“Shouldn’t the baby eat first?” the woman asked as she poured a cup of coffee.
Although it was early, her hair was neatly combed and she appeared well-rested and ready for the day. Perhaps as a safety measure, she spoke without looking directly at the wild woman who sat at the counter, still in the same clothes from the previous day with Medusa-like hair that was large and threatening.
The smell of fresh coffee mixed with the sounds of a plastic toy ramming the legs of a stool and the slurping of cereal and milk. A little boy in a fuzzy shirt and a pair of tiny, grey sweatpants played at their feet, pushing a toy truck back and forth with his own spluttered sound effects. He was content, happy to be at his mother’s feet, free to crawl and roam.
Refusing to acknowledge the question, the wild woman continued to shovel spoonful after spoonful of cereal into her mouth. The baby had already eaten and she had been up for hours and found herself suddenly shaking from low blood sugar.
Of course, the baby should eat first, she thought.
And I should just shrivel up and blow away, another hairball in the wind.
I sit across from a crooked, old man in a wheelchair. He is dressed in a wrinkled suit of tan linen with leather shoes and a deep brown felt derby hat. As I put the hard questions to him, he remains as calm and cool as the earth tones he wears. He explains away the rough patches of his life in stories with movement and flair, dancing around everything but a simple answer.
“You know about the Good Old Boys?”
He smirks when I shake my head.
“They ran this town in the 80’s. They had all of the drugs and you didn’t mess with them.”
I picture the “good, old boys” from my hometown with their pick-ups and lips full of chew, wearing flannel shirts and scuffed boots. Sure, they had guns, but they kept the safety on and used them for hunting or to run off trespassers and the occasional out-of-towner.
“I needed money, so I got mixed up with them and ended up in little bit of trouble.”
He refers to a hefty prison sentence for an armed robbery which involved cocaine, and an unregistered handgun.
“A little trouble, huh?”
Just like how the Good Old Boys of his past weren’t really “good”, this wasn’t what would be considered a little trouble. A speeding ticket or a warning for loud music was more like a little trouble than ten years in prison, but who was I to judge?
How easily could our backgrounds have been switched by being born to different families in different environments? In a parallel universe, maybe I sit across from him with a fly looking hat, a monochromatic suit and endless tales of adventure and danger. And in that world, I hope he can withhold judgement just long enough to listen and learn a thing or two about life on the streets.
The large conference room was filled with angry faces. Several tables were configured in a semi-circle around the accused and her comrades, who happened to be the management. The workers were on the edge of turning savage; they snarled and breathed heavily as they prepared for the meeting.
It was an airing of grievances, of which there were many.
Icily the accused stared out at the workers, refusing to look away. She sat with her straight back in perfect composure. There was no reason for her to answer to these swine. In front of her, she had neatly folded her hands one over the other, which would have been non-confrontational, if she hadn’t been wearing a pair of tight, black leather gloves.
Everything else about her was normal; light pink blouse, pleated slacks, modest, black heels and a dainty gold chain that lay softly over her collarbone and around her neck. She wore just a hint of makeup and kept her intricately braided hair pulled back with a clip.
Everything but those damned black leather gloves said she was willing to make peace.
Almost certainly, it was the gloves that tipped the workers over the fine line of decency. The gloves proved that she had something to hide, a reason to veil her dishonest hands and a lack of shame that anyone else was implicated.
The first stone was thrown, followed by another and then another. Her comrades stepped away, unwilling to risk being struck as well. Out of respect, they lowered their eyes, unwilling to participate in the violence but unable to stop it. Small pebbles grew into rocks with the workers’ confidence until finally a boulder was pushed over onto the accused. She held her hands up to shield the blow; the gloves did nothing to save her but they did send her out in criminal style.