A Meaningful Distraction

The scene opens with a man in his early thirties walking down the sidewalk a busy street in downtown Kansas City Missouri. The year is 1955, it's early fall and while it's daytime, the light and warmth of the sun can not reach all the way down to the crowded street sandwiched between the lines of skyscrapers.

Rush hour on Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1953The world smells of diesel and gasoline exhaust mixed with the smoke of cigarettes and cigars and the passing gusts of used air from grills and deep-fryers in the diners and food-counters he passed. Add to the living chaos a thousand samples of different perfumes and colognes in the cold air, churned by the passing bodies. All that and the cold pavement, he can smell the concrete and asphalt even with all that in the way.

The sounds are easily as varied as the smells but the sounds are all loud. there are no soft sounds in the city, not during the midday rush. Any small thing making a sound is smothered and covered and asphyxiated, and lost beneath the roar and crash of huge grinding machine and people.

But like the smells, the sounds are trapped at the bottom of this man-made canyon, without a way to escape.

But not the people, most of them can escape.

The man's name is Solomon Hirsch and while he is in the crowd, he moves in a separate space from them, almost above them. He is upright and stands a full head taller than most of the other people on the street. He is handsome and strong and well-dressed in loose grey woolen slacks, a pressed white shirt, brown wing tip shoes with a shine on the toes. He wears a tan wool overcoat and a dark grey fedora hat but no tie. He strong jaw and face are clean shaven and his eyes shine with the confidence of a locomotive's headlight. As he passes, both men and women are drawn to look at him with something like wonder and pleasure, glad that such a man as Solomon exists. While he occasionally nods at their smiles, he keeps his head up and his eyes on the busy scene ahead as he moves with an easy speed towards some distant goal.

As he comes to the end of a busy block and he stops at the corner with his glossy wingtips protruding over the edge of the curbstone and glances at the red traffic light at the corner. Cabs and delivery trucks mixed with the occasional passenger car file by as he waits for the light to change. And as he waits, he becomes aware of something on the ground at the corner to his left and he glances down and sees a huddled man in dark ragged clothes, kneeling on the pavement next to several bundles of newspapers. While Solomon spares only a moment to look at the creature, it's clear that the man has no legs and he sits in a padded box with casters on the bottom. The man wears a patched overcoat, dark scarf around his neck and a dirty hunter caps with ear-flaps. He has an unlit cigar in his mouth and his face wears a short dark grizzled beard. There's a closed cigar box sitting on the bundle of St. Louis Post-Dispatch papers next to him. There are also Kansas City Star, Chicago Sun and New York Times in stacks around him.

But Solomon is drawn back to the pathetic wretch's face as it turns to look at him. How in the world does one come to live their life down there? This creature must be the lowest of God's family.

As Solomon watches, the man slowly twists his head sideways and then turns it to look up at Solomon his left eye. Solomon understands that this half-man has to look up at almost everything in the world and his neck must be awfully stiff and painfully strong. As their eyes meet, Solomon expects to see the dullness of slow wit, or the beggarly whinge of a plea for help, or the terrible hatred of someone who knows exactly what fate has done to him. So Solomon is shocked to see the twisted face turn into understanding softness, an encouraging smile, and an avuncular wink.

Suddenly embarrassed, Solomon looks away and with a cough regains his composure as the light blinks to green and he steps off the curb and leads the crowd onward across the street to the next block.

As he walks on, his mind returns to the look on the face of the little half-man. Now there's a small troubled look on Solomon's noble face. He sees the newspaper man in his mind, and except for his lack of legs, the man was not at all little, in fact, if he'd had his legs he would have stood well over six feet tall. The bulky coat disguised the torso but it was clear that the man's chest and shoulders were broad and probably strong, at least as strong as Solomon's. Of course. having only his hands and arms to propel himself around had probably made him incredibly strong from the waist up and that was all there was of the man. Thinking back, he could see the thick, worn leather pads on the man's hands. Like solid boxing gloves with the fingers exposed. Like giant paws. The pads protected his hands from the ground the way everyone else used shoes. Yet he would use those same paws to feed himself and wash himself, and, well everything else a man would need to do. Maybe most everything else.

Solomon shook himself and picked up his pace. He needed to stop thinking about the man. It was none of his business. Solomon needed to focus on himself and just be thankful that he was not the half-man. He should say a prayer to God in thanks for his life and health. His grandfather whom he'd been named after, had been a rabbi in Chicago, he must have known the God to thank for his life. Solomon had never met his grandfather, Rabbi Solomon Hirsch, but he often thought about him. His mother had shown him an old photograph of his grandfather in front of a large building, surrounded by other bearded men in prayer shawls and the Rabbi stood taller and straighter than all the other men and you could see his strength and power in the way he looked at the camera. He was the leader.

Solomon felt a swelling in his chest and his eyes burned and he broke into a trot and it felt good to him. People on the sidewalk moved out of his way as he picked up speed. He ran straight and had no need to slow down. The weight in his chest went away and his handsome face broke into a smile as he ran faster, stretching his stride. Each foot fall found perfect purchase on the hard ground and he slowed just enough to toss his hat and shrug out of his warm coat. He ran through the sidewalk crowds and across side-streets without hesitation. It seemed a miracle that he hit no cars and no cars hit him.

Ahead of him the sidewalk crowd thinned and the buildings were becoming shorter and the sunlight began to reach the street level where he ran. He felt wonderful, as if he might run until the next day. His breath came easily as his body found its maximum sustainable speed. He felt the breeze on his face and he pumped his arms in natural rhythm with his legs and he couldn't remover the smile on his face even if he'd wanted to, which he didn't.

As he ran, he thanked God for his health and his life. He wished his mother was here to see him run by. Where was his mother? At home surely, resting from her hard life. He wished his grandfather, Rabbi Solomon Hirsch, could see him running in exultation and praise of the God who'd made him in his own image and perfection. His only satisfaction was that God could see him. God would look down and see him running and admire his work handiwork. Yes, God will take pride in seeing his work displayed like this. He hoped that God was getting a good look at him.

Solomon had no idea how long he'd run. His mind had been freed to be elsewhere, thinking about God and his handiwork and his place in God's world. About where he'd been placed as an example to others. He heard that said before, from people on the street, during the

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