I am a claw. I sit high on my perch most of the day and rip thousands of dollars from ravished communities. I got into this about five years ago. I have chased hurricanes, floods, and tornados with a passion.
When mother nature has a bad day, I pull into town with my truck and trailer, climb onto my throne between the two, and pick up debris. It is not a glorious job—I have seen more blood and guts than any horror film can show—but when I cash the check, it is all worth it.
One part of me wants to feel bad. I see people crying and holding each other. I am the monster who paws through the trash of what used to be their home. My claw grabs a child’s play house, a nice dresser filled with mud, and a busted mirror.
Once I was pulling apart a little storage shed. When I ripped it open, they were… Why would someone hide in there through a storm? I had only been at it a year and I wanted to quit then. I drank away that scene and became one with my machine again the next day.
I want to tell these people how badly I feel. I want to cry with them, but I am a claw and they are human. I am the vulture picking over the remains of their lives. They never look at me—maybe my wild hair and unshaven beard scare them—no one sees me. They just see the machine and accept me as part of their fate.
A few times a day, there is that vulnerable moment when the truck and trailer boxes are full and I must climb down from the boom controls to drive the rig to a landfill. I move quickly to the safety of my truck cab where I am no longer on eye-level with the suffering populace. When in my driver’s throne, I am machine again and no one sees me.
I feel bad. All the good money I make cannot take away the pangs. A machine should not feel. I hate myself that I enjoy making big money off people’s suffering. I pray for damage. I live for natural disasters. I even made a big wad of dough from a terrorist attack once.
I am only good at ripping things apart. That’s what my ex says, anyway. She doesn’t care, though, as long as I keep the child support coming.
I lost my mom a couple weeks ago. When I found out that she was gone, I had this urge to climb to my perch and swing my claw. That’s how I cope with tragedy. That’s how I climb above human weakness. I did not know what to do at the funeral with all the family coming and hugging each other. Don’t ask me how I am doing—I’m a machine!
When the news said this storm had hit, I left that night. I was glad to get away from all those well-wishers and sympathizers. It is easier for me to rip through someone else’s valuables than to try to rebuild what once mattered to me.
I was loading logs from trees lying across the road. Search and rescue is still going on, but they were glad to have me on hand to help open up some roads. Not that they needed me the person, just me the machine. Here I sit, roosting high above human sentiment. Safe from well-wishers. Excluded from human pain or sympathy.
I noticed a group of college kids, probably from a church. They were going around to the firemen, survivors, and rescue workers, giving out bottled water. I kept my eye on them to be sure they were out of range when I would swing a log up into the truck bed.
When I swung back to grab another log, that’s when I saw her. She had seen me. No one saw me the person, just me the machine. She had invaded my privacy. I stopped the boom. She just stood there until I looked down at her.
She held up a water bottle as if to say, “Want some?” I had forgotten my drink in the cab, but I wanted to say no. For some reason I nodded yes and she tossed it up. She paused for a second, smiled, and then went back to her group to get water for someone else.
Maybe it was the cold water hitting my throat suddenly like that, but something lurched inside me. It was that beautiful smile. It was the sadness of the situation. It was the puncture wound to my indifference. A human actually cared. She was not getting paid. She was not like the police, fire, and medical personal who, like me, were profiting at someone else’s loss.
Maybe it was mom being gone, maybe it was the thought of my daughter somewhere in Alabama, or maybe it was something in the water. I cried. The machine broke down and wept.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)