The Junk Man
by Benjamin Blue
Gregg Mathews woke up with a splitting hangover. He and his driver, Bert, had partied far too long and too hard last night. They had met up the Mendez twins at the Silver Slipper Lounge last night and began sharing shooters with them. The twins drank them under the table. At least that is what he thought had happened. Things had gotten rather blurry after the second hour of melon ball shooters. He did remember how pissed he was when the twins had waved goodbye as they walked without so much as a kiss goodnight — much less a roll in the hay or even a little feel.
He moaned as he tried to sit up and the hammer of Thor struck his temples. Shit, I can't believe we fell for those two and their lines of crap again.
This is the third time those twin bitches had come on to Bert and him rubbing their legs and whispering in their ears, and the third time they had consumed all of the liquor the guys would buy them only to run off leaving the men very frustrated.
He looked at his clock, Damn. I'm going to be late for church. I hate that.
People would look at him and his drinking ways on Saturday night and wonder about why he always went to church on Sunday morning. Gregg had tried to explain it once to friends when he'd been married to his first and only wife. Actually it was her friends as he had few of his own as he was rather socially backward. And it was in the days he was an electrical engineer flying for NASA on shuttle missions, before he became a junk man, a garbage collector. He'd tried to explain to them that he believed in God because one could not go into orbit and see the millions of points of light so brilliant in the jet black background and look at the beautiful blue Earth rotating slowly beneath without believing that some force and purpose had created all of it.
Most, including his ex-wife, simply tolerated his opinion and his display of faith on his sleeve. He'd become more inward pointing and withdrawn as she and her friends seemed to constantly poke fun at his faith. His wife was also constantly on him to work longer hours, go for promotions, and make more money.
His wife finally came home one day and announced she was tired of him and had found a man of means to "keep her in the manner she wanted to be kept."
He didn't fight the divorce since she asked for nothing. Her new man would provide what ever she needed and wanted.
His life went further down hill as NASA ended the shuttle missions about six months after his divorce.
That's when he decided to become a garbage collector. Collecting other people's junk could keep him close to God and pay the bills.
Gregg had simple needs and lived in an efficiency apartment in a cheap, but nice part of town. He drove a small hybrid pickup truck that was six years old. It was more than he needed and he loved the little truck. He rarely went out because he was shy and had few friends other than Bert, his driver. He had clean clothes but didn't go for current trendy fashion, settling on comfortable and practical clothing. He rarely drank other than immediately before Bert and he had to make another junk collection run.
Gregg had tried to ask a few women at church to go out but they all seemed to be busy or "seeing someone" when he asked them out. The women saw a dead end in him. After all, he was just a garbage collector.
On this Sunday, Gregg collected himself together, took three aspirin and dressing in his best suit made it to church just in time for the morning service to start. The first song had already started as he looked for a seat. He found one next a woman about his age with a beautiful little girl sitting next to her in the pew. He'd never seen her here before. He would have noticed. She was a beauty. He nodded and smiled at her. The woman looked at him and seemed to inspect him. She finally smiled back and graciously shared her hymnal so he could join in the song being sung by the congregation.
After church, he hesitantly approached her and introduced himself. "Hi my name's Gregg Mathews. Thanks for sharing your song book with me. I was late arriving. It was my own fault. Are you new here? I've not seen you before." With that outburst Gregg ran down. He'd spent his entire vocal ammunition in one great cannonade.
She replied with her hand extended, "My name is Stephanie Sizemore. And this is my little girl Suzy. Say hello to the nice man Suzy."
As Gregg was shaking Stephanie's hand, Suzy looked up into his eyes with the most beautiful, innocent, dark brown eyes he'd ever seen. "Hello Mister, I'm Suzy."
Gregg relied, "Hello Suzy, I must say you and your mother are both beautiful."
He suddenly stopped with his brain in a panic, what the hell did I just say? That's so unlike me. Shit, she probably thinks I'm hitting on her. Shit.
