They had spent so many months in peace. Without any of the capitalist pigs squealing about the streets to interrupt their existence, to remind them that the human race at large only places a premium on the frivolous and insane, yet instead billed the homeless as such. But in the absence of the inside-dwellers, the cabal of vagrants had hit their stride. They felt a sense of dignity more than they ever had. Without the silent judgment and faux pity of the self-righteous passersby always on their way to some center of commerce or back to their precious, overpriced hovels, the “derelicts” were thriving. Working together as a community without any need to stoop to begging from the knaves posing as the civilized. No, none of that seemed necessary anymore–had all been part of the old way of doing things.
In the present, they scavenged in concert, finding what they needed from the trash even still, for despite the “civvies” (“civilizeds”) being inside all the time, it was nonetheless easy to access their trash. The perfectly viable fruit, vegetables, pasta casseroles, chips, chocolate and everything in between they would toss away because of some minor defect. Because they didn’t want to take the risk of getting “sick.” Not understanding, perhaps, that if they weren’t so goddamned dainty, they wouldn’t also be so susceptible to the very things they feared the most. Germs, illness…infirmity. The homeless, on the other hand, you couldn’t kill them with a stick of dynamite. They were as tough on the inside as their rough, unmoisturized skin.
Ivo had become something of the ringleader possibly as a direct result of just how snake-like his epidermis was–it was that durability that the others seemed to be subconsciously looking for in a sovereign. Though it wasn’t as though they officially “elected” him to take charge, it just sort of happened when the civvies retreated for their “safe” indoor havens. At first, no one really knew what was going on. The homeless aren’t exactly the most aware of major news (short of a bomb going off), even if they’re constantly surrounded by it in the form of the Parisian kiosks shilling the latest scandal. But, come to think of it, there had been quite a few front page stories featuring a giant ball with spikes on it, and no, this was no morning star. It was something else entirely.
“Co-roh-nuh,” Ivo sounded out to himself, still remembering how to vaguely read from the last time he was in a school, which was probably circa seventh grade. He nabbed a magazine from the table while the cochon manning the post had his back turned, retreated to his preferred alcove of a lair and began to spread the news more rapidly than COVID to others on the block. As far as they could understand, some deadly disease had been unleashed upon the earth, and the government was now debating on whether or not to lockdown the entire city. To leave the streets free of the bourgeoisie, the human stains who disseminated their filth to anyone they came in contact with, including the likes of Ivo, who had grown mildly accustomed to collecting their alms. But he had told himself long ago never to get too dependent on their so-called “charity” (though he knew full well it was themselves they were doing it for, that giving money made them feel slightly less guilty for the economic injustice they helped cultivate and fortify).
When the foot traffic began to dwindle the following week, he could sense what was coming. They would all disappear soon. Rather than being concerned, however, Ivo felt lighter than he had in years. Unburdened. The prospect of such freedom from these prigs made him want to dance, to shout, to sing some sort of old war victory song that might pour out of his mouth with him scarcely knowing the words save for intuiting them.
As night fell, he watched them all scurrying inside like the scared little rats they were. Obeying the law. Heeding the government. What a fucking scam. It made Ivo assured more than ever in the decision he had made long ago never to be under anyone’s thumb. To shirk employment (that is, after being rejected so many times for his “lack of skills”), therefore the prospect of being monitored, controlled. He was above the law now thanks to his decisions. So were many others that he encountered on the streets. It was the following morning, amid the quiet desolation, that Ivo gathered with them. The police would not bother with their kind, hoping that the morning star called corona would take care of them instead, by means of “natural selection.” What no one seemed to understand was that the homeless were of a different breed entirely. Crafted of indestructible stock after decades of hard living. The kind of living that would make an army veteran shudder. A type of existence beyond any civvy’s wildest imagination (of which theirs was already so limited).
After that first day of communing and organizing with one another, they went about their foraging, reconvening near the Rue des Anglais, where it intersected with Rue Lagrange. That was where both a Carrefour and Franprix were located, compact in size, ideal for scavenging. Over time, Ivo and his homeless coterie grew emboldened enough to smash open the windows of stores (whether with bottles, bricks or the sheer force of their bodies). Nothing mattered anymore. Without the civvies, there was no need to keep up the pretense that anything did, that there was an invisible wall dividing the homeless from them. Yet in their fast-developing hubris, Ivo and his liberated anti-abode gang seemed to forget all about the prospect of the civvies ever coming back outside again, which, of course, they were going to. Were champing at the bit to. Even if it meant sacrificing the health of many others to do so. They had grown restless. They wanted to roam the earth again, but more importantly, to make their purchasing power known again. It was disgusting, and Ivo declared as much to the others as they started to realize that the civvies were trickling out again, gradually but steadily. Throwing caution to the wind as the deadline approached to the government ending the lockdown. Well, Ivo decided that they were not going to accept the civvies’ return. That to do so would be to capitulate to a system that had patently never worked. Had benefited a few, while eviscerating most others. Ivo was done, declared, “Enough.”
So it was that he instructed the caucus not to retreat, not to go back to their “normal” behavior of skulking about in silence and obsequiously extending their hand out for a paltry twenty-cent euro piece when the occasion seemed right (a.k.a. not overly humiliating). Instead, they would remain. En masse. Congregated outside of the beloved stores the civvies so relished spending money at. Overwhelmed and overpowered them with their presence. Scared them with their caterwauling ominousness and dirtiness back into the safety of the inside. All the better for their purposes was the fact that the civvies had grown even more mincing during their period of confinement. Their skittishness quite useful in getting them to back down, to surrender the territory of the outside world they had been so presumptuous in claiming as “theirs.”
As Ivo and his militia, consisting of the gamut of races and ages and genders (for, contrary to popular belief, homelessness was not merely a male “profession”), stood their ground, exhibiting more daring signs of “creepiness” and unpredictability, the civvies were pushed back into their homes, retreating in submission. Conceding the outside to the people it truly belonged to. The ones who would never dream of abandoning it even in times of the ever-looming threat of a potentially lethal virus.