Scene Title Bootstraps
Synopsis One of "Benjamin's Brothers" earns a meal by performing a simple task with deceptive implications.
Date August 30, 2010

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

What was once a lustrous navy blue has turned ashen and slate as dust and erosion have made their claims on the painted metal, but the eagle-head insignia of the United States Postal Service still stands out clearly on the box in Central Park. All manner of people from all walks of life make use of it throughout the day. A mother with toddlers in tow sends a letter to older relatives back in Ohio. A struggling musician stuffs the mailbox a series of bills long past-due. A businessman tosses in postcards declining magazine offers, just so they’ll stop bothering him.

Even in the digital age, the U.S. Mail has plenty of work to do.

The hands of one Otis Felton quake their way toward the metal box on the ends of malnourished arms. They carry a bundle of letters, each thin with their minimal contents, each with addresses carefully typed across their white fronts. Bracing his frail frame against the box, he unties the twine that holds the letter together. With a grunt, he pulls open the door to expose the gaping maw of the box, tightly gripping the pristine envelopes with his grimy fingers. Then, one by one, he slides them down into gullet like slices of meat.

The imagery is appropriate. Otis’s stomach growls as he finishes his task. But it is done, and the server at the soup kitchen will be happy. He’ll give Otis a little more to eat, or maybe even a slip he can take to McDonald's - where he can feel real again. And he had to mail the letters to get it. The man would know if he hadn’t put them in the mailbox. Otis wasn’t sure how, but he always knew. When he first met him about a week ago, the man had been able to describe Otis’s slow spiral downward. It had been chilling, hearing all those things laid out again for him like points on a line.

That’s when it started. Otis running various errands in exchange for a little cash, or the man bringing him a bag of food from someplace other than the soup kitchen. He was sure he couldn’t be the only one doing it, but he was determined to do the work well, to earn the money or the food rather than simply receive it. There was an honor in that, even if the jobs were simple. The man always gave clear instructions, even which mailbox Otis was supposed to drop the letters in.

He had done well, and he knew it. Thoughts of bacon-topped beef smothered in cheese filled his head as he made his way back to the park bench where he usually spent his days, at the mercy of passers by. But today, the man would come. The man would know Otis had done well.

Otis would be well paid.

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