Because we all know how much you crave me.
Or something. Everything I own is craved, especially my garbage.
The other day I found a bum rummaging through the green bin we keep along the side of the house for recyclables. Usually it’s just plastic and tin cans, but over the past few weeks we’d been storing our returnables there – you know, soda cans, beer bottles, etc… In Michigan, it’s a ten-cent deposit and return. We keep them in a large green recyclable bin under the kitchen window. It keeps the fly and ant population down in our kitchen and when we’re ready to turn them in, the car is right there to load them into. On a good month, we can clear over $35.00, because D drinks that much Coke, and I enjoy the occasional Vernors.
So the bum didn’t see the car, assumed no one was home and started making lots of noises. Ironically, D was returning bottles and cans and the ones in the bin were spillover from the primary bin behind the house, where we toss them from the livingroom window. Our system is complicated, but it works. I heard the noise, and at first I thought it was rats or maybe a squirrel, since both eat like kings in my neighborhood, but I just happen to glance out of the kitchen window and saw a blue hat with a white bill.
Squirrels don’t wear hats, not even in Royal Oak.
I pondered what to do, because I don’t want to get shot over 2.00 worth of Coke cans, but two dollars can get me a either a cookie or two thirds of a gallon of gas. I’d toss a coin if I had to make a decision.
I decide to confront him, because after all, I can take a bum. I grab my trusty kitchen knife just in case he wanted to get physical.
I round the corner, and there he is, placing my cans into his plastic bags. His head is low over the bin and I’m blocked by a taller, lidded garbage can, so I get to stand there to get a nice long look. He’s about my height, maybe shorter, bearded in a fashionable length, and he’s wearing one of those fishermen hats that people stick lures on. I never understood that, because unless fisherpeople were planning on swishing their heads in the lake, thirty sharp-hooked lures on a hat just looks silly.
There were no lures on his hat by the way. He probably sold them for crack.
Anyway, He’s also sporting what looks like a woman’s blue coat, rather longish and considerably not as stylish as his beard. His shoes are worn but not falling off, and I can’t smell him. Yet.
I lean against the side of the house and cross my arms across my chest, knife pointed casually to the gray sky. I try to affect a look of bemusement, but I’m kinda pissed. Rummage through my cans when they’re on the street, but in my driveway – I cut you.
“Hiya,” I said, and tried not to laugh when he froze. I was disappointed when he didn’t drop anything in fear, but I’m guessing he’s used to being caught doing stuff he shouldn’t – sleeping in the park, urinating in the alleys, etc… “Finding everything you need?”
He eyes his bike parked against the wooden fence. He’d still have to get past me, and I have a pretty long reach. I cut you.
Bum person wants to tell me that he didn’t know the cans were mine, or maybe give me a pitiful apology, but I really don’t want to hear it. He stammers out a few words – “I”, “but”, and “um” are repeated over and over. He was maybe a hard, hard 40, with deep lines across his forehead a very weathered look. Front on, the beard was less kempt than I figured.
“Take what you have and get the hell off my property. If I catch you anywhere near my driveway again, you’ll have more to worry about than sleeping under an overpass.”
The bastard got cocky.
“This is garbage. It’s public property.”
Now I get to stand and point my kitchen knife. I really didn’t mean to, but it was in my hands, and when I’m excited, I tend to point a lot. “Not when it’s in my driveway, genius.” I point to the street with my knife. “Out there, you can cart it off by the trunkfull, but up here, against my house – you’re trespassing.” A technicality – it’s a three unit apartment, but it looks like a house, and I do live in it, so there. It wasn’t like he was going to search the registrar of deeds for verification. I stopped because I was arguing with a bum, which has to be a low point in my life. Arguing with my four year old nephew seemed like a challenging evening on the debate team.
“Take what you have and go,” I said low and quiet, my ‘last chance before I cut you’ voice. I wanted to throw in something smartass and tough, but I think I got my point across. Gilding the lily would only make matters worse, and I was done talking. He gathered up his two plastic bags filled with my returnables and mounted his bike, trying to not look at me as he went past. Then I caught a whiff of the BO and wet dog smell that comes from communing with the elements over a period of days.
I give to my local shelter, South Oakland County, and often I give spare change when asked, because you never know when it might be you needing change for a burger or a pint of gin, but dammit, don’t assume you’re entitled to anything. What’s next – sleeping on my patio furniture? Showering with my garden hose?
I’m not rattled or anything and I certainly don’t feel less safe. The bums are getting ballsy and I may need a bigger knife.