Tuesday, May 6, 2008


CYPRIAN LOATHED HIS position with the State. He'd been there too long. That's the way life goes if you haven't much drive...youth slips away in a fashion. As the months stretched into years, his vocation became monotonous and unbearable. Thus with time he fell into a dull torpor and developed an irrational hatred of poverty and the poor. Not once did he encounter the Joads and their Grapes of Wrath. Nor the struggling hard workers of Sinclair's Jungle. The poor he knew were a downright shiftless, cantankerous breed. His was an odious task: pacify, preen and mollycoddle a population of ne'er-do-wells. To become hardened to the actualities of poverty and all of it's ramifications was the vilest of tortures. He longed for the days of compassion. As a boy, on his trips through the old French Quarter, he never failed to place a coin in an up stretched palm if he had one to spare. Once he even volunteered at a soup kitchen, and in the shadow of his memory he remembered handing a steaming bowl of thin turkey gumbo to one of the unfortunates. “Thanks,” the man muttered, his breath redolent of wine. “You're welcome,” Cyprian quickly responded out of habit, more than anything. “I know damn good and well I'm welcome,” the man snarled back at him with vehement hatred. “I'm in a soup kitchen!” Flecks of white spittle gathered in the cracks of the man's meaty lips. Cyprian stared at him blankly for a minute, turned away and never forgot.

One thing for sure, the clients kept him on his toes. Cyprian jammed Cherry Gypsum's paperwork into a tattered brown cardboard accordion file, tossed it onto the floor near his feet and glanced toward the door. Next up were a couple of maudlin drunks. They squeezed into the room before he could air it out. Chester Monsoon and his shack-job, Elvira Logan. They cohabited in a fairly new trailer down the road, just off the highway in a trailer court on Dead Man Lane. Chester purchased the trailer with the proceeds of a lawsuit settlement. A rare but sage financial move. He liked to boast that there was a four-burner stove in there, a flushing toilet and even a small shower stall. The poor bastard had been injured in a barge collision on the river. Half-drunk on the job but never proven in court. Lawsuits were like the lottery to them- why not take a chance on winning? The same concept held true with Life Insurance policies. Once in a moon one of them croaked and the survivors hit the jackpot. They usually blew it in a fortnight...who's to say they were wrong?

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