Broken Dish Hope


Barack Obama, alone, leaned against the wall in the kitchen corridor underneath the Hotel Allegro in Chicago and looked at his watch. 


Next to him, a bus cart jammed with dirty breakfast dishes waiting to be washed.

In the dining room above, his introduction was winding down, and in 90 seconds, he’d get a running start for the stairs and go bounding up two at a time to spring into the good sized room for one last stop on this campaign for US Senate.


As Barack Obama stood alone; the smoke filled, back room, cigar chomping, nod and a wink echoes of generations of Chicago politicians paused for one eternal moment and all took a look.


Later that night, all these generations of dark and shaded political men knew, Barack Obama would be up in front of a room 10 times the size of the one in the Allegro. He would be thanking everyone. So they paused for one quick glance.


Santiago Cruz, 52 years old and smiling like the Columbian sunshine even when he thought himself alone, carrying a grey, plastic tub of dirty coffee cups and saucers, didn’t notice Barack Obama on the other side of the bus cart of dishes.

Swinging his grey tub up over his head to plunk it down on the top of the cart, Santiago looked to his right and saw the quiet Obama smiling. In the space of a second, Santiago wiped his hands on his pants and took Obama’s outstretched hand. And as Barack leaned in towards the man to shake, he bumped his shoulder hard into the cart, spilling all he dishes stacked on the top on to the floor, shattering in a million pieces and at the same time sending a jarring shooting pain all through Obama’s shoulder, a pain so sharp he winced and bowed his head.


And as he winced in pain without one real clear thought at all, Obama instinctively got to his knees to begin picking up the shattered dishes.

Santiago Cruz, still stunned by the crash, stood for a moment and looked down at the man on his knees picking up the dishes. Joining him then on the floor to do the same, Santiago heard the applause from the dining room upstairs and the beep of the other man’s cell phone going off at the very same time. Santiago Cruz and Barack Obama, both kneeling on the floor, their faces a foot apart, looked straight at each other and another kind of recognition registered on Santiago’s face.

Where he had been smiling before, where Santiago ALWAYS smiled, the smile took on a deeper tone. Something changed in that smile—and there was a tone of sadness in that smile, then hope flickered for just a moment and his eyes lit up to a new brightness and he said “OBAMA! OBAMA OBAMA!”


One Response to “Broken Dish Hope”

  1. Dale Says:

    Sorry I haven’t been by much Roger–been swamped. (Which is good, but painful.)

    This is precious. A gem of a vignette. Let’s hope he (and we) can clean up all the broken mess that’s the present.

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