In relation to life’s annoyances, it has been alluded that two kinds dominate: puddles or shit. Plus forty years of life residue add credence to this perspective. Analogous to a land mind, careful steps may minimize the resultant puddles or shit.
I chafe at the individual who forever bears a surface smile, exudes a demeanor that life is if not a bed of roses, peachy-keen.
Most recent, I was released from a local hospital emergency room for casting of a broken arm not welcomed from a bar brawl. I applied for Indigent Status. Socially, two strikes against me from having worked as a trash hauler; unemployment the second strike in the eyes of contemporary society. We were once referred to as “garbage collectors.” Nothing could be further from that descriptive truth. Recent layoff found me bearing the title of newly unemployed. Both categories, puddles for sure.
Regular pick-up included shitty diapers, used tampons, used condoms, tissues, hand-wipes, food stuffs, soiled rugs, disposable razors, papers, etc., exemplify the items collected on the scheduled run.
My treatment center for life’s annoyances, puddles and shit, is a short walk from the hospital on a busy urban street. It’s called Art’s Bar and Grill. The sign itself has well-conveyed in four words the modality of treatment offered. Greasy burgers, fries, cold beer and wine, are competitively priced, and over time, lead to harder more expensive treatments.
Russ, a tall, congenial, no-nonsense middle-aged black guy serves treatment, listens to complaints, puts TV on twenty-four-hour sports, prescribes medicine, collects fees, tosses out the lady who has gone too far.
He says to me, “What will it be Rod?”
“The usual,” I reply. A cough issues from my inner being.
“You need the less usual, friend. Try this elixir.”
He sets down a shot glass in front of me. It’s rye whiskey and hot coffee mixed together.
“Damn, that’s good. Works better than Pertussin,” I say, smile wide.
“Want a full six-ounces?” he asks.
I raise two fingers that indicate my choice for two glasses of the remedied concoction.
“Earl won’t be back for the next two weeks.”
“Earl?” I ask.
“The guy who you got in a fight with. Video shows he instigated.”
“Thanks for letting me know. You’re a fair judge.”
“Just doing the job, keeping the peace,” Russ says placing the drink in front of me.
I employ my lesser used extremity to handle the drink as my other is casted from shoulder to hand. This, a mere puddle.
As to affairs of the heart, relationships, most have soured since middle school.
The most sour was with Maddie. The name should have been enough to warn me. We met at a local concert by artists, Pink and the Jonas Brothers. I was working a construction job at the time and looked pretty darn good if I might say so.
“Let’s grab a bite after,” I suggested.
“Art’s, they have good burgers and grilled vegies,” I said.
We hit it off and talked back and forth for a couple hours. Within a couple weeks we were more less living together.
That worked for a few days, and then Maddie started to show her true colors.
“Pick up after yourself; clean the dishes in the sink; brush your teeth; turn the damn volume down; make a friend or two.”
One night we were drinking and unbeknownst to me the puddle became a flood with a pile of shit included. Call it a water-main break, a sewer backed up.
“Hey baby, let’s have another,” she said, putting the fifth can of a dark beer in my hand. A little while later,
“Mind signing this paper? It’ll protect us both in the future.”
I glanced at it, signed without thinking twice.
I noticed the document the next day on the kitchen counter and grabbed her shoulders, saying, “You threaten me one more time and I’ll warm your bottom.” She had given me an ultimatum to pay my share of the rent.
“Go ahead. I’ll slap your ass in jail for abuse.”
She kept her word. This was only the beginning of a tangled web. It took a good year to get out of this pile of shit. I moved to a rooming house that charged community service and twenty bucks a week for rent. Solace and fellowship continued to be found inside the comfortable confines of Art’s.
The rubber hit the road junior year of high school. I went out for sports, basketball to be precise. My grades were average, friends were a bit loud and adventurous, but we were accountable to one another by and large. We were going to contend in the semi-finals after one particular season.
“Let’s get some cold brews,” one of the team members stated.
“You want to get suspended?” asked another.
“If we play it right, that won’t happen.”
This debate went on a few more minutes and by consensus, we chose to follow through with getting the cold beer, a couple six-packs between three guys.
We agreed on where and when. It would be the night before the game that next evening.
Location, behind the local Walmart store in a partially wooded area.
“Boys, what the hell are you doing?” No one answered.
“Boys, I ask again what the hell you are doing?”
“What does it look like?”
There was silence, and then the voice asked a third time what we were doing.
Later on that night, I received a phone call from the team Coach.
“It’s alleged you and two others were seen behind the Walmart. Were you there?”
“Were you part of the party observed to be going on?”
“You and your two buddies are suspended from the team. It’s too bad you blew this opportunity for a cheap thrill.”
I apologized for my short-sighted choice – nothing changed.
“Your actions don’t affect me but your apology is accepted. You are still suspended though,” the Principal stated.
I asked, “Just for one game?”
“No, for one and any subsequent games that could occur in the playoffs.”
This was definitely shit happening, but hoped it would be a long time before the next life annoyance came along.
I mentioned having been a trash hauler. The first time was shortly after high school. The job and the money earned as a young adult helped pay for a few whims, dates, experienced pleasures. Granted, work hours were a little inconvenient with my lifestyle, but doable; I worked from six a.m. until before noon five days a week for a while.
The reality set in quick one summer day. A crib, dresser, and sofa were at the curb of this particular house in what looked like original boxes. I did hesitate but dismissed any thought of these items having any other designation than trash. In keeping with my work ethic as a good hauler, all was picked up and taken to the refuse center by myself and co-worker.
Human Resources along with my “damn” boss called for a meeting.
“Gotta complaint today,” he started, then took a deep annoying breath through his teeth.
“Lady says you tossed her furniture. Movers were coming for it.”
“It was at the curb. Isn’t that where we pick things up?”
“Yeah, but you should have put two and two together. If it don’t look damaged, it may not be trash,” he said.
“But, but,” I said.
“You’re fired.” That ouch was a knee-deep shit pile. At least I could get unemployment and my meals at Art’s.
You might question what about your immediate family?
Oh, they were around. These examples occurred between family suppers, attending one’s sport event or school play. I stayed put in the same town much of my life and my feet traveled the well-worn paths offered by this choice.
For this account, I have chosen to focus on the annoyances experienced by me. The mud remains on the sides of my figurative shoes, but there will be more to come soon enough to be sure.
David Russell is a tenacious writer of short fiction, and general article content for a freelance service. He has had stories in micro-fiction anthologies, New Authors Journal, and on Spillwords.com. David lives with his wife, three turtles, and also plays piano professionally in lower Michigan, USA. Publications: 'Homecoming: A Memoir' (2018), Amazon; 'Waiting For Messiah' (Anthology - 2017), Smashwords.