The two flags, the American flag and the Italian flag were crossed and placed in a white bowl with pink flowers in it, and set in the center of the table, some distance away from where Doctor Neal Fenner and his wife, Anna, sat in the dining room of the Esplanade, an independent living facility for seniors on Staten Island.
The presence of the Italian flag bothered him, not because he had any animus against Italy or Italians. Were it the flag of any other nation, his emotional response would have been the same. A flag is a national symbol and is often used to intimidate a weaker nation by a stronger one. Because there was no one to intimidate that was not the purpose of the Italian flag displayed on the table. Its significance was in its way more pernicious, and yes, while not touching any one particular individual, it embraced everyone in the dining room by proclaiming that the people at the table where the flags were displayed were different, special, and perhaps a notch or two above those sat at the other tables. It was in Neal’s mind a subtle statement of superiority, and he was determined to do something about it.
Theft of anything was an anathema to him. No, he needed something that was simultaneously subtle and visible at the same time. Something. Something. Suddenly it came to him. He snapped his fingers and smiled at the same time.
Three days later at lunch, and with the help of the unsuspecting waiters and waitresses, every table was decorated with two flags: the American and the Italian.
As former President Obama put it, “The ground was leveled.” Everyone in the dining room had two flags.