>Back in the Soup Kitchen


The days became shorter, slowly. When the heat peaked, people did not like to exert themselves, their tempers flared, and they had little patience. Even the homeless folks in the kitchen were slow to move, eager to take their time. 
Eventually he could not bear it any longer. He had to say something to this man who felt so entitled to peace and escape.  While he swept around the man, who was eating his thirds, he nearly stuttered. The thin clunky sunglasses prevented eye contact but Gabriel Arnold was resilient. “What did you do today?” he asked.
The man looked at him warily. Gabriel watched his spoon-hand hover in midair.
“I lived.”
“But what do you do?”
“I existed.” He sipped his spoon.
“Well I always hear you talking about highfalutin (here he felt good about himself for using a polysyllabic word) ideas and the Man, and I just want to know what you do.” His obsequious tone undermined the haughtiness of his words. 
“Listen, kid. When you see what I’ve seen, then we can talk. Until then, you have no idea what makes the world tock.”
“Money.” The man looked up at him after quickly slurping some soup, his mouth ajar. “Exactly. And how do you make money? You pour your eyes out until you become fecal and defunct. What did I do today? I stayed alive kid. I lived.”
“Do you work?”
“Of course I work. He works, you work, I work. We all fucking work. Don’t you see that’s how it happens?”
“What happens?
“Jeezus hailmary fucking Christ. I’m not your fucking mentor. Go home, kid.”
“No, seriously. If you live then you work. But you don’t buy your own food. Why do you think you’ve got it all figured out?”
    The man threw his spoon into his empty bowl. He rose quickly and left without looking back.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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