He stammered, "I ... I'm sorry Ms. Sizemore. I never say things like that. I must apologize for my outburst."
She laughed at his awkward apology, "Gregg, may I call you Gregg? Don't be embarrassed. That was a sweet thing to say. Suzy and I are honored you think we're beautiful. Don't we Suzy?"
Suzy looked up and shook her head yes.
She continued, "Gregg, please call me Stephanie. I just moved here and this is our first Sunday in town."
Gregg said, "I'm very pleased to meet you Stephanie. If there is any thing I can tell you about the town or if you need any help just let me know." Reaching in his suit coat pocket he pulled out one of the dog eared business cards Bert had forced him to buy when they started their business.
Stephanie scanned the card, "You're a garbage collector? I've got my trash being picked up by Waste Management Inc. I've never heard of Clear Sky Junk Removal. Is that your business?"
"Yes, my partner Bert and I opened it a few years ago."
"Does your route come by my house?" She asked as she stated her home address.
Gregg smiled and laughed, "No Stephanie I'm afraid our routes are far from your home."
Stephanie asked Gregg if he knew a good restaurant for a Sunday meal, since she had not yet unpacked the entire kitchen.
Gregg replied, "Oh yes, the Gravy Bowl is a great family style restaurant with great food. I can rarely go there because it is family style and it's far too much for one person."
Stephanie suggested, "Well, why don't you show us the way there and join us for lunch. The three of us certainly qualify for the family portions!"
Gregg readily agreed because he very much wanted to spend more time with this woman.
At lunch Stephanie told him some of her story. Her husband had been killed in Afghanistan. She couldn't make do on the stipend the government gave her, so she'd found employment at a local electronics manufacturer.
She asked Gregg more about his business but Gregg only told her that Bert and he would be leaving the next morning for a four-day trip on a new route that was scheduled to bring in six hundred pieces of junk. The stuff was valuable because of the precious metals contained in the junk and he and Bert split the profits. Bert was the driver and Gregg was the collector.
Stephanie thought no more of it but did ask Gregg to give her a call when he got back from his trip
Four and a half days later, Stephanie received a call from Gregg that he had just gotten back and would she have dinner with him the next evening?
She agreed and thus started a romance that grew until finally six months later Gregg asked her to marry him. She'd been to his small place many times and loved his economical lifestyle. She loved his little truck. The back of the truck's cab had a small seat that was just perfect for Suzy and she loved sitting there.
She wanted nothing extravagant. She was content with a good man, a beautiful healthy child, and food on the table.
He wanted nothing extravagant. He wanted a good woman, a beautiful healthy child, and food on the table.
They were truly "simpatico" as the Latin people said.
Stephanie never even questioned those days' long trips taken by her fiancée and Bert to collect their junk as they both kept saying.
But Gregg thought neither of them had a decent or large enough resident to properly house the new family. A three bedroom two bath house would be perfect for the current three person family and the addition of another child that Stephanie and he had talked about.
About one week before the wedding Gregg asked Stephanie and Suzy to go for ride with him. He pulled up in front of a lovely home in the best district of the town.
H turned to his fiancée and asked, "Stephanie, honey, how would you like to live here? This house meets all of our current and future needs. It's in the best school district. And," He continued looking at Suzy in the backseat, "It's got a play set already installed in the backyard that some little girl would probably love."
Stephanie looked at the house and said, "Honey, we can't afford this. I'm just a lowly receptionist at the electronics firm and you can't make a ton of money at garbage collection. We'll get by without it."
Gregg laughed, jumped out of the truck, opened her door and grabbed her hand, "Come on, you have to see it." He pulled her out and then opened the front seat so Suzy could jump out. He just laughed at her continuing remarks about affordability and their incomes. She said it without spite or malice but simply as a fact that she would accept in a loving manner.
Gregg opened the front door and Stephanie saw Gregg's meager furnishings scattered around the house. "What's this? Why is your stuff here?" she asked somewhat mystified.
