One Man’s Trash is…

My father used to have a bigger company with many employees, but over the years, he has cut back, and now he’s just got this one guy, Ron, who’s been working for him for years, doing different types of labor. Ron’s not much younger than my father, but he’s built like a little fire plug. And for a guy who has taken little care of himself (smokes, breathes in all kinds of dust, and no doubt partakes in the recreational substances) he seems like he’s in pretty good shape. He’s very strong. I’ve seen him lift an iron radiator over his head. Whenever there’s heavy lifting to be done, Dad calls in Ron.

In the past few years, Ron hasn’t been as dependable though. He disappears for days at a time, usually once he gets a little money in his pocket. He’s got that kind of swagger that makes you think sometimes he might be drunk, or a little on something, and there’s no doubt that sometimes he is. Ron lived for many years at the local YMCA. He had a little trouble managing his finances, and my father helped him out, giving him enough to get by on, but putting some aside so that Ron could eventually get a car. Which he did.

With my father’s help, Ron became the proud owner of a late-model Buick. It’s blue with a white leather top. Pretty swanky ride.

A year or so after he got the Buick, Ron’s father died and left his house to Ron. Dad tried to help Ron manage the responsibility of home-ownership, but Ron, who’s not the most intelligent of men had a little trouble with the basic concepts. And also, his substance abuse problems were probably a factor. Perhaps he was broken up about his own father. Maybe there were things that had never been said. Ron had some troubles around that time and seemed to be self-medicating a bit to keep the sad thoughts away. He wouldn’t show up for work or answer the cell phone my father had given him. Dad would inevitably drive over to the house and find Ron in a daze, a couple of skanky women always hanging around, or other guys, all in similar states, lounging on the dilapidated furniture in Ron’s parlour.

Eventually, Ron loaned the Buick to some guy who said he needed it to go get some money with which he could pay Ron rent for a room in the house. Ron never saw the guy again. Turned out the guy had traded the car for some crack, and no one is really sure what happened then, how it got into the hands of those teenagers, but in any case, by that time Ron and my father had already reported it stolen. The police spotted the Buick and gave chase. The kids in the car freaked out, and tried to hide, driving into a city park and wedging the car beneath the large branch of a tree, the force of which peeled back the front edges of the white leather top.

Ron’s still driving that car. The paint is completely dull, and the tattered leather of the top flaps in the wind as he cruises along. The muffler trumpets the car’s velocity, audible from two or three blocks away. A few weeks ago, Ron parked it somewhere, and when he came back for it, the car had a boot on its wheel. My father paid the $400 and change in parking tickets, plus almost $200 in towing fees.

At this point in the story I stopped my father. “Is that car even worth six hundred dollars??”

He laughed and told me that Ron claims people are always offering him money for the car. He tells Ron time and again to get rid of the thing. It needs frequent repairs, $500 for a transmission, then it might need a brake line, or a new tire. Dad will pay for those, and then Ron always pays him back, or does some job for him, whatever. And every time my father urges him to let the car go, Ron says, “Are you kidding? Some guy just offered me money for it last week!” But because it’s a “classic” Ron has no plans to part with it.

And so, Dad was teasing them right before the two of them came over here yesterday to do some handy work in my basement. This week the city is working on my street (some kind of hush-hush problems with the sewage system) and as they got out of their cars, my father teased Ron by admonishing the men on the street, “Now don’t be offering this man any money for this car, gentlemen!” he said laughing. Sometimes Dad gets a kick out of himself. And he is a pretty funny guy.

They came in, and he got Ron all situated with the tools for the job in the basement, and then he  went off to tend to other business. As he went out to his car, one of the city workmen stopped him. “Hey,” he said with all earnestness, “does your friend really want to sell that car? How much does he want?”



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