This is a repost of yesterday’s post. Writelee could not resist adding the word “grubby,” which qualifies for the Ragtag word of the day. “Grubby” should have been put into the original. There are a few other edits.
Writelee has a discomfort about this sketch and the whole series that began with “I Only go Because I Need”, though he likes it. He would be interested in reader’s speculation as to why he is discomforted.
I was wondering if I should spend twelve dollars at Olivia’s for a hamburger and fries or if I should wait until 5:00 when the Shelter started serving. Their menu was a flat chili from a can and stale saltines. I had thirty-eight dollars and seventy-two cents from my monthly check. I put two dollars in the donation jar at the Shelter if I had it. I was feeling pretty charitable toward myself. So, I was going through the park toward downtown, thinking “Olivia’s and hamburger.” I could stop by the Shelter later for desert and drop two dollars, and I’d still have just about twenty-five. It was only three more days until I picked up my monthly check. So twenty-five was plenty.
The clock on the tower behind the big church was on 1:29. There was a large crowd walking among tents and canopies in the church yard. Under one, people were sitting at tables and being served grilled chicken and macaroni salad and apple pie. I walked out of the park and crossed the road. Grilled-chicken smoke wafted from a cooker near the gate to the church yard. There was a tagboard sign nailed to the post of the gate that said,
South Trinity Baptist Church
Annual Mission Fund
Feed the Hungry
Fund Raiser Feast
Fete and Festival,
$15 per plate,
Game Tickets $2, or fifteen for $10
Meal, 3 drinks, and 30 Game tickets for $50
Irene and Benj Philbrotum and Dolly Presterton sat at a folding table in front of the gate. I knew Dolly from the Shelter. She stood behind the serving table on Monday’s and slopped chili into paper bowls. Irene and Benj were in real estate and horse people who lived out on East Bench Road. Benj was running for Mayor on the ‘Clean-Up-Our-Town ticket. Their pictures were plastered all over town. In the picture plastered all over town there is a guy sitting on the sidewalk behind their campaign faces. The guy sitting on the sidewalk had an X through his face. That guy is me, but they probably do not know who it is.
There were three colored rolls of tickets and a cash box on the table in front of Irene, Benj and Dolly. The cash box was pretty stuffed, but there were still a lot of tickets.
I walked up to the table with the cashbox and ticket rolls on it. Dolly changed her church smile to her Shelter look, a curled lip that went all the way to her flat eyes. Irene and Benj both wore campaign grins.
“Whad you want,” Dolly said.
“I’m hungry,” I said. I nodded to the sign behind her.
“Jesus Christ!” Dolly said. “You grubs think it’s all free.”
“Fifteen dollars,” Benj said. His campaign grin did not make it to his eyes. It told me he knew I did not have fifteen dollars.
“When did you eat last,” Irene said. Her campaign grin was gone.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Dolly said.
“You got fifteen?” Benj said. He pretended to start to tear off a blue ticket.
“Yesterday at the shelter,” I said. After they slopped us dinner, they had given us a box lunch, but we gave ours to Del Brist for his kids. Del nailed prefab walls in the factory. He brought his kids to the shelter for dinner because then he could afford the trailer they lived in. We usually gave the box lunch to Del. I did not say anything about the box lunch. What I did with the box lunch wouldn’t mean anything one way or the other.
Irene reached over Dolly and took the blue roll from her husband. She tore off a ticket, and held it out to me.
“For the love a God,” Dolly said. “You want every loser in this town to be bringing their grubby stink here and begging for fifteen dollar tickets?” She grabbed at the blue ticket, but Irene curled her hand around it.
Benj just grinned, but his eyes were flat and cold, and he looked at me as if I were dog shit on the ground.
I took my hand out of my pocket and peeled the twenty off the top of my roll. “I’m thirsty, too,” I said.
I handed the twenty to Irene. “I don’t need a ticket. Just bring a plate and a plastic cup.”
Dolly’s O’ed her mouth and gapped like a fish. Benj’s eyebrows went up, and he looked away.
Irene held the blue ticket out to me. “You’re welcome to go in,” she said.
Dolly un-gapped and said, “Christ.”
I shrugged. “Just bring a plate and cup,” I said. “I don’t belong in there.”
“Sanest thing out of you all day,” Benj said. He was still grinning, but he was looking off somewhere else.
Irene stood up. She went to get me a plate.
I waited in front of the table.
“Move on so people can get in,” Benj said. That grin had not gone away but it was not a happy grin. There wasn’t anybody behind me, so I just stood there.
“Jesus, some people.” Dolly said.
When Irene came back, the plate was covered with foil and the plastic cup was nearly full of wine.
“O, sweet Jesus,” Dolly said. “Wasting good Chardonnay on a grubby old alchy.” She shook her head. I am not old. But I did not think acquainting her with this fact was useful.
A worried, hurt frown went across Irene’s face. But she handed me the plate and then the cup. She did not want to hand me the cup, I could see that. But she did. I took the plate and cup. The plate was warm. I set the cup on the table.
“I didn’t know it was wine,” I said. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
The worried frown straightened off Irene’s face, and she smiled at me. She started to rummage in the cash box for a five, but I held up my hand. “Feed the hungry,” I said.
I turned and crossed the street and went into the park. When I looked back, Dolly was drinking from the cup. There were four pieces of chicken and a large dollop of potato salad on the plate, and I went looking for someone to eat with.