Wednesday, February 09, 2011


His children were still asleep when he left for work this morning.  He kissed his little boy in the early light, pressed his lips to his little girl’s sandy hair, and said, “I love you” in a whisper no louder than the morning breeze.

His wife, even more beautiful in the faint morning light than she always was, took his hands in hers and kissed him by the front door.

“Have a good day,” she told him.

“As long as I have you to come home to,” he told her.

He kissed her one more time, and opened the front door.  The air that greeted him was crisp and cool, and he took a deep breath.  He began the long walk to work, amid the busyness of the city’s streets.  The front-door shops seemed to rub their eyes and yawn and stretch to welcome the day.  Food sizzled over open fires as the two-table restaurants opened for breakfast.  He breathed deeply of the smell of frying eggs.

A street dog scampered alongside him, and he nodded a hello.  The dog stayed with him for a full block, before finding a more interesting scent in a small pile by the roadside.  He nodded good-bye, and he lifted his eyes to a sight that pleased him every morning.

She stood at the front door of her shop, which was also the front door of her home, sweeping yesterday’s dust from her steps.

“Good morning.”  His voice was pleasant, but the smile in his mouth didn’t quite reach his lips.  It didn’t go with the uniform.

“Good morning.”

She paused as he walked by, resting her hand on the broom handle.  She couldn’t help but let her eyes linger as he walked by.  That uniform looked great.

He arrived at work and let the captive smile go free to greet his coworkers.  He enjoyed his work, stressful as it could be, because he liked the men he worked with.  They could count on each other.  They were a family.  He knew that was a rare gift, and said a prayer of thanks every day.  He and his coworkers always shared a joke and a laugh with each other as they went about the business of their day.  It was one way of coping with “The Element”.

“The Element,” he called them.  As in, “The unseemly element”.  The riffraff.

And he dealt with society’s most unseemly Elements, in a long succession, every day.  Their faces, though many, seemed to take on one, generic face.  Dirty, suspicious, and afraid.  He administered his role to them equitably, though, and even with some pleasure

He approached the stone wall where his tools hung awaiting his able hands.  The handle was cleaned meticulously every night (a thoroughly relaxing experience), and he enjoyed the sheen of the shining leather in the morning sunlight.  He lifted it from the wall and approached the small, open-air, walled area he liked to call “The Workshop.”

A man sat at a desk, pen in hand, ready to give instruction.  The Element stood in the open area, looking as it usually did: tired, dirty, and to him, quite guilty.  This one looked particularly bedraggled, and he chuckled a little to the man at the desk.

“He looks like he’s been through it already!” he said.  “What can we do for him?”

“Forty minus one.” the man at the desk said blandly.

“Forty minus one.” he repeated.  

He smiled, and set about his work.