"Well I guess my stuff is here because I bought this house last week and just moved my stuff in yesterday after Bert and I got back from our last trip."
Stephanie seemed miffed, "Gregg, something this big should be a joint decision. After all we're supposed to be partners, aren't we?"
Gregg nodded his head and said, "Honey we are partners. I just had you listed as a one third owner of Clear Sky Junk Removal."
Stephanie smiled and said, "That's wonderful dear, but how does that help us pay for this house?"
Gregg began laughing, "Sweetheart, you don't understand. I bought this house for cash. There is no mortgage."
Stephanie was shocked, "Cash? How ... How did you do that?"
"Easy, I took the money out of one of my savings accounts. I've got three such accounts because I'm at the limit on what the government will insure on each account."
"What! That's over half a million dollars!"
"Yes, and that's just those savings accounts, there is also about forty CD's, three checking accounts, stock valued at another million, and a couple of off shore oil investments that I really don't understand, but I make about a hundred thousand a year from them."
Stephanie felt dizzy and almost fell into Gregg's old couch that stood alone in the living room.
Gregg squatted down next to her and held her hands, "Darling, let me explain. You know my needs and wants have always been simple. My first wife wanted everything. I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. She wanted nothing of substance, just things. When I met you and fell in love I just couldn't believe I was so fortunate to find someone who thought of worldly things as I did, with disdain."
Stephanie nodded her head as Gregg continued, "So, I'm sorry Stephanie, but I had to make sure you wanted me for me and not for my money. So I just never said anything about what my company really does. Oh by the way, your one third share of Clear Sky Junk Removal is worth about twenty million dollars. Other than Bert and me, no one in this town has ever had any idea what Clear Sky does or how well it does it."
He picked her up in his arms and looked out back where little Suzy had found the new play set Gregg had put together just that morning. "We'll still lead our frugal lifestyle because we want to, but our little girl will want for nothing. And I hope our future children will not either!"
Stephanie kissed him long and hard and then pushed away from him. "Gregg, what does Clear Sky Junk Removal do? Is it legal? How do you make so much money at garbage collection?
Gregg laughed again, "Well sweetheart, it's perfectly legal and very profitable. It seems like over the last fifty years, all of the countries involved in space exploration have placed thousands of objects orbiting the earth. As of last count, there is now over twenty five thousand pieces of junk orbiting above us. Things are getting very crowded up there for new missions. It is very dangerous with all of that junk floating around. A few years ago two old useless Russian and United States satellites ran into each other spreading a huge debris field that made things even more dangerous for our astronauts."
"That's when Bert and I got our idea and found backing for the business. It only took us two trips up to orbit to pay off the backers. After that we made over a million dollars on each trip by removing certain specific pieces of junk that some government that owned it wanted back. Other items were sold for the precious metals and historical value. Several items were brought back so a future collision could be avoided. You'd be surprised how much a government will pay to avoid another collision."
Gregg stopped and taking hold of Stephanie's hands said, "And so my dear, Clear Sky Junk Removal is the first commercially successful space business enterprise in the world. Or rather out of this world. And you're now part owner in it. So, once more let me ask you, Will you marry me?"
Stephanie threw her arms around Gregg and almost in a yell responded, "Yes my dear man. I was willing to marry you when you were a garbage man. Now you are 'THE' garbage man."
And so the tale ends. They were married and lived in the house. At least until their third child being conceived was announced by Stephanie to a happy Gregg. They put the house up for sale and purchased a larger home for the larger family, but never buying a house just for the sake of it being bigger and better. Gregg kept his little pickup until the family grew too big to fit in it any longer. He hated parting with it but such was life. He replaced it with a modest SUV that could comfortable hold the family.
Gregg and Bert stopped running the garbage collection routes two years after Gregg had married Stephanie. They sold Clear Sky to a Japanese conglomerate. Bert married one of the Mendez sisters but that is another story.