Portrait of a homeless man based on a photograph of an avatar in VR

#FlashFiction: Shoot me for Jesus

In this piece, a homeless vet writes to a friend. I used a composite of the stories I heard as a therapist who worked with homeless vets in San Francisco.


Hey Kev

Thought I’d drop you a few lines since this week makes
five years since we left Iraq.

I know you say you ain’t the same without ur leg but I hope
ur feeling better.

I’ll feel hella better when I throw out these pills for crazies.

Why does the fuckin’ V.A. give me pills when I say I need food?

Why don’t shrinks know people go crazy from hunger?

My partner died of AIDS last year, so I got no one to talk to, so I
went to Reno last month.

The ticket was a free one way, so I figured I’d go see family.

That was a big mistake.

My bitch of a sister wouldn’t let me meet my nephew ‘cause I came out gay.

Her Holy Roller husband kept sayin’ he’d shoot me for Jesus.

I told them to kiss my faggot ass!

I spent the rest of my money for a one way back to Frisco.

That’s life for uppity fags and burnt out war heroes.

I keep hoping you’ll send me a card so I know ur alive.

I’d call but I can’t buy a phone.

I get $300 a month General Assistance and it costs $200 for a week in a crap hotel, so’s I won’t have a place for the next three weeks, but please write to that address I sent anyways.




Homelsss people leave messages of anguish on the walls of alleys.
Homeless people write on the walls when they bed down to sleep in Clarion Alley.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018 – revised August 2019

8 thoughts on “#FlashFiction: Shoot me for Jesus

  1. Hi Robert,
    I live in SE Florida and we have more homeless than our organization can help. We keep going to the county commissioners for more funding only to be turned down. I belong to an organization through my church call PEACE., People Engaged in Active Community Efforts. It is truly a community effort with more than twenty churches working together to help in issues affecting our community. Currently, we are trying to expand housing for our homeless. The county has allocated funds, but there is no administrative direction on how the funds are used. We proposed the county (which is the largest funding source) hire an administrator to manage how funds are spent. Currently, any organization can submit a request and be granted funding. Because there is no oversite, we are actually losing beds for the homeless, not increasing. This is only one of several efforts our organization is involved. Post like yours brings awareness to the issues your community and so many around our country are facing. I’ve read about some of SF efforts and they are courageous. However, they need more support as we do. Keep the issues alive because ever effort does make a difference. HUGS

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comment Chuck. The vets of the second war in Iraq placed their lives and bodies on the line for what turned out to be a lie. This broke the spirit of some of our nation’s most courageous young men and women, and that in turn broke our nation.

      I think most of our current political crisis is the price we pay for a cynical breach of faith. If we survive Russia’s threat to our democracy the first thing we have to do is stop pretending we don’t know how to solve a problem that didn’t exist until voters chose in the 1980’s to believe the lie of trickledown economics. Democratic systems are expensive and require a degree of sacrifice from all of us.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Linda.

      Zack’s letter is a composite of the stories of the vets I saw in my treatment program between 2001 and 2011. The first ones were from the first war in Iraq. The truly tragic figures are men and women who went into combat in the second war because they wanted to defend their country. They came home to find it was all a lie and as compensation, we gave them empty rhetoric and noble sounding words. These people are betrayed and rightly angry. Taking care of our vets is another reason to vote blue this year; Americans need to fund the services for our vets and other disabled citizens need to get on with their lives.

      How many vets commit suicide or die from lethal neglect each year on the streets of America’s cities? America’s treatment of her own people made the U.S. vulnerable to the Russian propaganda attack on our elections. The propaganda that ‘all political systems are corrupt’ worked because homelessness is a betrayal of our principles as a nation. I keep returning to the wisdom of my Grandmother: “We can’t claim to stand for human rights if we starve our sick and abuse our own people.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s a very sad story, Rob. Sadder still because it’s true for so many.
    I once told one of my status-seeking coworkers (they’re all hungry for status, or looking down on the rest if they think they already have it) that wealth and success was being able to buy everything I needed at the grocery store — without having to wonder if there was enough money to add that box of oatmeal.
    Thanks for shining this spotlight. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. As I mentioned in my reply to Linda, Zack is a composite of the many vets who came into my treatment program hungry, homeless, angry, and embittered. It was always so much worse for gay vets, because the political leaders who lied them into the second war in Iraq had the gall to use their sexuality as a divisive tool to win votes.

      Liked by 1 person

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