Food Bank

The vicar ran her rough finger down the list of family names, his eye scanning the long list for names of families she recognised. No, no, no, years ago, no, no, no. She tutted, spraying a few lone globs of spit onto the paper, smudging some of the names.Numbers had been dwindling for years, correlating with the growing hole in the roof, yet it continued to perplex her, that despite her witnessing the growth of this list week-in-week-out, those seats continued to sit dusty and unfilled every Sunday. Her face wrinkled in rage, but that sort of rage that long lost its veracity, she took a biro (stolen from a local bank in a fit of soul-searching rebellion) and picked five families at random and crossed them furiously from the list, until the stolen biro pierced through the paper and began to mark the clipboard behind. Karma, she snorted.

“Who’s next please?” One of the charity workers shouted from inside of the church. Shuffle forward. He looked directly forward, staring heedlessly into the unwashed hair of some nameless woman in front of him, catching the back of her ankles every so often as he clumsily stepped forward. She seemed to barely notice. His mind was far too preoccupied with the reams of letters that sat on his coffee table, demanding his presence at this meeting or that, threatening him with this sanction or that, bailiffs threatening this or that. Tomorrow was a Work Capability meeting, an ambitious meeting of low-level bureaucrats working for an outsourced agency to overturn the decision of highly-educated and experienced doctors, who had observed that he was not fit to work. Below the fact that these fucks had the power to destroy his and his families’ lives, it was morbidly humorous that this sort of gazumping was actually possible in this society. This is just what life is like under a Tory government, he quipped. “Who’s next please?”

“Reid, Reid, Reid…” The charity worker ran his finger down the list of family names “R E I D?”
“Yes, Reid”
“I don’t see a Reid here. I see a Redd and a Rudd. But not a Reid. Sorry sir. Who’s next please?”
“Hold up, pal. Don’t just sorry sir me. I was told I would be put on the list. I don’t care if my name is on there or not, I need my food package, there’s no two ways about it pal”
“Well, there indeed isn’t two ways about it- there’s one. You’re not on the list, you don’t get the package. We are over subscribed as it is, we’re in a recession y’know? Lots of needy mouths to feed, with dwindling supplies. Who’s next please?”
“Woah woah woah, pal. Who the hell do you think you are?! I’m presuming from your attire that you’re not on that list either. I’m sure you’re eating your Philadelphia off a herb-encrusted prawn every night pal!”
“I’m a vegan sir. Now please move aside, we have a lot of people to get through”
“Aye you do- and I am one of them! I’m not standing for this”
“Sir please come back from there, that is for bank workers only….please sir, get down from that ladder. Put those cans back! They are not for you sir. Bill? Bill? Yeah it’s Simon, we’ve got an issue here. Yes, a code 9. Thanks. Sir, I’ve had to notify our security, who will be forced to remove you by force if needs be. Please get out from there”
“Got mouths to feed but your own buddy, have we? Know what it feels to spend every day queueing for something, be it food banks, post offices, job centre. Know that feeling do ya?!”
“Bill, hi. Thanks for getting here so fast”
“Mr Reid, please come out from behind the desk. We have the authority to move you from the premises.”
“No bother chaps, just taking what I’m due. Won’t be a minute”
“Mr Reid, you are stealing and if you refuse to put those cans down, we will be forced to phone the police”
“Ok pals, no bother. Send the officers my regards.”
“Please Mr Reid, it doesn’t have to be like this”
“Well, ha, chaps, yes it kinda does, doesn’t it? I’m meant to be on that list as I have no job, I have no money to buy food and I have a family to feed. It fact it very much does have to be like this”
“There are other ways…”
“Stealing from bins you mean? Tried it. Got knicked for that too. Next!”
“Mr Reid…”
“Mr Reid…”
“For god…hello? Yes, this is Bill Turnbull from H5P Security at Glasgow Cathedral. There is a burglary happening in the food bank. No he’s not armed. He said…he said he was on the list when he wasn’t….had we….oh….yeah I suppose, but…ok, one moment. Simon- is the vicar around? Yeah? Can you get her? Reverend, sorry for interrupting. Yes, Mr Reid. Behind the counter. No he hasn’t attacked anyone. Yet”
“Mr Reid, I’m the Reverend here. Does there seem to be an issue?”
“Not really Reverend. I just seemed to have been missed off your list. So I’m just getting my crate of food, for my family”
“Let me have a look at this list…Reid, Reid…I see a Redd and a….Rudd. But in between, seems that you’ve been crossed off the list. Sorry Mr Reid- we have limited supplies and only the most needy are served first”
“Well, have I not just jumped to the start of that queue?”
“Er, well…”
“If I leave the crate here, for argument sake…”
“Yes, please leave it here”
“IF I leave the crate here, for argument sake, are you going to pop home and bring me some cans from your cupboards at home? In my time of need- I’m cold and I’m bloody naked Reverend”
“That would be ridiculous wouldn’t it Mr Reid. They are my cans. This food bank isn’t stocked with my cans. I’ve earned those cans. If I gave you some of my cans, everyone would want my cans. If you were one of my congregation, I may feel differently. How do I know you’re not a Jew or a Muslim? I just can’t take that risk Mr Reid”
“Well Reverend, it seems we have come to an impasse. How do you suggest we proceed”
“I suggest you reconsider your attitude Mr Reid. This is the Big Society, which much like God’s green land, we care for all as long as they contribute. You can not expect to get something for nothing- no death bed conversions Mr Reid. But I can offer you something. You can keep the food”
“Thank you finally…”
“You can keep the food, but on one proviso.”
“Yes. Sunday morning, when I look at from the alter. I will see your face, and all your family’s faces too”
“You have to be kidding me- this is blackmail!”
“Do you want the food or not Mr Reid?”
“You can’t make me attend Church. That’s ridiculous”
“I think, yes? Yes? Thank you officers. Yes, I can make you attend. I have the law on my side you see. Not only God’s law, but the state’s too”

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