We see the same faces passing by every day, my faithful wife and I. Ghosts walking by our windows, their faces gaunt and pale. Their speech slurred, almost hauntingly so. They held up signs, although most of which read similar messages. “Will work for food,” “Feed me,” “Spare change?” You had to feel sorry for the beggars and homeless on the streets when you run a respected, neighborhood diner.
Their faces unwashed, we thought that we could not just feed them for free. Then regular patrons would always demand the same treatment, that it would be unfair and unjust. Yet, at the same time, we couldn’t just leave them out there to just rot either. We had to help them. We looked at the picture of our son, who went and never returned from war, and that was how our idea struck.
The next day, when the night was going by lazily, we let this one man in. He introduced himself as Kyle. Kyle was one of those people. He had been sleeping in alleyways and the outskirts of town for years after he was lain off and lost his home, unable to make a living for himself with how bad the economy was doing.
He ordered a brisket, the diner’s specialty.
In the kitchen, as she was preparing the man’s food, my wife asked me if what we were doing was right. If our method, if this this was a way to truly guide them. After a long discussion, I assured her that our friend Kyle would be thankful for us helping him along his way.
Kyle’s eyes lit up as we brought the plate out, and he began to chow down quickly. He was a hungry one, we wondered when was the last time he ever had a good meal exactly. His mouth was almost mechanical in how quickly it took in and chewed and swallowed each bite down. With a small smile, he thanked us for the wonderful meal. We just smiled on, out of courtesy more than anything else.
He blacked out, and was later pronounced dead by the police. We covered it up well. After all, it turned out that the homeless man had a fatal disease and could have died any day. A bit of luck on our side there.
The second. The third. The fourth. All these wretched souls that were set free. Free of the suffering from homelessness, disease and starvation!
Our efforts were put at rest after one certain customer came in. It still haunts us to this day, not a moment goes by where we think about what we had done that one evening.
He told us that his name was Jason as I held the door open for him. He was a very scruffy man, in ragged and dirty clothing. It was an eyesore just staring at the poor son o’ a bitch for too long. He needed help, and we were the ones to set him on that path to a better place, a special and celestial kind of home up high. God was calling him, to take him home with wide open arms. I felt it in my bones, in my blood. We gave him a big meal of steak to eat, and like the rest he did not seem to notice that it had been spiked with poison.
Oh, how he loved it. He told us how it reminded him of his mother’s cooking when he was a child. We smiled in unison and waited. Waited for his freedom, and soon it came as always as we watched his eyes close for the very last time.
The investigator, per usual, came as soon as possible. Surprisingly still, they had not suspected a single thing despite the bodies piling up. At least until we turned ourselves in. The man was apparently an amnesiac after a tragedy a few years back. The doctor looking him over noticed that the slum was wearing dog tags around his throat, and my heart sank as he read the name. I was confused at first, but then it struck home; it turned out that our poor, dear son never did die in the war after all.