Monday, April 29, 2013

Reader's Diary #994- Cathleen Kirkwood: Guthrip

Visiting New York back in March, I remarked to my wife that my psyche wouldn't be able to handle the city if I was there for any long period of time. In just a week we went from giving our kids loose change for the homeless to pushing past people with their hands out as if they didn't exist. It was a terrible feeling. For the most part we stayed around the Times Square area. If we were to give money to everyone who asked, we'd have been begging ourselves. Besides the homeless, there were people collecting for various causes and people just trying to earn a living. I don't judge any of them. But it wore me down. In Yellowknife, there are often groups collecting for causes and we also have homeless people. We give when we can and usually that's when we're asked. Because it's not often. How quickly that stopped in New York. How quickly we were forced to accept that we couldn't help everyone, not even a little bit. It was an icky, exhausting experience. Certainly not the highlight of our trip.

In Cathleen With's "Guthrip" a man visiting India is similarly heartbroken by an 8 year old street boy who asks to polish his shoes. As he buys the boy a chai tea, he contemplates, knowing how absurd it is, adopting the boy and taking him away from his misery. The more the boy chats, the more horrible his situation is revealed. What's sadder, and ultimately more depressing for the man, is that the boy doesn't even realize how bad it is. The sickening question that lingers when the story is all done is what good would it do for the boy to see how truly poor off he is? If the man can't help, if the situation is truly futile, is it better for the boy to be living in ignorance?

"Guthrip" is a short piece, but emotionally gut-wrenching.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


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