Quit eating so loud


A brown Nova slides into the land ahead of us, and I shout, gearing down the trash truck to keep from hitting the bastard.

The last thing I need is an accident today after all that went on last night.

Harry, my partner, sits in the passenger seat of my truck, munching on a BLT so loud Iím nearly deaf from the crunch.

So I tell him to shut up.

With his mouth full of food, he mumbles it ainít his fault I broke up with Susie.

I tell me to shut up about that, too, then slam on the break as some soccer Mom with suicidal tendencies weaves in front of me in an olive station wagon, deciding without signaling that she likes my lane better than her own, and we both skid on the ice like weíre trying out for the ice capades.

Winter struck early this year, a snake attack that sent the temperature plummeting 50 degrees over night, leaving me and Harry trapped in a rush hour parade of panicked people, car fumes rising around us as if the city needs to shed a little more head before really kicking us in the teeth.

The buildings around us look like ice sculptures, making me feel that much more lonely, as lonely as the pigeons huddled under the eves of each roof.

I see the teeth-chattering old men in the park struggling to keep possession of their benches even though the ice wonít let them sit for more than a second.

I shout at the driver of a Mercedes with medical plates, who cuts across three lanes to slide off the exit for the airport -- for a house call in Bermuda or points farther south, I think.

Harry, still munching, tells me the driver canít hear me anyway so why am I shouting?

I tell him it makes me feel better to shout, though in truth, nothing does.

I am as empty as an old milk carton and twice as sour.

I tell him to eat quiet or Iíll put him and his sandwich in the back with the trash.

Then I open the window so the air can clear my head.

Harry complains about the cold and grumbles that he doesnít want to smell the trash weíre hauling while he eats.

I tell him to put a close pin on his nose, but shut the window anyway.

Iím cold, too -- deep down cold to the bone, aching in a way I havenít ached since a kid.

Susie wants to see other men. Susie wants me to understand. Susie needs space and a new life me as a trash hauler canít give her.

I ask Harry if he wants to get drunk.

ďNow?Ē he asks, a chunk of lettuce hanging from a corner of his mouth.

No, later, after work, I say, and he agrees, provided my driving doesnít get us both killed first.

I tell him to shut and quit easting so loud.

Then I think of Susie.


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