It was a cold night. A fine sleet pelted me as I walked down Seneca towards town to do some last minute shopping. Walking on the north side of the street, I approached 6th Avenue where cars came roaring off the freeway. I wasn’t paying much attention as I looked straight ahead, hoping to make the light.
I felt something hard press against my back. A gruff voice said, “Sir, I will not hurt you, but I want your money. You can keep your cards, just give me your money.”
I turned around to look. The man had a dark beard, wore a bill cap and had a neck scarf thrown around his neck with the last swing covering his face except his eyes. His gun was pointing right at my heart.
“My friend, if you need money you don’t have to rob me for it and endanger yourself to many years in jail. I’ll share what I have with you.”
I took out my wallet and removed the bills and said, “Okay, here is a ten for you and a ten for me, a twenty for you and a twenty for me.” I gave him another ten and a five and took the same for me. “Here’s a one for you and another one for me. I’ve got an extra buck so you can have it. That leaves me forty-six bucks for groceries this next month.”
“Is that all the money you have?” he asked.
“That will not do,” he said. “I don’t rob poor people. Here let me share with you.” He stuck the money I had given him in his pocket, opened his wallet and gave me two 100 dollar bills.
“You are not going to get rich giving back more than you take,” I said.
“Getting rich is not why I rob. I give most of the money I take to homeless people.”
“You could get killed robbing people with that toy pistol.” I had seen that it was a toy from the light of a passing car.
“I’m not afraid to die, but I will never kill anymore people.”
“You’ve killed people?”
“Yes, far too many. Iraq and Afghanistan and I feel terrible for what I did for this government.”
“That wasn’t murder. You were being a patriot.”
“Patriot, hell, it was just plain old murder as far I am concerned.”
“If you only rob rich people, why did you stop me?”
“You’re wearing an expensive leather jacket.”
“I bought it at Goodwill for five bucks.”
“I’ll be darn.’
“Hey, let’s go have a cup of coffee,” I said. “Maybe we can figure out a way you can help the homeless without robbing people.”
“I’ll listen to you, but I don’ think you can come up with any faster way getting bucks.”
After we settled down in a quiet corner of a café, deserted by the cold and the season of Christmas Eve, I asked, “Why do you think you should rob rich people?”
“That’s where the money is. Besides, they pay so damn little in taxes with all of their dodges, while the poor working stiffs pay the full course.”
“I agree,” I said. “We did have a taxing program that allowed the government to help less fortunate people.”
“Yeah, but that’s all changed. They fucked up the laws so they don’t pay their fair share. I’m just doing a little equalizing.”
“You don’t find the real rich people walking the streets. They ride in chauffeured limousines.”
“I know, but I catch a few of their sycophants and they know I’m here. That’s why they don’t walk the streets.”
“You could start a non-profit corporation and get donations to help the poor.”
“Ha! Then you have a whole staff to pay and too little gets to the people who need it.”
“Yes, but look at the risk you take by robbing people.”
“I just even the score,” he said. “It gets my adrenalin goin’ and most of the money I take gets recycled to the people who really need it.”
“What a society we’ll have if everybody takes up your habit.”
“Don’t worry. Most people don’t have guts enough to do what I do. Besides, I’m just small potatoes compared to those Wall Street banksters and corporate CEOs.”
“Can’t argue with that,” I said.
“Besides, I give the rich guys something to tell their kids and grandkids about. Probably more excitement than the last time the raped and plundered another corporation.”
“Look, they sent me over to kill and maybe get killed so they could make big bucks. Now they are getting a little blowback.”
“Can’t I talk you out of this way of life?”
He stood up, tipped his hat, did a low bow and said, “Merry Christmas,” turned and left.
I said a little prayer for him and our mixed up world that sends such good-hearted people out on such a mission.