- At the bus stop this morning a homeless man can tottering, leaning on a tin can cart and rattling. He asked me for a dollar and said he was a veteran of Vietnam. I said I hadn’t a thing and he just kept walking loudly on. The whole bus ride, I asked myself why I did not give. A dollar bill was nothing. Maybe if he had square, I could slide my card. I could tip him 10% for his kind demeanor. But I could not give him the 98 cents jangling in my purse. It was too embarrassing to give so little as a handful of coins and tip them into his unwashed hands. I leaned my forehead against the window and stuck an earbud in my ear until I reached my stop. Then I went home and had some soup.
- Helen walked up to Dan at the water cooler in the corner. People gathered there because, besides the water, the cubicles were a bit further back and hid you from view. The company picnic was coming up that weekend, Helen noted. Dan smiled.
“Yeah, I guess I’ll have to wrangle Sarah into coming with me.”
Helen laughed. They joked about how last year James from accounting had stolen the microphone and sang “Girls, They Want to Have Fun” while dancing across the picnic tables.
“I was thinking of inviting Jane.” Helen said.
“Jane is your roommate?” Dan asked.
“Yeah…” Helen trailed off, unsure of how to continue. “We’re together.”
“You should bring her!” Dan erupted.
“I don’t know.” Helen stuttered back. “It’s just, I don’t want it to be awkward.”
“Oh. Well, I think it’s great.” Dan assured her.
Helen paused, not sure what to say to that.
“Thanks.” She said, before heading back to her desk at Liberty Law. She pulled out her phone and texted Jane what she wanted to do for dinner that night.
- In the backseat, Molly and Ben curled up, sleeping. John looked back from the front seat and watched. The seatbelts strapping them in were twisting this way and that to accommodate them. The kids always slept so soundly after visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s. Driving through Georgia now, the highway lights glared. Gwen was getting sleepy at the wheel and soon he would take over. Then all of a sudden, the lights of a cop car flared and flashed. A child stirred. John stiffened. As the flashlight sauntered over, John shuffled through the glove box looking for the insurance card.
“You know why I pulled you over miss?” the cop asked.
“No, sir.” She said politely. “what seems to be the trouble?”
“Well, ma’am it seemed you were swerving a bit back there. Have you been drinking?”
“She hasn’t been drinking, officer. We’re just a bit tired from the drive.” John tried to sound as polite, as yes-sah, no-sah, as possible.
The cop looked at John as if for the first time. Gwen shifted in her seat. John froze, and noticed the beam of light on Gwen’s pale freckles and his dark skin. He could hardly breath.
“Alright.” The cop drawled out. John sucked in his breath.
“Just make sure to drive safe out there. Maybe you should take over the wheel and let the woman sleep a bit.” He smiled. John and Gwen looked up at the cop, speechless.
“You guys got a couple of cute kids there. Take care, now.”
John and Gwen looked at each other, squeezing hands and smiled.
“Want to sleep for a bit?” John asked.
Gwen nodded. The children were still sleep, their faces buried in the seat.
- Ralph and Jacob sat in their favorite armchairs, smiling. Ralph’s son had promised a nice long visit and Jacob’s granddaughter would arrive any minute now. To pass the time they had taken up knitting each other a new scarf. Ralph liked blue and Jacob liked to wear red and every once and a while as they made progress on the length, the clicking would stop and one would hold the scarf up to the other to see how much longer it needed to grow. The clock ticked by. Then as if by magic, a girl entered the doorway and smiled. Jacob’s granddaughter, back from college came rushing in and after the pleasant greetings back and forth between the three, Jacob and Rachel turned away and settled in for a long chat. Ralph continued his knitting, waiting for his son John. As the time ticked away, Rachel eventually left, waving goodbye cheerfully, Ralph began to check the clock by the door every few minutes. It was nearing the end of the visiting hours now, but there was still at least ten or twelve minutes left. John could still make it, Ralph thought. But time kept ticking, and still John didn’t show. Jacob reached out a hand and patted Ralph on the shoulder and then held out the end of the deep blue scarf to Ralphs sinking chin.
“I think that ought to be long enough.” He grumbled.
“I should say so!” Ralph barked. “Is it a scarf or a noose?”
“Whichever one you want, old man.” Jacob finished with a bind-off stitch, he wrapped it around Ralph. “I’ll help you hang it either way.”
- She walked down the sidewalk to the free clinic. Trying not to look at the people milling around the front entrance, she kept her head down. But as expected the group gathered itself together and raised their picket signs, chanting.
She wrapped her arms around her middle, not wanting to expose herself, then rushed up the concrete steps to the door, breathing heavy by the time she reached the top. In the waiting room she could see the tops of their signs, wavering over the edge of the windowsill. A staffer had given her a form to fill out and she leaned over it, trying to remember when her last period started and think of how to answer questions number 5 and 8 on the Counseling Worksheet.
“5. Is the decision to have an abortion easy or difficult for you?” No.
“8. Please explain your thoughts on ending this pregnancy.” I don’t know.
Then the phone rang behind the desk. The staff looked concerned, and tired.
“Excuse me everyone. I’m sorry but we need to shut down the building. It’s nothing to be alarmed about, but as you can see we have a growing number of protesters outside. There’s been a threat and we need to empty the building. Please exit through the side door here.” Those waiting shuffled out the waiting room and down the hallway, dispersing at the exit like water.
She was a block down when she realized she’d answered half the questions on the form, but had left the whole thing sitting on the waiting room chair. Most likely they would throw out the form when they went back in, but she thought uncomfortably about the answers. Her name was on there, in full.
Around the corner at the bus stop another girl sat hunched on the bench. She sat down next to the girl and folded her hands. She hadn’t brought anything to do while she waited.
“Were you at the free clinic?” the other girl asked softly.
She turned to the girl and noticed for the first time the black t-shirt she was wearing. UNBORN LIVES MATTER boldly printed across the front. The girl looked up at her and bit her lip.
“Do you know if…” the girl grew silent.
“Do you know if it costs much?” she asked.
She looked at the girl and shrugged.
“I didn’t find out.” She said.
“Oh. Thanks anyways.”
The bus pulled up and she got on while the girl waited for the 610 to Newport.
- Fill yours in here.
This week, Trebez and I wrote to the song “My Country Tis of Thee” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. You can read Trebez here.