By Niles Reddick
Tonight, these rich, carnival folks are all here at the civic centre, eating filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes, and guzzling wine. They’re all dressed like Egyptians complete with that crazy eye make-up, even on the men. Most are wearing some white robes with jewelry draped around their necks and sandals.
I remember when my Mama would cook for them.
“Those rich people ain’t got nothing better to do except spend money on themselves,” she’d say. “They wanted a carnival like the Mardis Gras one in New Orleans, so they dreamed all this up, made rules, created groups named after Egyptian gods and pharaohs like Osiris, Ra, Nefertiti. Some are named for the monuments like the Great Pyramid or the Sphinx. If I live to be one hundred, I won’t ever understand why they don’t put their time and money to helping others, like the Bible told us to.”
This year’s queen, an art and gymnastics teacher, is going to come swinging from the roof and drop down into the center of the room on a trapeze, just like in a circus. She’s draped in peacock feathers on her glittery gown and wearing a feathered plume on her tiara. Spotlights will be on her and she’ll do a dance, I imagine like them Bangle girls that sang “Walk like an Egyptian.” Tomorrow morning, most of them will swallow aspirin, head to their churches, write a big check, and take Sunday afternoon naps, before they all go back to reality on Monday.
As for me, I’m just a rent-a-guard wearing a cheap knockoff police uniform, carrying a billy club (they don’t let us carry guns), and perching on this stool to keep the door secure. I am to make sure no homeless derelicts from tent city across the street get in here. There’s about five hundred homeless living in tent city, a makeshift camp down in the woods by the creek. I’ve heard it’s not that bad, but I’ve never seen it and can’t imagine living in a tent come winter.
I make minimum wage, and if I get the door for the Egyptians, some of them will slip me a buck or two. I imagine they’ll save me a plate, too. I don’t know when I’ve had a filet mignon.
I’ve already had to shoo one of the homeless from the door, but they see the cars over here, hear the music, and some of them are gonna get in a car or two that’s left unlocked and try to find some CDs, loose change, or if they’re lucky, a purse with some cash or credit cards they can charge up tonight. They’ll share, too. It’s like Robin Hood over there. They stick together and help each other. Each other is all they got.
To the Egyptians, the homeless are like zombies in the night coming out, committing crimes. And the homeless, well, they hate the Egyptians. They see them as unhelpful when they have the ability. They don’t like the food at the soup kitchen and they don’t like the used clothing they get access to at the second hand store.
Personally, I don’t agree with the homeless because I know the Egyptians throw some money toward the homeless charities in the community even though most of that money goes to pay the people who run the charities, but I’m not one to create a ruckus. I remember what my Mama said: “If you’re gonna move up and get somewhere in this life, you gotta play their game. One day it might change, but more than likely, the players’ll change, and the game won’t.”
Tonight, instead of the usual hustle-and-bustle of carnival goers and festivities, I hear whispers and sirens. Somebody went and hit one of them homeless tent city people, a teenage girl, who’d been kicked out of her Egyptian parents’ house for alcohol and drugs. She’d come back home from rehab and started on the alcohol and drugs again. I heard her parents were devastated, said they’d done all they could. They haven’t found which Egyptian ran over her and likely won’t. I heard they’re gonna start a scholarship over at the college in her name. I bet somebody’s already got her tent.
Copyright© 2020 by Niles Reddick
BIO: Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.