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The Veteran

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Rain covered the city in a cold wet blanket that night. It soaked everything out of doors, running down the alleys and storm drains like a rushing river. It splashed through gutters, spraying over old trash long discarded and forgotten. Rusted street lamps flickered in the dark, shining through the downpour. The deafening tshhhhhh of the rain silenced all other noise.

The city was drenched and waterlogged as the morning sun shone through a layer of thin, gray clouds, which no longer spilled but instead laid a wispy mist over the skyscrapers of the awakening metropolis. Taxis, cars, and busses swished on the wet roads. The metro rails buzzed with damp steel on damp steel. Pedestrians bustled along on their way to work, pulling jackets tight against the chill of early air.

A taxi pulled up next to a cracked sidewalk. A pale man in a dark business suit stepped quickly from the yellow cab. He handed the driver a handsome tip and took out a black leather briefcase.

The man stood stiffly on the curb as the taxi sped off. Then he hurried down the sidewalk at a brisk pace, glancing nervously at his watch every few seconds. There was a crosswalk ahead. A morning jogger had just crossed the street, the cords of an I-pod bouncing on her shoulders. The few cars there were waiting for the light to turn green.
The businessman started across. Cars on the street beside him sprayed water over his custom-made suit and he cursed.
The crosswalk light turned to stop just as the businessman reached the other side. In his haste, his briefcase slammed against a nearby parking meter. The buckles snapped open and important papers scattered on the moist ground. He cursed vilely this time, snatching up the wet files and reports. Several papers drifted over to an old bench.
A man in a soaked, tattered army uniform with a purple heart stitched to one pocket was seated on that bench. He had not shaven in quite a while and his hair fell about his shoulders in a bedraggled mess. One of his legs stuck out at an odd angle and a pair of crutches rested next to him. There were dark shadows under his eyes. A tin cup sat on the bench beside him with “Disabled Veteran” written in black marker on it. He bent down, picked up the papers, and handed them to the businessman with an imperfect smile.
The pale man looked with disgust at the filthy hands giving him the papers. He snatched them away and dug in his pocket for some spare change.
“I doubt yer boss ‘ould be that evil if ya’ just explained what happened ter him,” the veteran coughed.
“You wouldn’t understand,” replied the businessman curtly.
“I wouldn’t?”
“No.”

“I was like ya’ once, ‘till the war changed me. Almost died over there.”

The man in the dark suit dropped a couple quarters into the can, but said nothing.

“Thanks,” muttered the veteran.

As the businessman buckled up his briefcase and walked off, the veteran called sourly after him, “Why don’t ya’ look at yo’self in a mirror today. Ya’ might notice what’s happenin’ with all this rushin’.”




Rain covered the city again in a cold, wet blanket that night. It soaked everything out of doors, running down the alleys and storm drains like a rushing river. It splashed through gutters, spraying over old trash long discarded and forgotten. A rusted street lamp flickered over an empty bench and a dented parking meter, shining through the downpour.
In an expensive restaurant a few blocks away, a man in a ragged green uniform with crutches sat across from a pale businessman in a dark suit. A waiter took their order as they talked and laughed, ignoring their differences and the battering rain outside.





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