NOT AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER
"SHINE?" asked a man as I walked across a square. He placed a little box at my feet and knelt down. He lifted my right foot onto his box and began to brush my shoe.
"How are you making out?" I asked, trying to be friendly.
"I am just thinking of buying that house," he answered, and pointed to a skyscraper. "If they ever find out that I shine shoes, I'll lose my relief. But what can a guy do?"
"How much do the relief people give you?"
"Twenty bucks a month for the wife and the kids and me. Hell of a lot, for the four of us! They tell me I ought to he thankful for that. Yeah, thankful. . ."
"While me and my buddies were 'Over There', the fat boys 'did their bit' piling up the dough. When we jobless veterans marched to Washington for the measly bonus they promised us, we ex-soldiers, for whom nothing was good enough back in '17, what did we get? Poison gas, bayonets -- they drove us out like dogs!" He polished my shoes furiously.
"But we had Hoover then. Now, we got Roosevelt. He's accommodating. Built us barracks. Sent his wife around. While she gave us a song and dance, he pinched a half billion off the disabled veterans' relief!"
"What the hell did we fight for?" He looked up at me. "We thought we were saving the world from the Heinie. We thought he was our enemy. What saps we were!" And he shot out an energetic spittle on the cement walk.