Viet Nam War Veteran: 50ish years old, divorced father, conscious bothers him because he committed unspeakable acts of violence in the war waged by his country against people that he did not know. He is an addict, has multiple illnesses and is in constant pain. He hungers for relief and finds solace in a weird temporary freedom of the streets. Here, he can hate everyone for no reason except that they are better off than he because his country ruined who he could have been.
His dog: mangy, mutt, loves his master who will feed his dog before himself. They drink wine from the same paper cup.
Other street people: The not quite his companion woman in raggedy strips of cloth that is in danger of falling off her as the wind and surf and sand score her flesh. She is always smiling and seems oblivious to their conditions.
Occasionally, other homeless people greet him; some are families with no visible means of survival. They look more dead than alive with a corpse-sick pallor.
Travelers and passersby: People who are in the catbird seat, they observe and cluck about the unlucky homeless among them. Each family admits that they have one in that condition, too. They drive by quickly, trying not to stop and the intersection where those unfortunate panhandlers stalk them.
Narrator: Tells the story of these intermingled lives to bring attention to the plight of these humans and force you to question your assumptions and motives. Ultimately, the piece informs and motivates positive reactions.
He is waiting for you; that man begging for our cash on the freeway off ramp by Kmart. Is he just plain lazy, stupid or nuts? He is a Vet who never got debriefed after being turned into an indiscriminant, killing machine by our military. His shreds of dignity will not allow him to venture into the VA office for the well-deserved entitlements rewarding his numerous acts of valor on and off the raging battlefields of Viet Nam.
That mangy dog he keeps with him must be his only friend. The off-ramp is his ticket to self-reliance and maybe something to eat with the ferment he consumes to keep his blood from curdling or cracking like glass shards in the cold, damp of the rapidly approaching night.
He has a few human friends, too. There is a woman just down the ramp about six feet from him, blending in with the ice plant. She is another of the invisible people who choose to beg for their living because their hand was dealt from the bottom of the deck. Her image burnishes in your conscious and you think good thoughts for her and simultaneously wish you did not have to even see them when you get to the stop sign of the off-ramp.
This is your chance to do something good for the less fortunate. You dig in your ashtray and find the spare change; they know you are going to be generous today and toothily smile at you. They say "God bless you!" as you hand them your change.
You are speechless because your mouth is crammed with that huge bite of meaty or vegan Togo's you intended to savor while coasting down the ramp before you caught wind of them. You can't wait to reach the next stop so you can swill some cooling cola for your parched dry mouth. Continuing on your journey, your thoughts at first are controlled and rewarding.
You have committed a good deed, today. And, you probably did not want anything in return for it, at first. But now, you know better than that. Of course God will bless you and everything you hold dear because of your one act of kindness or mercy today. You deserve for God to reward and show you how grateful and how much better the world is because you originally acted of out genuine compassion for a stranger. It doesn't matter that you expect something in return, even on such a nebulous, spiritual level, does it? At least you gave.
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