Towards A More Perfect Union

By Lielabell

Sometimes, as he makes his rounds through the dimly lit halls of The Refuge, Warden Snyder is hit with a profound sense of unrest. He stops, on these rare occasions, bracing his hands against the scarred wooden panels lining the corridors, and tries to remember why he does what he does.

He didn't ask for this job. Who would? Children are a bother in the best of circumstances. He detests their grabby hands and impertinent questions. If seeing them with freshly scrubbed faces in pristine jumpers and tidy rows doesn't assuage his dislike, then how in the name of god was he supposed to feel anything but animosity for the gutter trash that washes up here?

Warden Snyder had considered long and hard before accepting this position. He knew his temperament was ill suited. He knew his ability to empathize with the plight of the waifs in his care wasn't up to snuff, but in the end he had taken it. Because a plum is a plum and its juice is sweet enough despite the wormy pit.

Only a fool turns down a prime position like the one that was presented to him, and Warden Snyder is no fool.

Still, he cannot help but feel as though he has made a grave miscalculation as he stares at the words engraved over the arch leading into the complex. What, he asks himself, has he ever done to make the establishment live up to its name? The House of Refuge, under his care, is anything but.

Warden Snyder is a hard man. A firm believer in spare the rod, spoil the child, his hand comes down hard on any who dare to disobey him. He tells himself that it is in the best interest of the boys in his care. He reminds himself that they are all convicted of one crime or another and that a neglect of their morals is what brought them to this state in the first place. But even to him, his words ring hollow.

As he skims what little money is available off of the books, Warden Snyder assuages his conscience by pointing out to himself that no child is doing without under his care. They each have three meals a day, which is a considerable about more than they would be getting if left to their parents tender care, and a safe bed each night. It doesn't matter that the bread is molded and the rooms are cold; those street rats should grateful to have anything.

And yet, he has moments of doubt.

There are times, though they are few and far between, when he wishes that he was working for the benefit of society. His mind drifts back to the school room and lectures on what it means to be part of a grand experiment. It would be gratifying, he believes, to be moving towards a more perfect union instead of wallowing in the decay of the current one. There are moments when he wonders what it would be like to be devoted to a cause to the point where the fetid odors of too many unwashed bodies and the endless complaints of the under-aged offenders no longer mattered. Some part of him longed to be a better person even while the rest of him jeered it into silence.

In these instances of weakness, Warden Snyder closes his eyes. He rests his head on the dirt encrusted walls and waits for the unwanted pangs of conscience to pass. And in his heart of heart, he wonders.