Zodiac killer

“Hey!”

A grey, grizzled guy in a Kal Tire baseball cap got shoved backwards into the lineup of folks clad in their worn Salvation Army winter coats in front of the serving window.

I’m a naive kind of guy.

I looked up and directly over the 35’ish year-old woman’s shoulder that I had just handed a wax-paper bag containing an egg salad sandwich on multigrain bread.

At first I thought it was just a friendly greeting… a – “Hi, how are ya!”, until they began angrily shouting at each other.

I zipped out from behind the counter and stepped between the two “combatants”. I wasn’t going to be a hero or anything. “C’mon you guys, this isn’t the place or time.”  Did I look tough and menacing or what? NOT!!

The heated tension diffused quickly – more likely because they were afraid they’d be ejected before filling their empty bellies than because of my calming presence. My magic just ain’t that strong.

This is Lunch Time at my local soup kitchen.

Soup kitchen

11:30 to 12:30…. 365 days a year… Two or 3 soup choices, 4-6 sandwich varieties, sometimes a tossed green or potato salad, a wide choice of “stale-dated” desserts (cookies, pies, cake, muffins, jello), and lots of milk, juice and coffee to wash it all down.

And the price is right.

No charge, no questions asked. You wanna come for lunch, you’re welcome.

I wander in 2 or 3 mornings each month to chop all the vegetables needed for a “mirepoix”, the flavour base for most stews and soups: two parts onions, one part carrots, and one part celery.

And, depending on what’s been donated, sometimes we chop rutabagas or peppers or parsnips or cabbage or mushrooms to toss in the soup pots.

That’s a lot of chopped veggies when making enough soup to feed between 100 and 200, depending on the season, the time of the month, the temperature outdoors.

The angry “shover” in the “schoolyard” altercation – Paul – looks like a roly-poly grownup version of Charlie Brown – round head with a reflective sheen to his baldness, tiny pee-hole-in-the-snow-eyes.

I’ve come to know this fellow Paul from short interactions over the previous few months.

I know he’s a troubled guy, despite a usually calm, almost tender voice. A voice really quite soft for a man that likely approaches 250 or so pounds.

And when he speaks it’s with a Donald Trump-like lips-forced-outwards position as if he’s trying to blow kisses while he’s talking.

trump

And like Trump, he’s a guy with dark demons inside.

Paul asked if he could help at the soup kitchen on Christmas day because he didn’t want to be alone and he doesn’t like anyone in his family.

A couple of months back, Paul buttonholed me while I was “bussing” – clearing and cleaning tables after the soup and sandwich and desserts had been consumed by the daily flock.

He – out of nowhere – asked if I had read a book about, or heard of this guy – a serial killer known as the Zodiac Killer.

Ah…. nope …“. I continued to wipe down the table nonchalantly, fearfully worried he might be making a confession.

He continued on, “The Northern California based Zodiac Killer claims he murdered 37 people in the late 1960’s, although police have only confirmed 7. Two of them survived the attacks.”

With each passing word he spoke, his level of animation and fascination grew, his eyes took on a luster of excitement in the telling of his story, his knowledge, his fascination.

For 10 minutes he had me cornered, while he outlined the details of the nasty man and his nastier deeds, how the police had mismanaged the case and had never found the culprit.

I listened as my mind raced in circles to determine if talking about the serial killer was just an academic fascination, or … was there an internal excitement for him, maybe a sexual arousal, almost a desire to be him?

I’m not a trained therapist or student of the mind; I never know who the killer is ahead of time in TV police dramas – I’m just not that capable of reading people.

I don’t know the inner turmoils or traumas that have shaped and affected Paul’s life.

I know he has struggles, I know he feels inner pain from things that have happened.

I also know that every person, every man, every woman, passing in front of the service window where I hand out a sandwich and a bowl of steaming soup has an inner story, a personal struggle.

The folks I see at the soup kitchen are the “Walking Wounded”, the ones whose conflicts have left them too damaged to fully function in our world in a way we would describe as “normal”.

If we repaired their teeth, gave them a shower and some fresh clothing, most of those I encounter at the soup kitchen – at least those who aren’t meth addicts with pockmarked ravaged faces – outwardly, they could be “Us”, you or me.

In amongst our smiles and joys and cheerfulness, small, or sometimes large grey clouds float in and out of our days.

Humanity gives no person, no matter how rich, no matter how famous, no matter how talented, a free pass on troubles.

Really?

Yup. All of us are “Walking Wounded” …

It comes down to degrees.

It comes down to circumstances, strength, attitude and probably the resilience within our genetics.

I was lucky to be born in the 20th Century. I was lucky to be born in affluent North America. I was lucky to be raised within a loving family.

It’s a sunny day in my mind knowing that I’m the one standing on the serving side of the soup kitchen counter.

And it’s REALLY sunny if, after a morning of peeling, dicing and chopping big bags of carrots and onions and celery, I can walk out the Soupateria door … and … because I’m a numbers guy, still count to 8 … oops, sorry … 10 on my fingers.

finger-slice

 

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