Selection Day
By: James Rumpel

Mitchel Hildman sat on the curb outside of R & M's Diner; his feet planted firmly in the gutter. The street bustled with color and movement, much more than normal. People greeted each other with grins, hugs, and handshakes. Anticipation filled the air. Today was Selection Day. Everyone wondered what would be this cycle's choice.

To everyone else, Mitchel might as well have been invisible. Hardly anyone acknowledged him. Those who did, addressed him with slurs and anger.

"Out of my way, runt."

"Find someplace else to beg, you little loser."

A child, not so accidentally, kicked over the can that Mitchel held out for donations of spare change. The nickel and three pennies it held spilled out onto the street. One of the pennies rolled into the sewer grate and disappeared into the darkness below. The child continued on his way without any sign of remorse or even confirmation of what he had done. The child's parent smiled and looked away.

Mitchel watched all the activity buzzing around him. He had reason to be as excited as everyone else about the upcoming events, but he didn't feel like he deserved to have positive thoughts. After all, he was short. He was barely five feet tall.

At fifteen minutes before noon, Mitchel considered attempting to find the energy to stand and make his daily trek to the door of the diner. The patrons of the greasy spoon had originally been quite generous. Lately, however, the only thing they seemed willing to send his way were insults. As he contemplated pulling himself to his feet, he noticed two familiar faces moving towards him in the crowd.

Javier Rodriquez and Charles Burdock were walking hand in hand. They had clearly aged since the last time Mitchel had seen them, but he instantly recognized his high school friends.

"Javier. Charlie. It's me, Mitchel," he called.

For the briefest of seconds, Javier made eye contact before dropping his gaze to the cement below. Charles whispered something in Javier's ear and they shared a quick laugh. Clearly, they had no intention of stopping and visiting with Mitchel.

"Please, guys. Help me out. I haven't eaten in five days. You guys must remember what it was like when you faced discrimination. Please, anything."

His two, one–time comrades hurried to the other side of the street and made their way through the crowd away from Mitchel's location. His spirit completely broken; Mitchel slumped. His head and shoulders drooped. Overcome with despair, he surveyed the area one more time. He searched for someone, anyone, who would give him food, money, or even a little respect. At one time there were many people willing to overlook Mitchel's flaw and treat him with charity. Every week those humanitarians seemed fewer and fewer. Mitchel wondered if there was anyone left who was willing to provide any sort of aid.

People, people of normal height, continued to move in and out of R & M's Diner. They laughed and smiled at each other. Each of them towered over the sign that was posted near the door. The sign featured a horizontal line approximately five feet two inches above the ground and the words: YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO ENTER THIS ESTABLISHMENT.

Mitchel remembered a time when that was not the case. He recalled when he had been part of the diner's population. He too had laughed and enjoyed the food. He longed for that time to return. He knew it would, but he had a hard time believing he would live to see that day. His spirit was broken. The pain of the hunger, both for food and human companionship, had reached the point of being unbearable. Resigned to his fate, he lay his head on the curb. He contorted his body so that he could see the doorway of the diner from his prone position. He closed his eyes. He found himself inviting death though he only welcomed sleep.

A disturbance roused Mitchel from his slumber. He opened his eyes to see a six–foot–tall man grabbing a "shorty" by the neck.

"Give that woman back her purse," the man screamed.

"I don't have her purse," responded the poorly dressed short man.

"I could wring your neck right here, in front of everyone, and no one would care. Now give her the purse."

Slowly the "shorty" reached behind his back and drew forth a black pocketbook. He offered it to his assailant. As the tall man reached for the purse, the diminutive thief broke free of his grip and proceeded to make his break. As he ran, people attempted to trip him or push him. Undeterred, the little man eventually disappeared from sight.

"They are all nothing but trouble," said someone in the crowd.

"Either lazy or stupid or dishonest. They ain't worth the air they breathe," called another.

"You didn't always think that," shouted Mitchel. He found the strength to rise to his feet and defend his kind. "Once we were accepted just like everyone else. Is it that easy for you to forget? Is it that easy for all of you to hate?"

A couple of the passers–by stopped in their tracks. One or two turned to look at Mitchel. Their faces displayed shock though Mitchel believed he could detect just a hint of compassion. A gangly young woman actually seemed to be about to speak to Mitchel when a commotion arose at the door of the diner.

"Hey, they are about to announce the new selection."

Everyone moved into the diner or the doorway. Peering over each other in an attempt to see the announcement being made on the establishment's large television screen. Mitchel didn't bother to attempt to see what was being broadcast. There was no way he could ever see over the mass of humanity. He waited, sad and hungry.

"Well, that makes sense," came a voice from within the diner.

"Yeah I get it," responded someone else.

"Hey, that guy by the door, he's one of them. Get him out of here."

Suddenly a number of people emerged through the doorway. They pushed a well–dressed man onto the sidewalk. "We don't need any of your kind around here."

The man started to protest but soon a wave of people had propelled him down the street. Mitchel empathized with the poor man, but he was unable to do anything to stop the harassment.

"Did you see how ugly they were?" someone asked.

"I can't believe I never noticed how obnoxious they are."

"Do you know, they only make up less than two percent of the population. They're freaks."

Soon the activity on the street returned to normal. People were once again smiling and laughing. A few individuals could be seen, quietly trying to slip by, unnoticed. They kept their heads down as they maneuvered through the maze of people.

"Hey, Mitchel," called a man from the door of the diner. "You look like you could use a bite to eat. I bet I can find you something. Maybe we can even get you your old job back. Come on in and we'll talk."

Mitchel stood straight and tall. "Thank you very much," he said as he moved towards the doorway. He reached the diner and entered, unceremoniously. At that precise moment, the sign declaring a height requirement was removed and replaced with a different sign. This sign, hastily written with black marker simply read: "NO GREEN EYES ALLOWED".



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