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The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has offered an intriguing glimpse into human nature. It seems that outward appearances of affluence and snobbery have taken a backseat to basic greed. Many who would normally sneer at the less advantaged with their noses held high are now taking the opportunity to play destitute. Even in these nouveau poor, there is still an air of arrogance, as though poverty is now in vogue.

My home is located in a rather prestigious neighborhood in New Orleans. Through all hours of the day and night, residents can be seen strolling carelessly down the street, either in groups, alone, or in the companionship of some pampered purebred canine. Of course, the highlight of these walking tours seems to be the need-quenching stops to gossip with neighbors at various points along the way. It’s during these informational conversations that we all learn that Mrs. Jones has fallen off the wagon and is swimming in bourbon again, that Mr. Brandon is cheating on his wife with his next door neighbor’s girlfriend, and of course, that the Harpers’ son has run off with another stripper he met in the French Quarter. While male members of the community spread more trite rumors, the ladies tend to tell the more exiting tales, mostly amongst other women—although the presence of a gentleman does not usually deter most tabloid-style reporting. In the evening hours, it is a joy to walk around the neighborhood with my wife, as, with her, I am made privy to the most private intricacies of my neighbors’ lives. These briefings are almost always interesting, not to mention that my retelling of these sordid tales makes me a valuable resource among masculine circles. The faster one of us men can get fresh news to the group, the more esteemed we are… even though most of the stories have already been reverberated numerous times throughout the ladies’ rumor mill.

Despite the fact that gathering these accounts can be quite socially enriching, invariably, one must suffer through the mundane in order to obtain a true pearl. In an effort to satiate my thirst for knowledge, I usually have to listen to never-ending, egotistical rants on how well monetary investments are doing, how husbands are bringing home in excess of $100,000 a year, how little Jimmy just graduated from medical school, how daughter, Nancy, married a well-to-do corporate executive, how the vacation home in Denver, Colorado, is being renovated, and so on. In the course of this banter, crude remarks are often made toward those who apparently have less stock in fortune than the narcissistic speaker and her ilk. All of these conversations take place with wild hand gyrations, seemingly rehearsed, so that any available light can be adequately refracted off of multi-carat diamond rings. For one of my neighborhood sources, the price for useful information is usually too costly, and I wind up walking away from the conversation so that my wife can continue to listen to how wonderful life is (little does the orator know that she, herself, was the topic of last week’s vicious gossip).

A few weeks ago, after the evacuation order was lifted and we returned to our home, the neighborhood was bustling with stories. Everyone spoke of how well their property survived the storm, compared to other areas of the city. One or two homes had major damage, but, for the most part, everyone was happy with the prevailing good fortune. During the celebration, many were rejoicing in the fact that they received between $2000 and $4000 from FEMA for disaster relief. Here are vain people who are well-to-do, talking about taking monetary subsidies meant for those in dire need. No one in the group was ever at a loss for money, or in fear of losing his or her employment. It seems more shocking when one considers the people who really needed the FEMA assistance and never received it because the organization met its limits on funding.

Now, I finally have my own scoop on scandal. Yesterday, I spied one of our flashiest neighbors in the local supermarket. This is a lady who dons designer clothes to walk her pooch down the street. If one person in the community does not know of her financial standing, as she reports it, he or she is certainly out-of-the-loop. After her groceries were scanned and totaled, I witnessed her slide a card though the cashier’s credit card machine. After a few seconds, she impatiently asked the clerk if the store accepted the Louisiana Purchase Card, the debit card version of food stamps. Of course, they did. She swiped her card again, this time to success. All was made well in her world, as I’m sure the renovations to her vacation home in Colorado can now be completed.

Carson W. Maxwell
October 19, 2005


The following comments are for "You’ll Never Guess!"
by CWMaxwell

This was a great bit of writing, and I enjoyed reading it. However, was this supposed to be under short stories, because I believe that there are other columns that describe this piece of writing better, such as opinions, or maybe even editorials.

Overall a great writing. It has an overall satirical twist (did I use that word right) which makes the story interesting.

( Posted by: demonsthese [Member] On: October 22, 2005 )

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