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Confused Compassion

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The sign posted on the beige wall claimed “Maximum Occupancy one hundred”. There were about thirty people so far, including men in suits, a couple that would be described as strangely unusual and a little girl running around and chasing a red inflated balloon. Mother and daughter enter the reception hall and are greeted by a middle aged woman who introduces herself as Charity. She works at the front desk and can’t remember if she has since this attractive pair before. She hasn’t.

The Volunteer Appreciation Reception is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. but by seven o’clock, nothing is happening. The unusual couple had come over to strike up some conversation but his and her social skills were nil and after a few forced questions and replies, they moved on to side hug near the door. It is hard to concentrate on the words being said anyway, as their matching Coke bottle glasses are as dirty as a car’s dashboard after a snowstorm.

A stout woman in black pants, a white shirt and a black apron enters briskly and begins to set up serving trays and utensils on the banquet tables. The conversations overheard include descriptions of the sweetest puppies the animal center had rescued from a neglect case and how everyone so hoped these poor puppies would be adopted by loving families. “How could the owners be so cruel to let the puppies live in such filth and breed the females continually?” Another dialogue takes place between a woman and her friend, both of them apparently caring for foster dogs. Woman One is fostering Misty, a Sheppard mix and she is frustrated trying to train Misty not to poop and pee in the house. She swears she knows when Misty has to go pee-pee and she begs Misty to “Come outside, girl,” but she won’t. When Misty does get outside she doesn’t go to the bathroom but ten minutes later and back in the house, Woman One is following her foster around with a puppy training pad and a wet paper towel. Woman two says she knows exactly how Women One feels, and hopes that her situation gets better and wonders when are they going to serve the food.

The invitation referenced snacks and refreshment, not a buffet of what was offered. It didn’t take long before people excused themselves from their conversations and lined up, paper-plate in hand at the starting end of the grub table.

Mother and Daughter had eaten at home and remained seated at one of the round dinner tables. There was a computer and screen set up to show a presentation and that’s what they wanted to see. The faces of the kind people at the shelter and the happy dogs, cats and rabbits whose lives have been spared. Feel good stuff, that makes you warm and fuzzy and feeling happy to be a part of a compassionate cause.

One, then two, then two more women joined Mother and Daughter at the table and asked them if they were going to eat? No, they weren’t going to. Eat, that is. Mother so wanted to say, “Oh, no thanks. We’re vegan”, but she didn’t. However, the smell of the dead animals on the plates was almost enough to make Mother heave. She did have a strong gag reflex, after all. Instead, she listened as the women at the table discussed, while chewing, the feral cats that were brought to the shelter. Red haired woman on the right said she personally fed those cats everyday and she really liked them. They made her so happy. Yes, it was against the rules to feed feral cats in her apartment complex but they needed to eat and she didn’t care. She just lied when asked about it and told the apartment manager that no; she would never break the rules. Woman on the left stated if they were brought into the shelter they had to have shots and stay for seven days before getting adopted and Oh my God, isn’t this shredded pork incredible?

Daughter tried to looked anywhere else, but at each table, all the eyes could see was animals eating animals. The woman who had been feverishly following Misty around to clean up her poop was probably breaking a record shoving potato salad and bacon in her mouth. Her friend was chewing the fat off some greasy ribs and if you listened close you actually hear the sound of muscles and ligaments and skin being ripped off bones. The feral cat lover, after again announcing her love of these misunderstood creatures, commented how delicious the fried chicken was.
It was at this point, the Mother asked Daughter, “Ready?” Yes, her daughter was. Mother quietly picked up her car keys from the table and they left. Just like that. As they exited the building and stepped into the fresh night air, sighs of both relief and confusion filled the space between them.

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