by Annie Dawid
“Lewis, are you on this story or what?” The city desk editor, Hal Bonebrake, showed the police blotter printout to Veronica Lewis, who was drinking coffee, leaning against the window.
“What is it?” She turned, rubbing her temples. “Shit, I’m hungover.”
“Late party, huh. This looks juicy,” he said, pointing to the top paragraph. “Kid and her dad found in Forest Park after living in a tent for four years.”
She groaned. “Just what I need.”
“Well, I could give it to your buddy Goffredo, if you’re too debilitated …”
She snatched the paper. “On my way to the cop shop,” she mumbled, grabbing her laptop and heading for the door. “And Goffredo’s out of town, Hal. But smart ploy — got me moving.”
Bonebrake laughed. “Nothing like a good story to sweat out a hangover. Do it up.”
At the Coffee People near the Forest Park precinct, Veronica bought another double Americano and wrote a list in her reporter’s notebook. “Crazy vet? Homelessness. Family Services. Crime or feature?” She reread the information and thought about her boyfriend’s sister, who had been on the streets for the last two years. Another casualty. No dad in that family, but the mom was a witch. Veronica didn’t blame the girl for leaving. Malcolm was always looking for her, every time they were in the Hawthorne, where he thought Anita hung out. “Nita-grrlla” was her street name. Fifteen years old. The girl they’d found was only 12. Veronica shuddered. Eight when she went into the woods.
When Veronica was eight, her parents had taken her around the world in a sailboat. Their year at sea, her mother called it, enjoying the double-entendre. Unlike the Forest Park family, they had money up the yin-yang, but it had been a strange brand of homelessness, Veronica remembered, showing up in ports with her naïve, trust-funded parents. She always had the feeling native people pitied her — thought her parents fools for carting her all over the globe when she was so often sick.
She wondered if the sailboat was bigger or smaller than the homeless family’s tent. At least, in the Park, the girl had space to roam, to run, and privacy in the trees. Veronica remembered how her mother broke down in Portugal, and when her father got sick from the hash in Algiers. With their Ivy League educations, her parents lacked common sense. She wondered if this street-smart dad had it more together.
The cops had remarked that the place was immaculate, father and daughter clean, no body odor, no trash — as orderly as an Army camp. “Aha!” Veronica thought. “I knew it had to be a vet.” What if her own dad had been drafted to Vietnam? Was this father a ’Nam or Gulf War vet? Maybe this dad loved his daughter, whatever their peculiar housing situation. She slugged the rest of her coffee. In another life, it might have been Veronica herself having to answer some hungover reporter’s questions.
Annie Dawid has published three books of fiction: And Darkness Was Under His Feet: Stories Of A Family (Litchfield Review Press, winner of their Short Fiction Prize); Lily In The Desert (Carnegie Mellon University Press Series in Short Fiction); and York Ferry: A Novel (Cane Hill Press). Her long short story, Jonestown: Thirty Years On, was a finalist in the Eric Hofer Short Story Contest and was published in Best New Writing 2015 (Hopewell 2014).
Most recently, she won the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers Award in the Personal Essay and the 2013 New Rocky Mountain Voices Award for her short play, Gunplay. In 2012, she won the Fall Flash Fiction Orlando Award from A Room of One’s Own Foundation and the Essay Prize from the Dana Awards. She has taught two workshops at the Taos Summer Writers Conference, University of New Mexico, and at the Castle Rock Writers Conference (Colorado). Currently, she teaches fiction writing at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado, after retiring as Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, 1990–2006.