Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Potluck (Meal or Gathering) Deadline 7-26-12 @ 10 AM NY Time (07/19/12)
TITLE: The Rag-Tag, Hodge-Podge, Potluck Gang
By Yvonne Blake
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Scats pulled the ragged blanket tighter around his shoulders and adjusted the balled-up piece of leather under his head. "Leave me alone."
"You got to listen to me. They're givin' us free food."
That opened his eyes. "Free food? Where?"
"Up on the hill, at the mansion."
Scats sat up and scratched his head. "Now, why would Fancy Pants be handing out free food at his place? You're dreamin'."
"Preacher Ben, over at the mission, he told me to spread the word— to tell everyone. There's enough for whoever will come."
"But those folks on the hill don't ASSO-CEE-ATE with the likes of us." Scats put his fingers in his imaginary lapels and lifted his nose in the air. "It's probably just a trick to get us off the streets. You watch. There'll be some sort of catch to it."
"I'm goin' to go check it out." Kuto's eyes sparkled with excitement. He ran his fingers through his grimy blond hair. "I figure, it don't hurt none to see what's happenin', right?" Kuto trotted off into the shadows.
Scats scratched his whiskery chin. "Well, I'll be!" He supposed he ought to check it out. "Food is food, even if you didn't understand why it's free."
He looked down at his baggy pants and torn shirt. He sure didn't feel presentable to be calling on the owner of a mansion, but these were his good clothes. Actually, they were his only clothes. They'd have to do.
As Scats scuffed through the alley, he almost stepped on a kid, huddling under a cardboard box. Her face was thin and bruised. She flinched when Scats reached out his hand. "I ain't goin' to hurt you. My name is Scats. What's yours?"
She held his gaze with dark sad eyes, but didn't answer.
Scats wondered if she understood English. "Espanol? Francais?"
Scats pretended to eat and motioned for her to follow. Understanding and hope brightened her eyes. "Poor kid; you're starving." He shook his head. "Yeah, I know how that feels—been there more times than I can remember." He motioned to her again. "Come with me. I hear there's a rich fella handin' out free food."
By the time Scats reached the big open gate, he had collected a few more of his friends: Manuel, Wang Li, and Ol' Eric. Scat saw Kuto's blond hair among the crowd. He was carrying a boy on his back. Others were on crutches and wagons. Some had oozing sores, and a few were blind.
What a rag-tag, hodge-podge, potluck gang they were! The only thing they had in common was their lack of luck, if you believed in such things. Yet each knew that the others had their back when times got tough. When one was blessed, all were blessed, for they knew that it was better to have a crust of bread with friends than to have a whole loaf with enemies. Food was life; food was hope.
Scats looked over his should nervously, waiting for the law to show up. I don't get it. It just don't make sense.
Men in white uniforms escorted the beggars through the gate-house one by one. Scats strained to see what was beyond it. Manuel pranced to the opening of the wall. "Lookee here! They's givin' us all new clothes. I'm a new man!" He was dressed from head to heel in a full suit and shiny shoes.
Scat scuffed his feet and kept a wary eye behind him. Why would anyone do this? Why would someone care about this bedraggled lot of scum—about him? It didn't make sense, but the thought that someone DID care kept him moving closer and closer to the promise of something better.
On the other side of the gate, Scats rubbed his shaven chin and smiled. He brushed his hand over his new clothes. I don't deserve to be here. I don't deserve this kindness and love. He hoped he could thank the master of the mansion.
A fanfare of trumpets quieted the crowd, and they were ushered into a majestic room with a vaulted ceiling. Thousands of people gathered together, a smorgasbord of cultures, colors, and languages. Tables stretched beyond his sight, each loaded with meats, goblets, fruit, and breads.
Scat saw his name on a card—his real name, Scot Michael Thompson. He opened it.
Welcome home, my child.
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