Nice Guys Finish Last

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PickHowie2Based on a true story.  Names have been changed.

Tremaine was the nicest guy you’d ever meet.   He was always gentle, always generous, always kind.  No one could say a word against him.  Occasionally he would sleep behind the courthouse, and when the police saw him there, they tried to move him on.  The secretaries who worked in the courthouse would tell them to leave Tremaine alone, and the police would shrug and leave him alone.

There was, however, one man who had bad things to say about Tremaine.  That was his drinking buddy, James, who was a nasty drunk.  Pleasant when he was sober, but when he got drunk, he would become abusive.  He would lay into Tremaine, who would say nothing, just sit and take it.  He would talk about how Tremaine stole, how Tremaine beat people up, how Tremaine judged people, but it was never true.  Tremaine just smiled and let James get worked up, never defending himself, until James got so angry that he would hit Tremaine, in vengeance of his many “wrongs”.

Over time, James realized that he had a serious problem, sobered up and got a job.  But Tremaine stayed on the street.

He would stay behind the local church a few times a week, where the janitor would buy donuts every morning and give them to Tremaine and his friend Donny.   Donny never left Tremaine’s side, because he was concerned about Tremaine’s horrifying blood pressure.  At times Tremaine’s blood pressure got so high that he would collapse and had to be taken directly to the hospital.  Donny would make sure he got to the hospital, and the doctors would save Tremaine’s life, as they did so many times.  Then they would release Tremaine back to the street, where he would find Donny behind the church.

Eventually, Suzie, the janitor at the church, invited Tremaine and Donny to permanently stay behind the church.  They didn’t have any formal permission from the church, but Suzie would make sure that no one gave them any trouble.  She continued to get them donuts and coffee every morning, and asked them to do some clean up.  The guys would be glad to do whatever they were asked, as long as their health allowed.

Donny was often in pain because of his hip.  He had a replacement hip a decade ago, and it had worn out.  However, his insurance wouldn’t allow him to get another replacement hip, so he often walked in pain, sometimes all night long, because he couldn’t rest on the concrete.  But he and Tremaine had a good time behind the church, comfortable and safe.

They would often visit the local park, where many other homeless folks hung out, especially young people.  Tremaine was known as “grandpa” because his large grey beard make him look older than he was.  The high school homeless kids would hang out and drink and Tremaine would make sure that they didn’t come to harm.  If the police came to harass them, Tremaine would always take the brunt of their anger, allowing the kids to leave.

Once a couple of the kids had nowhere to sleep, so they asked Tremaine where he stayed.  Tremaine offered them a place to crash for the night.  The kids slept next to Tremaine and Donny that night and the next.  And some more kids came.  And a couple more.  Eventually, a group of kids set up a tent in front of the church, where they would use drugs, drink and have a party all night.  Finally, the pastor of the church, took the situation in hand and told everyone they had to leave.  The kids in the tent were so angry that they vandalized the church before they left.

Tremaine and Donny, having nowhere else to go, went to a local mall, and slept in the wind and rain.  A local Christian man, who had known Tremaine a number of years, became concerned after his latest bout in the hospital.  Frank asked him if he’d like to come live in his house.  Tremaine couldn’t drink in the house, but he’d have a safe place to sleep and he could eat the food in the house.  All he’d have to do is to work for Frank, helping his friends on the street one day a week.

Tremaine wasn’t sure.  He had relied on alcohol for years to keep him sane and forgetful about his miserable life.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his friends whom he helped on the street, including Donny.  Donny and the kids on the street begged Tremaine to take Frank up on his offer.  Everyone was concerned that Tremaine wouldn’t be able to live long, given his terribly high blood pressure.  No one wanted to see him die.  But Tremaine wasn’t sure.

Tremaine remembered that he had quit drinking years ago.  Just one day stopped, and didn’t touch it.  He worked as a gas jockey then, and he didn’t make a good living, but he made a living.  Then he lost his job, and then his apartment.  He started to live on the street, and became unkempt.  As he was sitting in the park with his friends, he looked over and saw his sister, playing with her kids.   He smiled as he approached her, as they hadn’t seen each other for a couple years.  She looked up, recognized him, didn’t say a word, but picked up her kids, took them to the car and drove away.   After seeing her reaction to him, Tremaine turned around to his friend James, pointed at his 40-ouncer and said, “Give me that.”  He drank the whole bottle.  And the next one.

He realized that he had people who cared about him.  Really cared.  Donny.  The kids.  Suzie.  Frank.  They all wanted to see him live.  He couldn’t care less.  But he would live for them.  Quitting drinking wasn’t so hard.  And Frank said that he’d drive him to see his friends every week.  So Tremaine agreed.

Living in a house is something to get used to, but it was comfortable.  Tremaine could live his quiet, gentle life.  His blood pressure eventually went down as his stress went down.  He went out every week and worked in a church and saw his homeless friends. And eventually, Donny moved into the house as well.  Life wasn’t so bad after all.

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