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I Ate Your Meal, Didn't I?

Behind me I heard, "Ma'm, I'm starv'n. Could ya gives me fifty-cents so's I can get an orange?"

Indeedy, he be starv'n. A tall rack o'bones; panic in the yes. Under his arm be a ratty blanket with a bit o'rope hold'n the bundle square.

"Can't give you fifty-cents. Ain't in my budget," I said.

Turn'n to wander away, I catch'd his arm and said, "but, I got enuff to feed you." I eat my only meal out once a month at a Chinese, all-you-can-eat, $5.99 buffet.

Only day I burp after eat'n.

Today, I watch'd Anthony eat and cry'n silently do'n it. If he be a'normal weight, he'd be handsome. Not this day. Today, he be haunt'n the world, a shadow nobody sees or a financial leper many run from.

Hard to have compassion in a world full of pain, I guess.

Anthony live'd in California. Ran out of luck. Promised job broken. Same song, second verse. Could gets better, but usually worse.

Tummy half full brought the first smile from Anthony. "Never had this kind of food before. It's really good! I can eat all I want?" I nodded, then said, "just use a new plate every trip."

Was hard look'n at Anthony. I could feel his shame. His manhood in shambles. An abyss of life without a future.

Anthony went to fill another plate while I fiddled with the few dollars I have left in my jumper pocket. "I can make it six more days till my next earned benefit. Easy peasy, done it many times," sang thru my nogg'n.

I paid the waitress for Anthony's meal and she hand'd me back the tip. She's known me a long time. I smiled and got a big one back.

"Don't know what these are, but they sure are chewy," he said. "Muscles," I replied.

Kinda fun watch'n his face crinkle to a "Huh?"

As I explain'd what a muscle was, I laid the last of my money on the table in front of him and motion'd for him to put it in his pocket.

"I gotta go, Anthony. Eat all you want. It's OK. I paid the bill, so when you be done, just leave free," I said.

Tears came to his eyes and said, "Ma'm, I'm so sorry. I ate your meal, didn't I?"

"That be true. You got a full tummy and I got full of satisfaction. Good Ju-Ju all around," I said, smile'n.

Anthony grab'd my hand an kiss'd it like they do in the movies. "I have nothing to give you in return," he said quietly.

That's where you are so wrong, Anthony. So very, very wrong, I said to myself as I turn'd and left.

Things will get better. They just gotta.

Originally posted to Wendy's Wink on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:59 PM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Rebel Songwriters.

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