Off Center

He was a little off center, at least that’s the way I would have described him when I saw him digging through the trash. Didn’t he have a better way to make money? He shook his head. I couldn’t see his eyes but I remember how he had faced the crowd and made people shiver. His blue eyes were warm and friendly at first. Then they turned icy cold. He had power in his eyes.
Chuckling loudly, he went back to his task of gathering the cans, cartons, and other things that could be reused. I laughed at his dedication and he laughed at my lack of purpose. “Don’t you care about the world?” he asked. “You know how hard it is to get people organized into groups. No one wants to donate time or money. And let me tell you a little secret. This world is on its last legs. A little wobble or two and it will spin out of control. Smack! At least it would make a loud noise if it falls against something.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you, John? And if you did believe in a disaster, why are you digging and collecting trash?”
He smiled again. “We have to start somewhere, doing all we can. Maybe I am just an example of one man doing one task. At least I’m doing something.”
“John, this is crazy. You won’t accomplish enough. Besides, the truth takers are out and about. IF they catch you telling the truth, they will cut off your tongue. Tell lies instead. Lies can’t harm anyone. But if you continue telling the truth and others believe you, the truth takers will be blamed for doing nothing. They don’t want the truth known. They want everyone to be happy.”
“John, I’ve warned you before. Remember that ugly poetry you were writing and talking about last week. It had too much truth and it made people unhappy. I didn’t want to turn you in. You’re my friend. Isn’t that the truth?”
I looked down at his hands. His right hand was wrapped in a bloody cloth. He saw me staring and he said defiantly, “No, you’re not my friend. You are a truth taker and a liar. When I wrote poetry I wrote from my heart. I believed the truth would set me free. My fingers on that hand are gone and you threaten my tongue. You don’t scare me. I want to do good things until I die.”
“John, the truth takers are coming. Run and hide.”
“Where will I go? You took my eyes a few weeks ago.” There was no reasoning with him. He had gone crazy. There was no reason to keep telling the truth. He was my best friend but who needs friends? I know what is best for me, and for you. Isn’t that the truth?

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