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Monday, September 8, 2014

One Man's Garbage...

Ne'er do wells robbed crap from in front of Big Mare's house on a regular basis. They weren't fussy about what they took.  Everything that wasn't nailed down went missing.  Her broom, numerous umbrellas, an Easter lily in its shiny pastel container.  One afternoon, they swiped a kitchen valance that had been hung over a beach chair to dry.  They came back the next day for the chair.

The neighborhood was changing, and my mother was powerless to thwart this unfortunate development.  She had no choice but to add this sad state of affairs to the pre-existing list of situations that made her furious.  In a fit of defiance, she began leaving more things outside than ever before.

She cried the night they stole the Christmas lights.

"Thieving bastards," she snarled from the edge of the porch.  Several sets of footprints remained in the snow underneath the window where the decorations had been tacked up.  She couldn't even shovel herself a little path to unplug the extension cord they'd left behind.  No goddamn shovel.

Why, in turn, would anyone want our garbage cans?  It's unclear.
They still snatched them from the side of the house one Saturday morning.

I remember being sent out front with a plastic bag full of trash.  I guess I was about thirteen at the time.  My ability to figure things out quickly was severely underdeveloped.  I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, staring at the stains where the containers had once been.  I carried our refuse back into the kitchen.

"The cans are gone," I told my mother.
"Gone where?" she asked.
"I don't know.  They're not out there anymore."

Big Mare went to the neighbors on either side, hoping our waste bins were only temporarily misplaced.  Fat chance.  Both receptacles and the contents therein had vanished.

"Sons of bitches," my mother kept repeating over and over, like a nasty magical chant that might just bring them back.  She loved those garbage cans like they were her own children.  Two brand new state-of-the-art plastic drums that really turned heads.  A less than scrupulous individual could easily stuff at least two bodies into each of those bad boys, with plenty of room left over for newspaper and accelerant.

Her precious cans were a birthday gift from my Uncle Mike.  What can I say?  My mother liked nice things.  She gleefully replaced her rusty, old gutbuckets - vile, corroded cylinders of uncategorized disgustingness.  Shriveled slabs of banged up metal with flattened, mismatched lids, half-heartedly emptied and flung in anger at parked cars and across curbs all over Butler Place.

As far as we knew, our sanitation workers were troubled individuals with violent tempers.  It certainly did seem that way.  But who were we to judge, really?  Perhaps they liked nice things too.

After the theft, Mom did the only thing she knew how to do in times of crisis and despair.  She took to the telephone and talked with her sister for the next three uninterrupted hours.

"Give a guess what happened to my friggin' cans," she prompted Aunt Joan.
"Don't tell me.  Somebody stole them."
"You're goddamn right someone stole them.  It's getting to where I have to shove my shit right back up my ass if I wanna hang onto it."

I miss these conversations more than anything in the world.

"I'm so mad right now," my mother continued.  "I could eat darts."

At lunchtime, the police rolled up in front of our house.  Two uniformed officers got out of the vehicle and rang the bell.  Still in her nightgown, Big Mare dropped the receiver and leapt clean out of her slippers, fearing the worst.  My father wasn't home yet, and she automatically assumed something dreadful had occurred.

She made the sign of the cross as she bounded toward the front door.

"Are you Mrs. Gene Dall?"
"Jesus, is he dead?" she responded, panic-stricken.
"Is who dead?" they asked, rather confused.
"My husband, Gene.  Please don't let it be true."
"We have no idea, ma'am.  We're only here about your garbage."

"Oh, thank you, God!" she cried as she raised a hand to cover her mouth.  She'd suddenly realized her bottom bridge was still in a cup by the kitchen sink.
"He's a stupid son of a bitch," she said thoughtfully.  "But still, thank Christ."  She paused momentarily.  "Did you find my cans?"
"I'm afraid not, Mrs. Dall.  Just the garbage."

Seems whoever robbed the trash cans dumped what was in them over the bushes and onto someone's private property, two blocks over.  That homeowner came across his little dog in the backyard, choking on a piece of Reynold's Wrap he'd discovered when he chewed open one of the bags.  After dislodging the aluminum foil from his pet's throat, this gentleman sifted through the debris.  In amongst the Chef Boyardee cans, orange peels and cigarette butts that were part of our daily balanced diet, he found a copy of our telephone bill.  He'd been trying to reach my mother all morning and kept getting a busy signal.

So, he called the police to see if they could help.

"Where is your husband, by the way, Mrs. Dall?" one of the patrolmen inquired.
"How should I know?" she responded.  "That one comes and goes as he pleases.  He's a regular pain in my ass."

The young man asking the questions jotted a few things down on his notepad.  He exchanged a look of concern with his partner.  Big Mare seemed oblivious to the severity of their conversation.  Granted, this character trait was a large part of her charm.

"Do you boys want to come inside for something to drink?  A beer or a soda, maybe?  I have cold cuts.  I can make you both a sandwich," she suggested, smiling brightly.  Mom simply adored everyone in law enforcement.  Except for my old man, that is.

The officers made several administrative attempts at refocusing her thoughts.  My mother asked their ages and if they had steady girlfriends.

"There's no rush to get married, you know," she advised.  "You've got your whole lives ahead of you.  Are you sure you can't stay for supper?  Let me defrost some chop meat.  I bet I have noodles."

"That's quite all right, ma'am.  Is Mr. Dall at work?" the investigation continued.  Sort of.

"Oh, honey.  It's hard to say," Mom told him.  "I guess you could call it that.  I'm not sure if I mentioned earlier.  My husband's a cop.  He does whatever the hell he wants."

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