The Yellow Windbreaker

 By Michael Rodgers 

               The score was tied with three minutes left on the clock when she started in on me again.

They’ll be here any minute now! Why do you always have to make me crazy! Just once I wish you’d…

Okay, okay, okay! Stop screaming at me for crissakes. Just tell me if Michigan wins or loses. I say the words, but I know she doesn’t give a shit. I head for my old pick-up truck just to shut her up. The one game I care about all year long and she’s got me running errands for her ning errands for yingfriends. She sure got bitchy after the second kid…got bossy, too…and fat.

Jesus, do we really need another dinner party for her friends? Don’t those people ever eat at their own frigging houses? Of course, all the dinner parties are for her friends. My friends don’t come around much anymore. They say they don’t like the tension. Go figure. I don’t like the tension either, yet here I am. Stuck. Stuck with two kids who treat me like shit, a double mortgage and a wife who hates my guts. Okay, hate might be a bit strong, but still.

Eyup, nowadays it’s just me, the lawnmower and the TV on the weekends. Oh, and the dinner guests. Can’t forget the dinner guests. Snooty asses. What was I supposed to get again? Oh, yeah, baguettes. Heaven forbid we have a dinner with ordinary bread. The horror, the horror…

I found a space right in front of the store and that’s when I saw him. One of those human train wrecks. What the hell was he doing? It looked like he was arguing with the garbage can right there where the glass auto-doors open. His bright yellow windbreaker clashed hard with his greasy pants and his hair looked like it hadn’t seen a comb since the Reagan Administration.

The garbage can was one of those domed models with the spring loaded door you have to push in on to dump your trash. I sat there watching the guy and thinking, the poor bastard. Then I thought, if he wanted a real argument, I could give him my address. Hell, I’d even drive him home. Let him deliver the baguettes or something. That oughta get a rise out of the old lady’s dough.

The argument with the garbage can continued, so I decided to sit there and see if the show had another act.  I couldn’t tell who was winning, but the homeless guy seemed to be holding his own…like I used to do. He’s silent for a minute as if he’s really focused on what the garbage can is saying. Then he throws his hands up in disgust, like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. He turns real sharp, takes three quick steps away and then spins back as if the garbage can just insulted his sexual competence.

Yeah, I know. That old canard. Been there, done that. That’s like the beginning of the end when they hit you with that one. Call it a turning point or whatever, but when the venom sinks that deep, the road back to normalcy usually misses the guardrail and goes right off the cliff. I’ve seen a lot of guys post the white flag after that one. I know I did.

As I sat there watching, I wondered how the poor bum ended up arguing with a garbage can out in front of the Winn-Dixie on a Saturday night. Apparently homeless. Obvious mental issues. Probably been married before.

I have to give the old bird credit though, as far as I could tell he was giving as good as he was getting. Suddenly, he’s standing there with his hands on his hips and his head cocked to one side and leaning in real hard, like he’s taking some serious abuse, but I can tell he’s just about had it with this garbage can’s shit.

Then the homeless guy does something I’ll never forget. He takes off his shiny yellow wind-breaker and crams it right into the mouth of the garbage can leaving nothing, but part of one sleeve hanging out. That oughta shut the bitch up. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as he stomped off toward the corner of the building and away into the woods. He never looked back. I sat there for a long while trying to absorb what I’d just witnessed. In spite of his obvious problems, I felt a great admiration for the crazy old homeless guy. At least he didn’t compromise on his principles. He may have lost a windbreaker, but he still had his dignity.

It took another full minute to remember why I was sitting in the parking lot in the first place. Oh, yeah. The dinner guests need baguettes. To hell, I thought, I don’t even like baguettes. I cranked the ignition on the old pick up and drove away knowing I would need my own yellow windbreaker when I got home.