Angels among piles of junk

Thursday, April 17, 2003

April 17, 2003

Dear Patty,

The Great Cape Girardeau Scavenger Hunt is under way. Once a year, the city relieves its residents of the burden of ridding themselves of broken-down appliances and couches and almost anything else no longer wanted hanging around the house. The mountains of once-treasured junk bring out scavengers, many in pickup trucks just like DC drives. They roam the city far into the night, some curbside shopping for themselves and others for resale.

Browsing in a second-hand store one day, DC found a chair she'd thrown away in the citywide pickup. When she lived in Berkeley, the city ran a store next to the dump that sold items reclaimed from the garbage hauls.

Scavengers have a code of honor. Some leave scribbled notes on junk saying, "Please don't take this. I'm coming back." They also have a streak of madness. At 2:30 one morning, my friend Gail located two picnic-table benches she had to have. They fit in the back of her car only with both rear doors wide open. The white Taurus, its wings spread wide, floated the length of Lexington Avenue in the dark that morning, an angel on a mission.

All this recycling seems a good idea, but if the city's collection list included husbands, no doubt a few would be sitting by the curb in busted La-Z-Boys.

I say this because this year the scavenger hunt coincided with the Masters golf tournament. It is one of the four most important tournaments of the year, and to some it is the event of every year. This year's tournament had extra allure: Escape from war news, and a protest against the golf club's men-only policy. Because of the protest, the Augusta National decided to present the telecast commercial-free, relieving its sponsors of the burden of possibly becoming the targets of a boycott. It was some kind of wonderful to watch a golf tournament without being interrupted by Cadillac ads.

"At the next commercial, can you help me with something?" DC asked as the Masters entered the final nine crucial holes.

"Sure," I said.

Eventually I confessed that there were no commercials this year. This news did not make her as happy as it had made me.

The tournament was decided in an exciting sudden-death playoff. From the looks on DC's face as she occasionally passed through the den I could tell there would be nothing sudden about my death if she had anything to say about it.

Guilt grows in heaps when a husband watches a golf tournament while his wife wants him to be doing something else. "I owe you," I said. "I know," she said.

The main thing DC wanted of me was to get rid of a broken air conditioner. She'd reminded me about it all weekend. So the next day while she was at work, I went to the upstairs closet where our air conditioners are known to hang out during the cooler months and wrestled the lone air conditioner there onto a dolly.

Step by step we banged down the front stairway, onto the front porch and down the front steps. It was jarring, and the air conditioner fell off the dolly a few times. By the end it looked at home there next to the rest of the busted up junk.

When DC got home that night I casually, angelically mentioned that getting rid of the air conditioner was something she no longer had to worry about.

"Really?" she said. "Which one did you take?"

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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