Feeding the Family

By Jose L. Recio

Taking the bus to work is more advantageous than driving since the bus stops close to my apartment and the hospital where I’m an assistant cook.

I’m 21. Most people on the bus are older than me. Rarely, anyone speaks; we exchange glances. In particular, a slim, elderly man — his hair, although white, is still abundant— catches my attention. He wears rimless, round glasses and has the air of a philosopher. He’s always on the bus when I board.

Yesterday, a young woman, wrapped in a worn shawl, sat on the bench under the bus-stop canopy. The morning was sunny and warm. A boy of about 5, with messy, brownish hair falling down past his ears and eyes played with a terrier on the sidewalk. I stood to the right of the woman.

A bus arrived. It wasn’t mine or theirs. It left. After it took off, I looked up and saw a heavyset man in a worn blue shirt and corduroy pants coming out of a McDonald’s across the street. He stood beside his truck unwrapping an Egg McMuffin.

“Psst,” the woman in the shawl whispered to the boy, jerking her chin towards the man.

The child commanded the dog, and they ran across the street, free of traffic at that moment. They lingered in the vicinity of the man briefly before the terrier jumped like an acrobat and snatched the sandwich out of the man’s hand. The dog ran holding the sandwich between its teeth.

“I’ll bring it back to you,” the boy said, chasing behind the dog.

The man wiped his greasy fingers on his pants.

“Don’t bother, kid, the dog has its tongue on it!” he yelled and walked back to the restaurant.

The terrier dropped his trophy at the woman’s feet. She picked it up and divided it into three portions. My bus came, and I boarded. Through the back windows, I saw the three of them on the bench enjoying the sandwich. Fascinating, I thought.

This morning, before taking the bus, for kicks, I went to the same McDonald’s and bought a McMuffin. I went out and stood on the curb, unwrapping it. Like yesterday, the family was under the canopy, watching me. Before I blinked thrice, the boy and the terrier were beside me. Knowing what they were after, I offered my food to the boy. With a grimace of disgust, he rejected it, and the dog peed on my shoe. Frustrated, they went back to the woman.

The bus arrived. I crossed the street in time to catch it. The philosopher sat in the front seat. We glanced at each other. “You disrupted their method,” he said. I was shocked. The man was reading Discourse on the Method, by René Descartes. “Enlightening,” I said and walked to the back.

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Jose L. Recio lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and their whippet. He enjoys attempting short fiction.

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