You see these people on the Internet and it’s funny to see them crash headlong into a brick wall when they were trying to roller skate behind a truck or see someone slam into the ground from a ramp they made with three bricks and an old board propped against the roof of a barn. The fail compilations shows this sort of activity is nearly a pandemic, and no matter how badly you know, truly know, some of these people are injured, secretly you also know you have to laugh at them because they are such idiots. Darwin, where is thy sting? Mostly, we can hope they never procreate. Regrettably, most do because it is the only thing they can do in a few minutes without getting a concussion.
Remember the video of the woman filming her husband cutting down a huge tree? It falls on their house right after she says, “I hope that moron knows what he is doing.” And that makes it funny but we never see the inside of the house and the mess it made. Did the cat sleeping on the kitchen table survive? Was there a large saltwater aquarium shattered with its trapped denizens slowly suffocating in the room as a divorce floating to the surface outside? We may never know.
Greg was fun to laugh at because he did hysterically stupid things and nearly always got caught. He was the one who held a garage sale at his ex-girlfriend’s mother’s house while both were away. The mother got a call from a friend and came home to discover most of her small appliances, tools, clothes and jewelry were being sold for next to nothing. For a woman to lose a mixer for two bucks to a coke addict throwing a surprise yard sale is funny but that same woman lost a necklace once owned by her great great grandmother and it went for less than a dollar. Something she remembered her grandmother wearing when she was a little girl was sold for what it cost her great great grandfather before the War Of Northern Aggression discounting the inflation rate, of course.
I saw Greg today at Exit Sixteen, and he was holding up a sign that read, “Stranded. Need Gas God Bless” and I realized it had been a year or so since I had seen him and this was exactly what he was doing then, too. I remember when he was just a little dumb, going to college, and had a nice woman to love. Cocaine got the best of him which really wasn’t all that much to begin with. Last I heard he had skipped out on probation by quitting his job and smoking pot. But there he was back in this part of the world, holding up some sign he likely found on the ground, and trying to con people coming off the exit out of a few bucks.
I know his family lives in this area and I hope like hell his mom doesn’t see him. That’s got to be one hell of a feeling to see your son on the side of the road signing for change. All those hopes and dreams sit there wasting away and Greg has got to be in his late forties by now, so even his mom has to think it’s getting late. Greg has never been into real crime, nothing violent or deviant, and it’s not like the woman I know whose son is in prison for twenty years plus because, as she put it, “he just can’t leave little girls alone” and that’s something that hurts, really hurts, a mom in ways that most of us will never know. As far as I know other than heartbreak, Greg has only physically harmed himself. I pulled over and stopped and he had already started telling me how his family was broken down when…hey, I know you!
Greg was down in Florida for a while and he did time down there for being stupid as hell again. Greg noticed that people who signed with dogs got more attention than those who didn’t so he dragged some poor stray to the street corner with him and after a couple of days of this the local cops busted him for animal neglect. His argument was the dog was already starving, but those pesky cops… In Greg’s mind, or so I speculate, the problem was his prop looked too much like a stray so he borrowed a dog he found in someone’s yard. Greg was forever borrowing something from someone who would only later discover that it was gone. He meant to return the dog, and he always claimed he meant to return whatever it was he had that belonged to someone else, but it never turned out that way. But fate was kind to Greg just this once and the woman who owned the dog, when she discovered Greg dragging it down the street on the end of a rope, gave him twenty bucks for “finding” her dog. He went out and bought enough beer to put him into a coma for a day or so, and then, armed with a grand plan for money making, went forth to “find” more dogs. The woman had also contacted the police about the dog, and the police were less than kind to Greg about his newfound occupation. The caught him trying to lift a dog out of a yard and arrested him. Their story was Greg resisted arrest once they got him back to jail but Greg told me they beat the living hell out of him for stealing dogs. They also put him in jail for a couple of weeks then dropped him off on the Interstate at the Georgia line.
He’s a few years younger than I am but he looks much older now. The scars from his recent adventures in Florida are not lying on virgin territory. Some people call the cops on thieves and some take matters into their own hands. Greg has stolen from everyone he’s ever known, and not all have forgiven him. I watch him and he is still watching traffic as he tells me about what happened, and he doesn’t ask about people we knew, and he doesn’t ask about the last good woman who wanted him to become someone else, and he doesn’t ask if I’ve seen his mom. Greg never smelled good, and in triple digit heat he smells far too bad for me to let him ride in my truck and I know better than to give him money. He begs and pleads and each time the amount he begs for gets smaller and smaller until he tells me he’ll wash my truck for a dollar. He’ll mow my grass for enough money to get a meal. He’ll paint my house for a six pack and he’ll solve the equation for X minus Y plus seven if I’ll give him twenty cents. I remember when he sold me a couple of hundred bucks worth of aquarium equipment for twenty-five dollars. Now with nothing to sell but a sad story for some sympathy, Greg is down to whining and pleading, but I’ve heard it all before.
When I first met Greg he has a mat of curly brown hair on his head, like a hobbit, but it’s greying now, and he keeps it closely cropped. There are scabs and scars on his scalp, and there is debris in his hair where he’s leaned against something dirty. He’s missing two front teeth, one top and one on the bottom, and there’s a homemade tattoo on his neck of an axe of spades. His hands shake as he speaks with them and more than once I have to brush his hand off of me as we talk. The clothes he is wearing might be the same outfit I saw him in a couple of years ago. I take all the change in my pocket and Greg’s face lights up like a Christmas tree. I toss it into the tall grass beside the road, scattering it, and I walk off. As I get into the truck Greg is on his hands and knees picking pennies out of the grass.
When you’re very young, drug and alcohol abuse has some romantic qualities about it. You’re doing something very adult, and because there are few things you can do well, drugs and alcohol abuse is a great way to show people you’re ready to screw yourself out of your youth for a good time. As you get older it gets more and more pathetic with each passing year, and with each part of your life that slips away and with each opportunity, be it money, or security, or love. I don’t have the right to give up on Greg, and I ought not to have mocked him by sowing the money on the ground, but I had to disengage from him without him following me to my truck. As I pull away he holds up a quarter and he grins at me as if somehow he’s extracted some tiny victory from the side of the road.