Helter Shelter

Fresh air, a river at your feet, and stars on the ceiling: Home, sweet home. At least until Minneapolis cops raid your camp.

They do their business quietly and head back into the chill. It's dark now, and a wind is blowing up rain. Wesley shoulders the 12-pack and fluffs up his coat around his ears. "When I get my money in pocket," he spits against the cold, "I can play then. I got one-and-a-half million dollars in an IRA. I tell you one thing, I can play on that half a million and never touch my million. And I tell you, I can be a dirty fucking dog. I plan on being one. I do. I'm going to raise some hocus pocus. I'm going to get mad at everyone who's been mad at me. Police, number one.

"See, what I was thinking of doing was buying a piece of real estate," he goes on, unfolding his reverie into the dark. "Build a house. C'mon! You ain't got no place to go? C'mon! You coming with father dad. I'd call myself 'father dad.' I want you to work. I want you to help out. Nothing going to be free here. A place to crash out. You got a job? You get up and go to work. You want wake-ups? We'll get you up. Whole nine yards. I been here. I've been a tramp. I know what it's about and it sucks. But man's destination is self-preservation, right?"

Wesley roots around in one of his bags for a few minutes and pulls out a pair of camouflage pants. Because he's a Vietnam vet, Wesley gets army surplus supplies from the Veterans Administration--the main source, along with the Sally wagon, of his belongings. He shakes the pants in Larry's direction. "Here," he tells him, "these oughta fit you. Take them. Thirty-five inch waist? That oughta fit around your belly."

Mark Wojahn

With that, he turns his attention to the police sweeps plaguing his companions on the river--an operation that hasn't yet found its way to his series of encampments. "It ain't going to change until we all put up right here." He juts out his chin, and gives a satisfied nod to the logic of the thought. A moment goes by. Then: "That's what we should do--every damn one of us set up camp right in one spot, and then, go ahead. Come on and take us. The way they're rolling this shit, they're rolling it like Vietnam. They want Vietnam, I'll give it to them. That's it. I been through the dirty shit. I shot people. They keep messing with me, I'll keep shooting."

Managing Editor Monika Bauerlein contributed to this story.

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