The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 3 - Rainy Days

The funeral was short and, like many Washington days, it rained. The trip to the gravesite was dark and gloomy. He and Cindy rode in the mortician’s limo in silence. The walk from the car to the graveside seemed to be the longest walk he had taken in his life. When they finally reached the canopy he could see three coffins sitting in a row – two small ones and one large one that contained all that was left of his family. A few of Mary’s friends were gathered there to say goodbye.

Robin stood silently under the canopy staring at the three fresh graves. As the graveside ceremony began the rain started falling. It was a misty light rain at first and by the time the minister said, “Ashes to ashes,” it had become a downpour.

Even the skies are weeping for them, he thought.

One by one, the little crowd of friends expressed their condolences to Cindy and moved off into the rain under their umbrellas. Robin didn’t mind that no one talked to him. He wasn’t in the mood for it anyway. Cindy and the mortician walked back to the car under a large black umbrella. Robin followed several paces behind. He didn’t even notice that the ice-cold rain was soaking his suit through to the skin. He was too numb to notice anything.

The mortician dropped them off at the mortuary and Robin drove Cindy back to the place she was staying. Neither of them said a word on the long drive or even as she left the car. Robin drove back to the motel in a daze.

He stayed a few more days. Mornings were spent helping Cindy straighten out her affairs. His free afternoon time was spent visiting the gravesides of his family. Although Robin was sole beneficiary of the insurance policies, he paid for the funeral expenses and gave the rest to Cindy. “The money won’t bring them back,” he told her, “but you can use it to get your life back together again.”

She refused at first, but Robin persisted and he finally talked her into accepting it.

When Robin got back to San Diego he took a few more days off before going back to work. It gave him a chance to try to come to terms with his loss without the distraction of other people around either trying to console him or avoiding him because they didn’t know what to say.

When he finally returned to work he was told that his job was moving to Mexico without him. They handed him a pink slip and a final paycheck. Without work to distract him, Robin fell into a deep depression over the loss of his family. He wouldn’t answer the phone. When friends came to the door he would tell them he was okay and that they couldn’t stay because he was just about to leave the house. After a while the phone calls stopped, and his doorbell was no longer rung.

He began drinking heavily. He couldn’t pay the bills and was evicted from his home. He moved into his car. He gave up caring about anything except his next drink. He spent part of his time digging through the trash for bottles and cans to recycle, and the other part panhandling in order to buy wine. He came back to the car one day in time to see it get towed away.

His one experience with a homeless shelter ended with his jacket and shoes being stolen by another homeless man. When he confronted him he was rewarded with a beating that left him licking his wounds in an alley. So he moved into a cardboard box he found there. When it rained he would spend the night in a storm drain out of the cold night air. The people on the street came to know him as Robin the wino. His life was an endless blur of shelter food, cheap wine, and sleeping it off in the alleys.

One rainy night he took shelter in a flood control tube in one of the concrete rivers that runs from the mountains to the ocean. They are usually dry except for an occasional trickle of water down the center from snow melting on a far off mountain. That night, however, there was an unexpected deluge on that mountain and a large flood of water washed him out of his sleeping quarters at about five am. Sputtering and gasping for breath he tried to swim to the edge of the concrete waterway, but the flow was too swift. It dragged him down the cement causeway. It was all he could do to stay afloat. Spotting a large floating tree branch, he decided to swim for it.

If I can reach that branch I can keep my head above the water, he thought.

He swam harder than he had ever done in his entire life. As he reached out for it, he was slammed into a concrete bridge support. He fought to stay afloat; his ribs aching from the body slam and his head dazed by the blow it received when it rebounded from the cement pylon. His eyes were seeing double. He was about to give up struggling and let the water take him when he spotted the tree branch he had been trying to swim to. It had somehow passed him when he hit the pylon and was now caught on something downstream. The water was taking him in a path that would bring him close enough to grab hold of it, if he could just swim a few feet over. With one last great effort he swam towards it. He managed to grab hold, wrap his arms around it in a bear hug, and raise his head far enough out of the water to catch his breath. His ribs were in a great deal of pain, but he could breathe.

That was close. Thank God I can breathe now.

The water was racing by him. He could feel it trying to drag him away from his island of safety. He hugged the tree tighter, gritting his teeth from the pain in his body.

“Thought you had me, didn’t you?” He yelled at the flooding waters. “Well, I’m not beaten yet, so do your worst!” He grasped the branch even tighter.

It was then that a large log rocketing along with the swift current shattered the back of his head knocking him unconscious. He lost his grip on the branch and slipped under the rushing water. His limp body floated out into the ocean and washed up on a beach.

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