Snippet (Rough Draft)
“We’re still covering our unit on the Ten Commandments.” Mr. Meyer said. “Today, we’re going to discuss ‘Thou shall not steal’ and what that really means. There are lots of ways to steal. Children steal from their parents. Employers steal from their employees. You have employees that steal from their employers. Can anyone add to this?”
I raised my hand. Since no one else did, Mr. Meyers called on me. “Corporations steal from consumers. Sometimes they bill a frivolous fee that they really shouldn’t have and sometimes they just blatantly steal and since most people either don’t know their rights or can’t enforce them they get away with it.”
“That’s a good point. Very good. So if you’re doing your job and you’re acting on behalf of a company is it stealing?” he continued.
“Of course. We don’t just get to practice morals when it’s easy. We have to be Catholic all the time.” I answered.
For many years, Laurent’s dad was the president of that giant retail superstore that is the biggest corp in northwest Arkansas, the USA and probably the world—the oh so ethical one, that everyone loves. I guess, he must have spent a lot of time charging distributors frivolous fees because Laurent took offense. “Many times you have fiduciary duty to your client to obtain all sums possible in their favor. Depending on your profession if you don’t do those things you could lose the privilege to continue your profession or be charged with breaking the law. So how could it be a sin?”
“I worked in my daddy’s law firm with him from the time I was 9 years old till the day he died. I was reading law books before I knew who George Orwell was, so I know something about this and if there is one thing I know, you can’t associate the laws of this country with morality. They’re two totally different and often contradictory things. Sorry, Laurent.”
He glared at me. So did the bleached blonde sitting beside him. I guess they didn’t think I could argue with the quarterback of the football team. Non-cheerleading red heads weren’t allowed the privilege.
“Well, if you’re so objected to those laws you could leave.”
That was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. Lots of people didn’t want to be here that couldn’t get out.
“Yeah. If you have money for a passport, and a visa and airfare elsewhere if you don’t like the laws you can leave. Otherwise, you’re pretty much stuck here and everyone deserves equal protection under the law.”
He glared at me. Then leaned over and whispered something into Jennifer’s ear. The discussion continued. I took to doodling on my notebook. Five minutes later I cast my head to the side to mouth something to Sara and I noticed Jennifer staring at me and then whispering back to Laurent. I forgot what I wanted to tell Sara. I looked at Jennifer and said out loud, “Hold a grudge much? It’s not my fault your boyfriend was absurdly wrong.”
Somehow the discussion moved on from “thou shall not steal” to service for the poor. I’m not sure how because I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I just remember hearing Laurent say that poor people in this country choose to be poor. Bri made me work for a food bank on Saturdays. It charged the poor $35 for a “one month food supply.”
My parents got mad at Briana when she moved to California after high school. They cut her off. Bri used the same food bank there. She said it usually lasted her about two weeks, but she could buy an extra package and it was still much cheaper than trying to buy groceries for a month. Briana had never been lazy. That’s the primary difference between us and probably the fault that kept me grounded. When I worked at the food bank, I saw people I never expected to see, like the school librarian. She was at school every day before it opened and she’d still be there for two hours after it closed. I wondered if she would get paid more working for a public library, but probably not enough to matter, I guessed.
“You’re stupid.” I said out loud, not meaning to. Those words just struck me.
“Brandi, we don’t make personal attacks and we don’t resort to name calling. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
My sister is more respected than me. She is a former vallidvictorian of St. Joseph’s High and I assume middle school and elementary too. She just didn’t get a plaque for that. “Briana’s not lazy.” I said very matter of a fact.
“Briana’s not poor.” Laurent said.
“She was broke when she went to California. Scholarships only pay tuition. She relied on a food bank to eat, which by the way is a Protestant service since I guess the new church stance is it’s the poor’s fault their poor.”
“I think she was the exception.”
“Yes. My sister was the only poor person in the country to work and still be poor.” I rolled my eyes. I didn’t add how stupid his logic was, because I didn’t have to. Most of the class was laughing already.