I hear the rattling, hear the familiar clanking and clamoring of the shopping cart. He's coming--the transient. Back up the alleyway, his usual every-other-day path. Checking for soda cans. For pop bottles. For recyclables and metals and wires--anything useful, anything handy. Anything for a couple of bucks. Some would say he's lazy, others would say he's not in his right mind. Crazy. But I know better. I know he's trying. With wild eyes--but with a mild countenance--he's trying. So I grab my wallet, and snatch an empty container to fill with water. It's ninety degrees out there. Ninety degrees, and he's trying.
The transient--I wish I had his name. He's in his thirties, maybe his forties. Shorter than me, too, by a few inches. And with short, though untamed, facial hair. Hair and roots and growth the color of Kurt Cobain's. He is tired, wired, excited, absent.
"I don't ever have cans, really," I tell him, "but if I do, I'll just bag them separately and set them aside for you. My trash is the one next to the pinky-orange garage."
"Oh, thanks so much, miss. I'd really appreciate that." He looks at me, dents and cracks in his face, and smiles a yellow-toothed smile. "I don't like disrepectin' people's stuff," he says. "I don' wanna make people mad or upset with what I'mmuh doin'." He looks around, puffs out his bottom lip. Gestures outwardly, from his heart, to me. "So thank you."
"It's fuckin' hot out," I blurt, handing him a bottle of water. "So take this."
He cackles a dry, hacking laugh. "Ha. It's fuckin' hot out, she says." He takes the bottle. "Thank you."
"And here's a couple bucks for today, too." I pass him two one-dollar bills.
He's genuinely appreciative. Happy. Thanks me several times, says he never expects anything, and that he would just appreciate cans or metals or wires or anything that can be set out.
I nod. "No worries," I say. I look at him again, his uncombed, fair-colored mane. Black athletic shorts. A dirty, smudged, ripped tank top. Dirt beneath the nails. Wild eyes and a mild countenance. The rusty, unbalanced, rattling, clanking, cantankerous-sounding cart.