Sunday, December 21, 2008

Social Christmas

The line snaked around two corners.

Benny could see at least that much as he made his way to the end of the line. This was the windy side of the building, and the cold gusts made his cane wobble from side to side as he used it to lever forward. At least this line moved fast compared to some of the other lines in the city. The soup was awful thin here, but they knew how to move em' in and out.

Most of the people in his line stared down at the ground and shuffled forward in silence. What was there to say? Standing in a soup line 3 days before Christmas said everything that needed to be said. They say misery loves company, but Benny felt nothing but bad for the other people in his line. It never really crossed his mind that he was in the same boat. Maybe that's how they all felt; maybe that's the work of mercy.

Too old to care, he stared across the street to the other line, which today was nearly as long as his. They noticed his stare, and soon a chorus of rude taunts and gestures from the line of men in their 30's, 40's, and 50's were being hurled his way. Benny couldn't imagine being a parent of one of those men; the shame would break his heart.

He looked at the fine suits worn by the other men; suits once cut to fit but now falling off the shoulders of more than a few. He looked at his own clothes and rubbed the stubble on his cheeks and noticed most of the others in his line missed a date or two with a razor.

His line was just as quiet as the other line was boisterous. The occasional hacking cough or honking nose were the only sounds escaping from the line ahead. Ahead, the end of the line. It was occupied by a hawk-nosed man with an uncompromising ladle and a dour look. The soup man had grey skin, the color long washed out by the dull fluorescent light he lived under.

Benny thought about the man at the end of the other line.

A clamor erupted across the street and Benny scanned until he caught sight of the problem. A kid, just some kid who might not even have a name was standing in that line valiantly resisting all the pushing and shoving to get him out. Foul language echoed between the tall buildings as they told the kid he didn't belong in the line. The kid kept one toe sacredly planted at his place in line as he was pushed this way and that. Out of the kid's line of sight, an older, athletic-looking man with a smile plastered to his face snuck up behind the boy in a creeping crouch. He came up out of his crouch and took three giant strides before coming off his feet to deliver a vicious kick to the middle of the child's back. The boy still had a toe pointed down as he sailed through the air and landed well into the street. The kick would have killed Benny but the boy got right up and gave his assailant the finger while tears rolled down his cheeks.

Howls of laughter erupted and the assailant was roundly congratulated. Benny caught pieces of his bragging that he learned martial arts from some famous name or another. Even now, the line of ex criminal banksters and ex Wall Street executives displayed their primal need to sport their brand-name existence as they stood in line to demand their entitlements from Santa.

Even now they could be heard mocking Santa and his socialist ways.

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