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Crystal discovers a secret about the stories.
Michael actually laughed as he pictured using a soup bowl to stay dry. Jim Bower, the shelter manager, ushered him into a large basement room. Row after row of tables were packed elbow to elbow with denizens of the dark taking shelter from the storm.
He felt a little guilty because he had plenty of money in wallet to buy a meal. He simply chose not to and was eating only enough to stay alive. His body had grown gaunt. This was the first hot food he had eaten since in over a week. It felt good.
He was glad to see his table companions were more interested in eating than conversation. He was also relieved there was no preaching.
As Michael was leaving he sought out the man who had invited him inside. He walked up and down the aisles looking for him. Along the walls were families, well mothers with children actually. Not a father was in sight. His own father walked out when he was five and he knew how the children felt.
He spotted Jim in the back washing a huge pot. "Thank you for the soup." He handed him $20. "I hope this covers it."
"Thank you brother. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Please, feel free to stop in any time."
He went home and did something different. He didn't drink a beer. Not a one. He was too busy thinking about the children he had seen, huddled with their mothers in a strange place. The terror in their faces haunted him.
It was almost two weeks before he worked up the nerve to stop back at the shelter for a meal. He was greeted by an elderly woman. "Welcome friend. I'm sorry but we're a little backed up. A couple of our regular volunteers called in sick so we're shorthanded."
Michael looked around the room. There was a long line waiting for food. He spotted Jim Bower busing tables and walked over, "Excuse me, I don't know how to do anything but I'll help any way I can."
"Thank you brother. You're a God send. Put this apron on and follow me." He spent the next four hours ladling out soup, washing dishes, and making coffee...strong coffee.
They ran out of food around nine. By then the conversion into sleeping quarters was well under way. Michael carried load after load of army surplus cots and blankets out of the storage room. He made sure the mothers and kids had everything they needed and didn't leave until everyone was secure for the night. When he got home he collapsed into his recliner and fell asleep without thinking. He dreamt happy dreams for the first time since his divorce.
Across town Mr. & Mrs. Allen Jacmann were attending a $1,000 a plate fundraiser for a local politician. It was election time and this was their fifth black tie dinner in the last two weeks. Merilee's biggest complaint was her new $350 high heels were uncomfortable. Allen had picked them out for her. In fact, he had picked out her entire outfit including the designer dress and the lingerie under it. She was his Barbie doll.
While her husband pressed the flesh she, the dutiful wife, followed one step behind trying not to look bored to tears. The blisters growing on her feet were her only distraction. She couldn't wait for the meal-typical banquet hall fare at best-so she could slip off her shoes. But that would be at least another thirty minutes.
Allen toasted the senator with a glass of Champaign then left his trophy wife to work the room. A smart businessman likes to make friends with the elected officials who regulate his industry.
She made her way over to a group of abandoned trophy wives. All were bedecked in jewelry with professionally applied makeup and perfectly coiffured hair. Merilee recognized them from a dozen other such events but couldn't remember a single name.
Evidently they didn't remember hers either as no one greeted her by name; instead they exchanged air kisses and generic hellos.