I’m a food pantry volunteer in Madison every Tuesday from ten to two. It’s one of the best food pantries around but it is only for our town, and you have to prove you’re a townie: utility bill, clergyman’s note, pay stub. Something current.
I give Thursdays to the Middletown soup kitchen. Show up, don’t smoke or drink in the kitchen and whatever you do, at 10 am and 3 pm check the clipboard and line up those on the list to take their medicine from Sister Nurse and open wide to show her you swallowed your pills and no screwing around or Sister Nurse will write you up.
Friday you can find me Delivering Meals on Wheels to between 30-40 people. The main takeaway from this experience is the correlation between “clients” and hoarders. and I can tell you this for sure, there are about the same number of hoarders as there are neat people. This is a process. Volunteers sign up for North Town or South Town. I take whichever and if no one’s home I keep the meal.
Wednesday, I drive the short white town bus, pick up, and drop off people for their weekly shopping excursion. Grocery stores, drug stores, doctor’s appointments, and the like. I don’t wait if they don’t show up at the bus stop on time.
There is a group of people who get on the bus with half-filled shopping bags and return with far less. They are who we call the Robin Hood Gang. They load up one or two shopping bags from the pantry on Tuesdays and then on Wednesdays they are in the “return items” line in the supermarket where they cash out canned goods, laundry soap, and take the money to buy cigarettes, wine, or liquor. This is not Kosher and if we catch anyone, we will suspend them from the pantry.
Monday I stay home and get my private deliveries for the week: everything from condoms to magazines, and on good weeks I’ll get a McDonald’s call and pick-up boxes of wrapped burgers, bags of cold French Fries, and invite some clients over who help me keep my lawn and house in a presentable condition before we break for lunch.
Sunday, we line up at the Pet Pantry and get leftovers for our pets, gerbils to dogs. I go for the veggies even though I only have goldfish. The greens usually have a spot of brown or a wilted leaf or so, and I have my salad for a couple of days.
Overall, the volunteer life is a rather good one. On Sunday afternoons at three we have our Sunday Swap where clients and volunteers set up blankets on the field hockey or whatever sports field is open, and food and clothes get swapped, and while there is always some grumbling most go home thinking they’ve gamed the system. I trade canned goods, usually chili, ravioli, or Spam for clothes. I go for lightly stained shirts and jeans.
Paul Beckman’s a Connecticut writer whose latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Connotation Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Monkey, WINK, Jellyfish Review, Wax Paper, Blink-Ink, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was shortlisted in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition.
Photo – Intense cook by Paul Beckman
Free Flash Fiction would like to thank Paul Beckman for donating to purchase a copy of Kiss Kiss – ( available here – and in other places ). His book became a prize in FFF Competition Eight – see our Kofi page for more info – and if you like competitions – see our current competition page.