Stories and photographs by Jim Hamerlinck©2009, 2010, 2011

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Shirt, Ship Canal, Fremont, 2009

She spent a restless night under a maple tree in Gilman Park, thinking and planning and worrying. No one bothered her, no one was around, but she was convinced that she was being watched, that she was being trailed, that she would be accused of something if captured, and couldn’t sleep for the anxiety this caused her. They only pursued her at night. Morning couldn’t have come soon enough.

Daylight would be her salvation.

She methodically pushed the grocery cart filled with her belongings along the Burke-Gilman Trail toward Fremont, past warehouses and metal fabricating shops and marine enterprises. The worn rubber wheels ground and stuttered erratically over the rough asphalt trail. Her arthritic hands could scarcely grip the handle of the cart. Lumbago had seized her back and every step she took the pain worsened. Her feet were calloused and sore, the paper thin soles of her slippers offered no protection. Still, she labored on.

When she reached the stretch of trail along the ship canal lined with poplar trees, she stopped and began unloading her possessions onto the soft, wet lawn for inspection.

Piece by piece, her valuables were sorted and displayed and accounted for.

The napkins came first, weighted in place by a brick. Pens and straws followed--the pens laid horizontally, the straws vertically. Newspapers were next, tied in twine and bundled chronologically. Yogurt cups were stacked into towers according to brands and flavors. She arranged her neatly folded blankets, seven of them, in a semi-circular pattern from darkest to lightest. Aluminum cans, stuffed with gum wrappers and bottle caps, were set in three precisely aligned rows. Plastic bags containing her paperbacks and receipts and rocks would be reviewed some other day.

Satisfied with her work, she moved to push her cart off the trail and onto the lawn and as she did, a man on a bike, commuting from Ballard to his office Downtown, approached and shouted, “Look out!” He tried, but could not maneuver his bike around her quick enough and smashed into the cart, knocking it over and sending her sprawling onto the grass.

She lay motionless amongst her scattered articles.

The man had somehow managed to stay on his feet. He straddled his fallen bike, its mangled rear wheel spinning irregularly just below his crotch.

“Godammit,” he said. “I could’ve been killed.”

The man’s knuckles were bruised and bleeding. He put his hand to his mouth to suck away the blood. He couldn’t move his right index finger and cried in pain, “I think it’s broken! Shit!”

He slipped the carryall off of his shoulder and got out his cell phone. He called his wife, who was at home with their baby daughter.

“Honey, my bike is shattered and I--”

He saw her then, flat on her back, her hands cupped atop her chest, looking like a angel in repose.

“Are you all right?” he asked, but she did not respond.

“Who are you talking to?” asked his wife.

He walked toward her, stepping over the goods strewn about, careful not to knock over the last standing yogurt cup tower. “Can I help you up?”

“Mitch,” pleaded his wife, “what’s going on? Where are you?”

As he crouched over her, several drops of blood fell from his knuckle onto her cheek. “Oh, my God, I’m sorry,” he said, and gently wiped the blood off of her with his shirtsleeve. She opened her eyes.

“Ma’am, are you all right?” he asked. She looked at him, smiled, then closed her eyes. His chest tightened, then released, as he watched her go.

He stood and yelled for help.

“Mitch, my God, what’s wrong?! Mitch!” cried his wife.

“Oh, Honey, this is bad, this is bad….“ He lifted the brick from the napkin pile, grabbed a handful, and wrapped the wad around his knuckle which was bleeding profusely now.

“Mitch, what is it?!“

“I‘m gonna have to...." He stopped, breathless.

"What?!" asked his wife.

"I'm gonna have to... call the police now, Honey. I'll talk to you soon," he told her, and hung up.

He picked up one of the blankets, the woolen gray blanket with the blue floral pattern, third from the right in the semi-circle, unfolded it, and placed it over her still body.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” he reassured her. “I promise.”

And he was right.

Call, Northgate Mall, 2009

© Jim Hamerlinck.All Rights Reserved.

  • “There's nothing to be gained from passive observance, the simple documenting of conditions, because, at its core, it sets a bad example. Every time something is observed and not fixed, or when one has a chance to give in some way and does not, there is a lie being told, the same lie we all know by heart but which needn't be reiterated.” Dave Eggers