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Scott went to live with his brother for a while. The tests had come back, and his blood was compatible, so he figured, “This guy’s getting my stem cells, he’ll be happy to put me up.” (I had thought that Scott would be giving bone marrow for the transplant, but it turns out that he gives stem cells from his blood in a similar medical scenario.) This lasted only one day. Scott’s brother’s wife Lucy turned on him viciously. She accused him of using them and being a loser with no prospects for the future. Scott and she got into a shouting match, and Scott was back on the street. Again he asked his brother for a $50 loan till his next disability check came in. Again his brother refused.

“He said they had a lot of bills to pay and he couldn’t afford it right now,” Scott told me.

“What bills?” I asked.

“Well, it seems that Lucy’s dog got sick and needed a $4000 operation.”

I became furious. “You mean he can pay $4000 for a dog’s operation, but he can’t give his brother, who’s about to save his freaking life, $50?”

“Apparently,” Scott answered, quite calmly, I thought.

“If I were you,” I advised, stupidly thinking that any advice I gave Scott would be treated differently from the advice I’d given him before, “I would tell him that before I give him the transplant, he needs to come up with $4000 for you. You have no money; you need a down payment on an apartment; you need a chance to get back on your feet. With $4000 you could make all of this happen. You should tell him that you should be at least as worthy as his freaking dog.”

“I’ll think about that,” Scott said. His tone was the one he always uses with me: believable.

At this point I should say that Scott really was trying to get back on his feet. He had several ideas on how to make money; he was keeping a notebook outlining the things he had to do each day to keep his life on track; he was looking around for opportunities. None of these ideas eventually worked out, but he did try.

I had offered to put up some money for him on a monthly basis if he was serious about finding a job and settling down. This might not be as foolish as it appears on the surface. I wouldn’t give him money under any other circumstances, so it wasn’t as if I was throwing it away, and I would only pay it directly to the landlord. Scott thought about it but politely turned me down. “I’m still planning on going to Louisiana,” he said. “So I don’t want to make any commitments to stay anywhere for more than a month or two.”

With that in mind, he had two ideas to make some dough: massage, or driving a cab.

“So my brother says I can stay on his boat for a little while,” he said the next time he called. “He’s got a boat down in Oceanside harbor.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Why weren’t you staying on it before?”

“It’s technically not legal,” he admitted. “You have to have a permit to live on the boat — it’s an extra $75 a month.”

“That wouldn’t be hard for you with $800 coming in.” I was thinking, Hey, this could be an answer to Scott’s problems.

“There’s a six-month waiting list,” he said. “My brother says it’s usually no big deal as long as you don’t make a big fuss. He and his new wife lived on it for six months before they moved into their house.”

So now he needed help getting his stuff out of the RV and into his brother’s boat. I have a truck, so we drove on over to the impound lot, where the very nice man on duty let us take our time going through and getting out his stuff. I was amazed that the watchman let us in: Scott didn’t have his driver’s license. In the three months since he’d come back into my life, he’d lost his license twice. Now he was sure it was there in the RV, so I waited with the watchman while Scott rummaged around in the still-uncleaned RV. The place was a bacterium paradise. I peeked my head in the door once or twice, but no way was I going in. I’d had pneumonia a couple of times and didn’t relish going through that again.

It took about 45 minutes, and when I saw the junk that Scott went through, the pitiful things he’d kept, it really saddened me. He was 57 years old and had nothing of value except his guitar — and that was worth about $125. We packed up the truck and left the RV behind: good riddance. We drove down to the harbor and unloaded the four boxes, three bags, two laundry baskets, and guitar — all he owned. He had plenty of time, so I let him transfer the stuff into the boat on his own.

Two days later, I got a phone call. “They kicked me out,” he told me.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked. “You said that no one cared as long as you didn’t raise a ruckus.”

“Apparently I raised enough of a ruckus to piss off one son of a bitch,” he said, bile in his voice. “I was playing guitar down by that coffeehouse there — in a public area — and that asshole manager said that if he caught me playing around there again he was going to call the cops. So I said, ‘Go ahead, this is public property.’ Well, he called the cops on me.”

“But they didn’t know that you were living on the boat, did they?”

“No, not then. But they came, and I told them that the manager was bugging me for no reason. Then they asked me my address, and I gave them my brother’s. Then they called my brother’s house, and his wife told them I didn’t live there.”

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Comments

Jay Allen Sanford May 23, 2008 @ 6:38 p.m.

Terrific story, and very evocative - I've known a couple of sadsack Scotts in my time. Some people are genuinely unhappy about being happy. Any time their life holds the glimmer of going well, they (subconsciously?) screw it up. The Scotts of this world are only happy when they're miserable - a decent, stable life is intolerable to them. Your friend Scott will be in my prayers - I hope someday he can stand on solid ground, without always looking for the next cliff to jump off of.

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mjb2711 May 26, 2008 @ 8:55 p.m.

Steve -- I HAVE to tell you, your story brought TEARS to my eyes!! Scott is definitely someone I know here in San Diego. We see him everywhere. The homeless, faceless and abandoned people who populate our sidewalks, streets and roadsides. THEY WILL NOT go away. They have made a place for themselves WHEREVER they can find. And, apparently, they have FOUND SAN DIEGO!!! I regret to say that I have turned a deaf ear to many of them. They are mostly spoiled brats who never grew up and think that I am their PERSONAL ATM or BANK ACCOUNT!!! Need I say more. ("NO, I will NOT buy you a CUP OF COFFEE!!! GET A JOB!!!") But your close friend Scott - although you ARE his ONLY friend -- has a TRUE red blooded American friend that he will have for LIFE -- and beyond. Thanks for the best lead story I have EVER read in the Reader since I moved here from Michigan 10 years ago. I bow my head to your pointed pen.

Best,

Mary J Bartholomew Exec Prodcuer "Preserving the Amazon Rainforest"

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bobwms May 27, 2008 @ 2:57 p.m.

My comments to Steve - please inform Scott's father, brother, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces that they are EXCELLENT judges of character when it comes to Scott. And Steve - if I were you, I would get one of those books on creating a new identity and read it - in detail. Then I would move and not leave a forwarding address, after getting a restraining order. I have a friend who has a son like Scott, and that is what he did in order to get away from him. Who knows when you will go from being the old friend to the guy who is personally responsible for ruining Scott's life? Steve - you are, however, the kind of friend that most of us wish we had. Excellent piece.

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