Monday, February 26, 2024

Benji the Smuggler

 The meal I got from the rib shack included a slice of that cheap, white Wonder bread,  which was as dry as eating cotton. But the  meal wouldn’t have been complete without it.

Taking a bite of that bread made me think of Benji the Smuggler and that made me feel regret. Because Beni the Smuggler was the evening janitor at the state-operated boarding school for cripples I attended as a teenager. I call it the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

I graduated from SHIT 50 years ago so I imagine Benji the Smuggler is dead by now. And that's why the piece of Wonder bread made me feel regret because I suddenly realized that I probably never told Benji how he helped me get through my days at SHIT and how much I appreciate it. 

Because the food at SHIT was usually shit. And even if it wasn't, they served us dinner, the last meal of the day, at 4:30 in the fucking afternoon! So by 7:30 or so you were ready to gnaw your foot off.

Benji went to a place he called the Chicken Shack all the time on his lunch break. So quite often one the inmates would come up to him on the sly and say,
“Hey Benji. Can you go get me something from the Chicken Shack?”

Benji would grumble and say, “You all are gonna get me fired.”

Benji was right to be worried about that. Some inmates, like me, were put on diets the day we began serving time at SHIT. Being perceived as an accomplice to us in blowing our calorie counts for the day might be grounds enough for Benji to be fired. But even bringing in food for those of us that weren’t on diets might have been considered to be inappropriate fraternization with the inmates,

But for some reason, Benji always took the risk. After he grumbled, he’d come up to us on the sly and take our orders. And he’d return from his lunch break with our food shoved up under his zipped coat, like a smuggler.

The fried chicken came in a small, rectangular box made of thin cardboard, just like my meal from the rib shack. And always accompanying it was a slice of that cheap, white Wonder bread, that was as dry as eating cotton. But it was all quite delicious to me at the time. Benji the Smuggler really helped me survive adolescence and become what I became, because otherwise I might have starved to death at SHIT.

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