Once someone has been living on the streets as long as Danielle Johnson, they realize that there are going to be some pretty strange happenings and even stranger individuals. She herself was a bit of a character and she had no problems admitting it. Maybe it was the homelessness that got to people, perhaps it was the odd quirks that put them out of house and home in the first place. Either way, she didn't very much care. As long as she had Clarence, her pet grocery cart, she'd just cruise along and go about her business.
So, when she found that kid sleeping under her bridge, she didn't look twice. It wasn't all that usual to find children out on their own. Sometimes they'd be orphans, in which case the truant officers would be by in a week or so to snatch them up. Other times, the more likely scenario, a rebellious adolescent would decide to stick it to mom and dad by running away, in which case they would head back home as soon as they got bored. Either way, kids never last all that long out here on their own. Danielle just moved on to another place to rest that night. She'd come back to see how long he remained.
A week had passed and the boy was still under her bridge. Every night she'd roll by, and every night he'd be there, curled up and snoring.
By that point, Danielle had pretty much given up on the notion that she'd get her favorite sleeping spot back without raising a fuss. Child or not, she was there first. It was one of the few sheltered spots in the city where the cops wouldn't chase out "loiterers" and snow wouldn't build up underneath. That and Clarence had a nice flat bed where he wouldn't roll away.
It was time to give that boy a little talking to, let him know it was about time he skedaddled along.
However, as soon as she caught sight of him, all the fight just drained away.
The biggest problem with being homeless in Boston is that it's cold outside. There could be six feet of snow and the locals would just shrug and be grateful that the winter is as mild as it is.
Dirty Joe from the corner gave up on winters entirely. Every November, he would do something to get thrown in jail. He'd get himself a nice roof, a bed, and three meals a day, an expense-free vacation being taken care of by the generous taxpayers of their great city. By the time spring rolled around, his sentence would be up and they'd let him out. Most of the prison guard know him by name.
Danielle wrapped herself up in about fifty blankets. She knew a man from Alpha Centauri. Every so often someone from out of town would drop a coin in his hat to hear him talk with the birds (though only the Canadian geese ever replied). As soon as he saved up enough, he would go out and buy her something shiny. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she couldn't care less about all that. It's not as if any establishment worth getting fancied up for would allow her within a hundred yards. Instead she would just take it down to Charlestown where she could trade it for a warm quilt.
Looking at that boy now, he didn't have so much as a sweater as he curled up beside the frozen river. A sympathetic chill ran up her spine before she could stop it.
Danielle resigned herself to having to find a new spot as she reached into Clarence and pulled out the warmest thing she owned: a dirty, worn sleeping bag. She unzipped it and, as quietly as her old creaky joints would allow, Danielle tip toed up the slope to where the young boy lay in a restless sleep. The moment she draped it across him, he unconsciously grabbed the corner and snuggled into it. She backed up as fast as she could, grabbed Clarence, and left.
Before Danielle could make it down the block, a broad man with blonde hair and bright eyes stopped her with a gentle touch to the shoulder. He only uttered two words of thanks before he vanished.
Shaking her head, Danielle couldn't help but wonder if she really had lost it this time. But the warmth of the man's gratitude, imagined or otherwise, was more than enough to keep her snug through the night.