We’ve gone to ground.
I was out this morning working the soup kitchen lines — with the food supplies dodgy at best, we’ve stopped being for homeless and started being some folks’ main supply of food. I’ve got plenty at home, because I have a fully stocked pantry and an Irish soul (so says Paul, anyway), but lots of people don’t know how to stock a pantry and they are hungry because there’s no food to be found.
Anyway, I had worked the early shift — as a mom, I’m one of the only ones willing to be on the line at 4:45 — and was walking home just after 10 when I heard some loud, flat POP POP POPOPOPOP noises.
My hindbrain kicked in while my fore-brain was still going, “Whaa?” and I dropped to the ground and rolled off into the bushes.
The guy ahead of me wasn’t quite so smart. He made a noise like a dog getting its tail pulled and sat down, hard, his arm bleeding. Four or ten or fifty guys with black boots came barreling out of someone’s yard, shouting and stomping. They blew by him and never even looked down. There was more shouting and more POPs and I kept my head down and my body pressed hard against some rose bushes growing out of a fence.
For a minute or two there was silence and then I saw a guy in ratty fatigues and a bushy beard skin out of a small place between a garage and house and go sprinting, silently, down the street. There was some noise and some more of the Thugs came back my way.
One of them saw me, nudged me with his foot. (By which I mean to say, he kicked my leg, but not hard.) “Which way did he go?”
I didn’t have to pretend to be scared and so I pointed. The other direction, naturally, but I still pointed. The guy they had shot apparently wasn’t entirely out of it and he agreed with me.
The thugs moved out. I crawled over to the shot guy — his name was Mike, I learned — and tore his shirt into strips and did a half-assed bandage and helped him up. He said thanks and I offered to walk him to the hospital. He said he’d rather go home.
“Dude, you’ve been SHOT!” I revert to 1980s speak when under stress, apparently.
“I’m worried about being rounding up for a work crew,” he shrugged, looking very pale, almost waxy, and he was sweating with cold clammy skin. I was trying to hard to remember what to do to treat for shock that it took me a minute to figure out what he’d just said.
I dragged him onto a lawn and got his feet up in the air on a bird bath and covered him with one of April’s baby blankets that I had in my bag. While I did this, he told me that apparently for the past two days, the Thugs have been rounding up … well…. any able bodied male and putting them to work repairing the roads.
I thought about that as I knocked on the door of the lawn he was bleeding on. No answer. No answer next door, either, though I heard voices. I finally pulled a couple of beach towels off a wash line and covered Mike in them. I kept him talking, because I recalled dimly that that would help. He heard it from some folks who had heard it from some folks who had heard it…. you know. Anyway, he’d heard that they were rounding men up for work gangs.
I called his wife to come and get him and told her to bring blankets and hot water. She showed up without either, but I put him in the car and let her drive him home. I practically ran home.
I don’t know how true the work gang thing is. I know they are using prisoners, but this press gang thing sounds like a rumor to me.
What I do know is that fighting has finally come to my corner of Cambridge. And none of us are going out of the house until things settle down. I feel like it’s cowardly to ditch my position at the soup kitchen, but I’ve got a family to feed and they have to come first.