Saturday, May 05, 2012

Prior Bad Acts

A judge decides that prior bad acts of a man accused of a horrific triple murder can not be used during the trial. The judge struggles with the decision, but feels that just because the accused has a record as a peeping Tom, for one, does not prove his behavior escalated to murder. The prosecuting attorney was not the only one livid due to her decision. Leaving the courthouse that evening, the judge is jumped from behind and brutally beaten.

So begins Tami Hoag's novel, Prior Bad Acts. Lots of homeless mentions in this fiction thriller, beginning with the accused who was a drifter or transient ~ a person with no fixed permanent address.

Police officers in search of an escaped criminal ask some men, having a smoke in an alley outside their place of employment, ask if they had seen anyone.

"Just that raggedy old crazy guy works up and down this alley, collecting cans and shit. Eats out of dumpsters."

Some of my homeless peers did indeed eat out of dumpsters or pulling discarded food from trash barrels. Yeck. Canning was the term here for homeless who collected aluminum cans and plastic water bottles for recycling. Many did that, including myself; more honorable than panhandling, we thought. Easier too.

That homeless man regularly slept under stairs with a broad landing leading to business above. When my daughter lived on Temple Avenue near Tenth Street, she had a resident homeless woman who slept under her stair well landing. Dawn often left her left over food or hot buns in the morning as she left for work.

Homeless I sometimes walked past that apartment building, eyeing the exact spot. Well, none of the neighbors back then seemed to mind the homeless lady living there, maybe I should try it. If not that particular building, many others from which to choose. Yet, I was too leery of a neighbor reporting me to cops, so stuck to more public places, hoping I would not get ticketed.

The story's homeless guy had a grocery cart under the stairs with all that "stuff homeless people keep" including filthy blankets, clothes, mismatched pairs of shoes, many looking like they had been run over by cars in the street and so on. He slept in a corner covered by discarded upholstery fabric. Can not mention any more about that homeless guy without giving away bits of the story.

A futile search for an escaped prisoner a detective remarked that "He'll probably resurface years from now, found to be working as director of a shelter for homeless women and children in Milwaukee. Credited with orchestrating the decline in the numbers of street people."

While I have never been beaten as badly as the judge, I do remember this:

"Residual effects of the attack. Irrational fear while in a safe environment."

The attack was when a couple of junkies (assumed) tried to rob me in a hospital parking lot. I was angry; got in my car, to drive after them ~ intending to hit them with car to stop them. Ironically my mother and an older sister was stopped at the guard shack as I neared. My sister said I looked like I was ready to kill someone. Livid! The guard had seen the culprits sprint out of the parking lot, getting into a car parked on the side street, taking off. All I could do was file a report with the guard.

It was Christmas time. I was in a crowded store, when I had the irrational fear. Of course, I had been in stores with wall to wall people prior to that ~ but that day, I became startled, quickly turning around, convinced the person standing too close to my back was about to rob me.

For many years after I left my abusive husband, I had to sit in corners of rooms, back to wall, facing entrance. I could not have my back to any doors. Interesting to me way back when was that my youngest brother likewise had to sit facing restaurant doors. I vaguely remember learning that after we had a tiff about using a seat against the wall. I probably gave in letting him sit there, less stubborn or more easy going. Yet I had to keep looking over my shoulder.

Brother and I also liked to sit in back corner of movie theaters. Irrational fears in safe environment. Do not know if brother had a reason for his need to keep eyes peeled on entrances. Maybe he feared my ex-husband as much as I did.

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