Wednesday, December 8, 2010

32. Indifference

C.W. and I were sitting on our balcony watching the sun sink over western Little Rock. Its rays combined with the ozone layer to produce a marvelous sight—physics and nature in a whirlwind of jagged colors. He whacked the railing with his “thumping stick” and regarded the sights our planet can produce.

He was in the form of a service station worker, complete with an insignia of a long-forgotten oil company. I would guess his assumed age at about 18.

“Where have you been?” I said. I guessed that he had been “enphasing” as he calls it—going back in time to revisit life in the past.

“Working in a service station in your hometown back in 1960,” he said. “Just a temporary job parking cars during the holiday season.”

“Seeing anything interesting?”

“Not much. Just observing how much calmer things were back then.” He paused and whacked the balcony again. “Oh we did fire somebody yesterday … that is the two bosses fired this colored man.”

“Don’t call people that,” I said. “Why did they fire him?”

“He didn’t call one of them sir, or something. They said he was a smart aleck.”

“Is that all?”

“Well he was a couple of minutes late coming back from dinner.”

“You mean lunch?”

“We call it dinner. Anyway, they said they wasn’t going to pay some smart assed ni…”

“That’s enough!”

“They wasn’t going to pay somebody like him 50 cents an hour and have to put up with his disrespect.”

“So they just fired him?”

“Well, he had to walk home every day for dinner since there wasn’t a place downtown for him to eat. He evidently lived way over on the east side and sometimes he was a few minutes late getting back.” He whacked the balcony again.

“So they fired him,” I said. “For being two minutes late?”

“Yep. Kinda sad seeing him turn around and head back home. Guess his wife was pretty disappointed when she found out.”

“Did you try to help?” I asked.

“Wasn’t none of my business,” he said.


He whacked once more and turned to me. “Did you ever help one of them back then?”

“No, I lacked the courage.” I paused and offered, though I know it was weak. “I never knowingly mistreated anybody of any color, though.”

“I see,” he said. “You know, your species has made an art form out of indifference.” He whacked the balcony.

“Careful,” I said. “You’ll chip the paint.”
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference. Elie Wiesel

“I just keep thinking about that man walking back to his family.” He stared at the city. “Well, got to go.”


“Got to select a shape for the peace march Saturday.”

“It’s been cancelled,” I said. “Not enough interest.”

“Crap,” he said, whacking my balcony rail again.

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