Benefit

April 26, 2009
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The shimmering silver bowl is what first caught Neal’s eye and stopped him momentarily. There was a dollar bill and a few dirty quarters inside of it. A wet piece of cardboard that read God Bless You was taped to the inside, the cardboard curling, and the ink beginning to smear. The man sitting behind the bowl was covered in layers of blankets and coats, though it was only fifty-five degrees. There was a hole where his face should have been, but abyss now resided there. Neal scanned down the man’s body. It was nearly impossible to decipher a person out of the mass of blankets that curved along the beach chair’s angles—the feet. Two crusty Reebok shoes, no socks, two dirty shins. Hair and dirt plagued the pale legs, which did not move an inch. Neal stared at the shining bowl. The glint of the moon caught his eye. He kept walking.
A young man with his hair in a ponytail approached as Neal neared his destination. He began to preach about the horrors of the current administration: New York’s gonna be under water in twenty years. We gotta stop this. Can you sign this? Neal glanced at the man. His eyes were slightly red and a distinct sweet smell emanated from his clothing. Here look at this packet. If you take a look here—Neal proceeded to walk. He couldn’t be late.
Neal buttoned the top button on his new suit as he walked through the revolving glass doors. He approached the front desk and inquired as to where he was supposed to be. A finger and a few words showed him to a pair of large wooden doors, propped open. The grand room was carpeted and had chandeliers hanging every ten yards or so. They lit an area full of men with Italian suits and women with fancy dresses. In the center of the room was four counters, arranged in a square, behind which men in tuxedos twisted caps and poured drinks into small cups. Neal immediately approached the bar closest to him and ordered ginger ale. He handed the man one of the tickets he had been mailed with his invitation a few weeks earlier and moved to a group of three other men. They discussed all the problems the new administration would be facing, the spiraling economy that was putting millions out of jobs, relations with newer, stronger foreign powers halfway across the world, the damage we have been doing to our economy just to increase our GDP: the same things Neal had been talking about at these events for years. He had to excuse himself several times to replenish his small plastic cup and deplete his supply of drink tickets. After about an hour and a half of conversing the lights in the room dimmed. A horde of people formed a line at the door that led to an even grander ballroom where they would all hear the night’s keynote speaker discuss the compromises that had to be made in the television industry these days. Neal thought the speaker was the man responsible for saving not only television, but the entire media industry. He was a hero. Neal followed the crowd to get in line. On his way to the door he stopped at the bar he had frequented several times during the night, uttered a thank you, and dropped a twenty dollar bill into the silver bowl that sat on the countertop, lit up by the chandelier above it.





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