Young Soldier, Old Soldier, Troublemaker and Me

Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield AirportThe Young Soldier looked fresh and pink and blond, like a newborn pig. His cheeks were rosy, and he was earnest, if not a little embarrassed, about his willingness to believe a hard-luck story from a woman, who talked like she was an Old Soldier. She was wearing a polyester frock and her body—though not broken—leaned heavily to one side.

“Thank you, brother!” said Old Soldier in a carrying voice. “And remember, I outrank you, so you can’t say ‘no’ when I tell you I’m going to send you $200, not just the $20 you’re loaning me.”

Standing at the second ATM next to Young Soldier was Troublemaker—tall and thin, too sober, cheap business clothes. He advised Young Soldier in nothing like a whisper: “You’ll never see that $200. You’ll never get anything back.”

This, of course, incensed the Old Soldier, that she might not be telling the truth—fighting words, you might say.

Like Young Solider, I was standing in line to do the very same thing—an Old Gentleman I’d just met outside on the bench in front of the pick-up lane was stuck and needed MARTA money. I was waiting to use the ATM to get $20 for a Complete Stranger in an emergency.

So, I was smiling as I mouthed the words to the back of Troublemaker’s head: “Bless you.” There’s no way he could have seen me; I was standing at least five feet behind him.

“Thank you for doing that ma’am,” said Old Soldier, taking my hand. “You just made my day.”

Troublemaker finished his transaction and turned to me angrily. “Why didn’t you give her money?”

“Because I’m getting money out for somebody else,” I said.

Troublemaker shook his head and walked away.

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