"Offering" by David Robinson
A few years ago we were driving home, the family, my two daughters and son in the back seat, my wife in the front, next to me. The headlights sent just enough light to follow the curves, I drove slowly. Precious cargo, you know. We were driving on a country road for the last two hours and it would be an hour more of the same before we would be home. Then, ahead, there were bright lights. It was a gas station. It was busy because it was at a crossroads and rural and Saturday night. I pumped gas and my family went into the store. I love them so much and would do anything for them. What can you do? Nothing.
I finished pumping the gas and went in the store. And I looked for something to eat. My wife, two girls and boy had found their drinks and chips and my wife was paying. "I'll be there in a minute", and I waited for them to leave. It was then that I saw the pizzas. The gas station had a small pizza oven for the locals and on a Saturday night a couple of made pizzas sat on the glass display counter ready and warming under yellow heat lamps. I bought a large pizza and headed back.
I went up to the car, my kids were drinking and eating in happy oblivion. "What are you doing with that?" my wife asked. "I have a dinner date" I said and gestured towards the margin of the station and the tall grass. When I got there the dog had moved safely to the tree line, but would dart out and back. And it sniffed the air. I opened the box, laid it on grass and moved off a little and the dog came out from behind the trees, but would not approach the box. I took a slice of pizza out and threw it to the dog. He darted behind the trees and then after awhile reappeared. My oldest stuck her head out of the car window and shouted, "Dad! Let's go!"..."In a minute" I said. I thought maybe the dog was suspicious of my generosity. Could it be smart enough to think it was a trap? I took another slice of pizza out and took a bite. You see...safe to eat. I took another bite and then threw the remainder halfway between us. The dog came out of its protection and sniffed the pizza and looked up at me. In the darkness the dog's eyes reflected light. It continued to stare at me, the pizza slice at it's feet. After a long while I left.
I'd like to think he ate that piece and then went to the box for more.
A half hour later my wife said "You're a good person". She could tell I was upset. I was quiet and sullen. "Thanks" I said. But, I didn't feel like a good person. I felt angry and ashamed. Acts of charity, acts of kindness, what are they? A way to protect our good fortune from the Wrath of the Gods perhaps? Put simply it is just a way to gloss over our guilt. But I knew that it would take an Amazonian forest of pizzas...a train of pizzas circling the earth again and again...a tower of pizzas that reached the moon and then back again to make a real difference. I suppose I bought the pizza because I just felt guilty and wanted to feel better and usually a slice of pizza makes me feel better. Comfort food, you know. But not this time, this time it tasted like shame, like anger, like helplessness, like guilt. I can taste it now as I write.
David is an artist and lives in South Carolina with his wife, an MD, and youngest teenage daughter...and their 4 dogs. His eldest daughter is now in Medical School and his son plays professional soccer.