Caussey's Corner

Caussey’s Corner: Mister, Will You Help Me Sell My Cans?

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That Friday was a rainy and gray day. Angry clouds had turned the sky into a thick, muddled soup. Festive winds blew like western ropes that wound around your legs, sending chill bumps toward the higher elevations of one’s anatomy. My insistence on purchasing a hamburger for lunch was outweighed only by the hunger for some French fries. Since I have been on somewhat of an extended vacation, I find myself eating at my favorite restaurant on Camp Wisdom Blvd. several times a week.

As I got out of the truck, I noticed a small figure cross in front of me between parked cars. With the strong scent of cholesterol in the air, I paid little attention to the shifted shade moving directly toward me.

“Help me sell my cans, Mister,” came the surprisingly cloistered voice. “There is the machine over there, but I can’t read the words to know how to sell my cans and get my money.”

Caussey's Corner: Mister, Will You Help Me Sell My Cans?

Photo: @SteveAllenPhoto via Twenty20

I looked down at the beautiful ebony face. Her hair was cropped short, and a large, oversized coat clung desperately to her small shrouded shoulders. Her eyes danced, then seemed to recess into pools of liquid essence. Her mouth was friendly and her full lips couldn’t conceal an inviting smile. In her hands she carried a white grocery sack filled with aluminum soda cans.

“I’m trying to sell these cans to that machine so I can get enough money for the bus, so I can go see my baby that stays with my auntie in Oak Cliff.”

Next to the burger parking lot sat a large, green, stoic contraption that stated it was the property of Habitat for the Humanity Recycling Center. “Ca$h for Can$,” announced the large sign in bright silver paint. We walked around to the front, and I read the instructions. Then we inserted the 12 cans into the mouth of the monster. It coughed, chugged and seemed to chuckle as the single thin dime dropped into the receiving slot.

“That ain’t enough money for the bus,” came the exasperated voice.

Caussey's Corner: Mister, Will You Help Me Sell My Cans?

Photo: @seilies via Twenty20

The wind whipped around the end of the structure, reminding me of the temperature that felt on the decline

“Well, thank you Mister. Guess I can walk to see my baby.”

My throat tightened, leaving me with the erased thoughts of my own personal problems, as they fell from the beam of prominence.

“Say,” I said. “I will take you to see your baby. Let’s get a hamburger in the drive-through and eat it on the way.”

We headed down Duncanville Road, with smells of onions and mustard escorting us on the journey. I tried to make small talk with her, but current events, and the Iraqi situation held little interest and no degree of understanding.

Caussey's Corner: Mister, Will You Help Me Sell My Cans?

Photo: @davidpfenelus via Twenty20

“This hamburger sure is good, Mister. I stay with my mother and sometimes we forget to eat. Man, it is cold. I’m glad you are helping me, Mister. I had a teacher that helped me once, but when I dropped out no one would help me. Sometimes I get scared, but I just ask God to take care of me and my baby.”

My appetite had disappeared for several blocks now. While she sat there with her little hands in her small lap, she talked on, telling me her dreams and plans for the future, as she give me directions to a street off Jefferson Blvd.

She told me that her baby’s name was Jerome and he weighed over 20 pounds. “He looks like his daddy, but Momma says he has my eyes,” she continues.

We arrived in front of the Auntie’s house. I reached in my wallet and gave her a ten-dollar bill. “This is for Jerome on his next birthday,” I said.

When is your birthday?” she asked. “My birthday is in June,” came my reply.

She exited the truck and ran toward the house. Before I could leave, she was back again with a white envelope. She gave it to me. “This is a present for your birthday from Jerome and me,” she said.

I sat there for a moment. Suddenly the drapes in the front room opened. There she stood holding the baby. She whispered something to him. He smiled, and they both waved “Bye Bye.”

Several blocks from the house I noticed the white envelope in the front seat. I picked it up. It felt weightless, yet there was something inside. I opened it up. Out slid a tiny, wrapped wad of paper. Inside the wad was the single thin dime. The wrapping was a note that read, “Happy Birthday, Mister, Love Natasha and Jerome.”

Durhl Caussey is a syndicated columnist who writes for papers across America. He may be reached at this paper or at [email protected].