The bottles and cans scavenger

In the city, where I live, a steady stream of men come through our yard regularly and scavenge returnable bottles and cans from the garbage.

The men come through so often – sometimes as often as once-a-day, that I recognize several of them by face. There is one guy who has come through for almost ten years. I say “Hello” to him and we occasionally make small talk. He’s probably in his early fifties. He has real bad teeth, a really good sun tan, and – his trademark – a baseball cap that he always wears with the visor turned up.

He is a virtual small businessman. He combs the neighborhood daily, in a  regular, steady pattern; not simply waiting for trash day, or going to the park on Saturday and Sunday mornings to see what treasures the partiers left behind. Rather he comes to every street, every day. Even if he just finds one or two empties here, one or two more over there – no big finds – he seems to enjoy or at least respect his work.

Today I saw him, not in my yard but as I was leaving a nearby restaurant in my car. As I saw him walking along the sidewalk, toting a plastic bag half-filled with empties, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him in many weeks. He looked like he’d lost twent-five or thirty pounds.

I wonder what caused him to lose that much weight. But then I realize I have no right to know; I’ve never done anything to help him, nor will I.

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