“Thank you so much,” Ferret told me as I handed him a to-go box of today’s lunch plate from Rodger’s Barbeque which consisted of meat loaf, fried okra, black-eyed peas, potato salad, and cornbread.
I had walked back into the woods behind the railroad tracks to Ferret’s new homeless campsite. It is in an old pecan tree grove next to the river that has become tangled with undergrowth. George had accompanied me and was winded from the long walk. I have seldom seen George put so much effort into going somewhere before on foot. He was curious to see how Ferret was living these days.
“What up dawg?” George asked Ferret in that African American vernacular, shaking his hand.
“I hate it when you black dudes call each other dawg,” I said as I laughed.
George chuckled and told me it was a “black thang.” There are not too many “black thangs” about George, I thought as we stood there.
Ferret had been trying to cook some lunch in a small pot suspended over a campfire. I walked over, pulled off the lid, and looked inside. It smelled revolting.
“What are you cooking?” I asked. “It smells like dog food.”
“I boiled some ramen noodles, added a can of Veg-All vegetables, and then added some of that beef jerky you bought me yesterday. I was trying to make some vegetable beef soup.”
“Next time, just buy a can of vegetable beef soup. It would be much easier and tastier,” I replied.
Ferret cracked open a lukewarm Milwaukee’s Best Ice Beer and began to drink it as he sat on the ground and ate his lunch. I sat beside him and made a list of some things Ferret needed for me and George to go get at Wal-Mart. George promised to help me pay for the items.
George and I finally left Ferret to polish off that twelve pack of ice beer after lunch and we took a shortcut across the railroad tracks by that grand old abandoned cotton mill.
“Dat nigga be in sad shape,” George told me.
I always cringe when George says that derogatory term, but it is okay for one black person to call another black person by that moniker. If I were to do that so blithely like George, being a white man, then I would be tarred and feathered and ran out of town.
“He survived homelessness once and will survive it again,” I said, plainly and matter-of-factly, never giving up hope on my homeless friend.
I and George drove on down to Wal-Mart and bought Ferret a homeless camping survival kit of sorts with things such as emergency ponchos, fire starter kits, camp cookware, etc. I will take it to him tomorrow once this adverse weather we are having this afternoon has passed.