The Man Beneath the Street

by Elroy Jackson


A touching story of survival...

Lancaster, or (langkisster) as we Texans call it, is a street that holds a lot of history. Named Jan. 7, 1931, after J. L. Lancaster, a president of the Texas & Pacific Railway. However, today the street is the home of vagrants, Hobo's, Transients, or The Homeless, as I like to define them. And one of these people resides under the street in sort of a flood tunnel, and his name is Gus. No one has ever gotten his last name; he just says, "My name is Gus." He comes out of his hole in the ground every morning like clockwork, almost as if he had an alarm clock down there. He walks up to the road and sits in his make-shift chair and takes out his cardboard message that says "Hi, I'm Gus and I Need Some Money" I was shocked the first time I saw the sign, shocked and kind of tickled by it, I mean the nerve of this guy. But unbelievably people stopped and gave him money. I heard one guy scream out "At least you are honest!" I drive by Gus every day on my way to work and I find it incredible how he survives through all manner of weather and such, but he does, and he has survived for many years. He was there when I moved into the neighborhood five years ago and he seems to stay healthy enough (At least for a homeless person living underground), one day after heading home from a hard day's work decided to stop and walk over and talk with Gus. As I approached him, he seemed to gather his stuff closer to him with a sort of uneasiness and distrust. I must have looked like a city worker or something to him because he immediately started to say "There's no posted sign that says I can't be here!" "Easy old man," I said. "My Name is Richard Weathering, and I live across the way in Lancaster heights. Do you mind if I speak with you a minute?" He looked quizzically at me and said, "Why you want to talk to me? What about Mister." I smiled to loosen the situation a bit, kneeled down next to him, and said, "I would like to pay you to give me some honest background on yourself, and an honest accounting of your life on the streets from the first day you landed here." He looked away, then back at me, and said, "Why come?" I said, "Because you interest me, you been here a long time and I would like to know why you're here when you got here? And how you got here... amongst other questions." He stared at me a second, and then looked away again before turning and saying, "What you going to pay for me telling you that stuff?" I said, "Twenty Dollars every day you answer my questions honestly, if I even feel you are lying to me I won't pay you anything." He got up and retrieved a dollar from a motorist that stopped for him, then walked back over and slowly sat back down. I said, "So what will it be?" He nodded yes with a sneaky smile on his face then held out his hand and said, "Can I have a signing bonus? You know, like those football players get?" I half laughed at him and said, "Gus! What do you know about signing bonuses?" He grinned and said, "I get to look at a little TV every once in a while, and I got a battery-operated radio that I listen to." I reached into my pocket, pulled out a ten, and handed it to him. Gus thanked me and told me that he would see me soon as he headed across Lancaster to the restaurant to get something to eat. He never looked back at me as I stood there watching him run through traffic causing people to blow their horns at him. He raised his hands in the air as if to be a cop working traffic all the way across to the other side and entered the restaurant. I left and went home with thoughts of writing an incredible book, And I thought I think I will call it "THE MAN BENEATH THE STREET"

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