; we got to talking along the way and one of them turned out to be a cousin that I had never met from Washington State. Both of these ‘small world’ incidents happened on the same day.

    I checked google maps – Another place I remember going to several times was that hotel right at Exit 16; it looks like it’s changed names now (Kinderlou Inn – I think it used to be a ‘best western’ but it’s been ages and I’m old) – They had a bar that was fairly popular with several of my coworkers. – Personally I preferred the ‘new knights’ on Bemiss (much better music) but the old farts always wanted to go there.

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    • Keith, I worked at the Shoney’s that was on Ashley, which split off to Bemiss, where Moody is. I’ve learned you’ll see people you know in strange places at strange times. You should write all of this down; it’s interesting as hell. One of the strangest cases of “small world” was when two guys from a very tiny town in Nebraska wound up in the same barracks, as roommates in my unit in the army. One had joined a year after the other. They hated each others’ guts and it was odd fate brought them back together.

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      • yikes; I am getting old.. I don’t remember a Shoney’s on Ashley at all. Then again last time I drove through town I got lost a few times; thinking I remembered certain roads only to find out they didn’t go where I thought I remembered them going… I vividly remember the ‘big boy’ mascot in front of the hotel but 35 years have passed since then and I don’t think i’ve seen one of those mascots since Dr. Evil blasted one into space.

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          • I remember every friday and saturday night the traffic through the few blocks between Bemiss and that Wendy’s at that corner being jammed up by all the kids cruising back and forth all night.

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      • Another entry into the “small world” discussion. In 2005, while living in Miami, I spent 2 weeks in Greece on holiday. I was in the airport in Athens, checking in for my Delta flight to Atlanta, and in the same line was a friend of mine who was also in the wine business who lived in Seattle checking in for my flight. You don’t expect to be almost 6000 miles from home and run into a friend who lives in the opposite corner of the country.

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  2. I know a guy quite similar to your friend. He’s intelligent, too sharp for many people, intelligent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll hear him make a joke, and watch it fly over most people’s heads. As bad luck would have it, he has an addiction that for some reason he cannot seem to shake. He hates it, and has tried rehab, He ‘s tried counselling, he’s tried cold turkey. I hate it for him, he’s so intelligent, probably one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. I fear one day he’ll wind up like your friend.
    It has opened my eyes to so much. It’s kind of a crap shoot when it comes to addiction and beating it. He and I have had long discussions late into the night about life, and death and all things in between. He’s not a bad person, he’s just an addict. It breaks my heart.

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  3. Sadly, I have a brother like Greg. We have to presume he is still alive as police haven’t notified any family members.

    Such is life

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    • Fatpuppy, that’s got to hurt. I was never really close to Greg, but I have to admit it’s odd right now. I don’t know how to feel. Back then, when this first started, do you think I could have done something? Or do you think there’s just some people like this? If you don’t want to talk about this, I understand. It sucks, this just really sucks.

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  4. I’ve seen numerous “Gregs” over the years. Guys (and a few girls) riding that hellbound train of self-destruction.
    It might be kin, or a former friend, but just as often a former acquaintance or complete stranger.

    We seem to be absolutely sure with a little help, a guiding hand, they’ll be able to make their way back to our way of living.
    What makes us reach out to those people, when deep in our hearts we know they’d hurt us in a heartbeat for a buck?
    Is it the milk of human kindness? There but for the grace of god go I? Saving this Greg makes me a hero? Helping gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling?

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    • Bruce, I really don’t know. This is the first time in a while I simply can’t think of some sort of answer to a question. Maybe that’s the point of all of this, is we do not know, and we cannot help, and there is no way out.

      I got nothing.

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