Archive for March, 2010

The Corner of Angus and Emmet

March 27, 2010

The locals roll up their windows and stare straight ahead. Most ignore her presence. Some taunt or curse her. Catherine sits in a wheelchair on the corner of Angus and Emmet, on the same side of the street as the Kentucky Fried Chicken. She parks exactly fifteen feet from the bus stop, right there at the traffic light.  In summer, she wears a cotton duster. In winter, she wears a cotton duster.

Catherine  rolls out early on Tuesday morning, half a bucket of Saturday’s popcorn secured in her lap by a bungee cord stretched across the armrests of her wheelchair.  There’s a hill just at the end of Angus and she needs both hands to hold back the wheelchair from careening into southbound traffic.  Emmet is a busy highway.  She has mastered the incline that leads  to the sidewalk where she sits. Maneuvering is only difficult when someone at the beauty shop remembers to turn on the sprinklers the night before and the grass is wet. Even if she struggles, no one helps her.

Traffic picks up about 7:15.  Catherine  allows herself fifteen minutes to park and settle.  She adjusts her seating and the distance from the curb to the exact inch.  The 6:55 Blue Line bus heading downtown is on time.  Catherine smiles. She hates it when the bus is late and interrupts her start time.

Her schedule dictates she man her station Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. sharp until 2:30 in the afternoon. She takes a break, but it’s never during lunch hour. The traffic is heavy then. She would miss opportunities.  The movie theater manager allows her to use the bathroom, because she buys an extra large tub of popcorn and sometimes a drink if it’s hot. She never buys a ticket, only refreshments. The cost is budgeted into her monthly expenses.  Her disability check comes a few days after the third of the month, because her birthday is on the third of October.

She watches and waits for the first red light after 7:00.  The light is green. She waits. It turns yellow and she counts the five seconds until red.  Bingo.  There sitting before her is a blue station wagon.  She reaches into the tub and takes out one piece of popcorn, holding it between her thumb and index finger. She lifts it,  closes one eye, aims, and throws the kernel at the passenger window of the car.  She repeats this action until she hits the center of the window or until the light turns green. Sometimes the window is open and she scores points.  When she misses her mark, she curses loudly starting with “Damn!”   If she misses again, “Double Damn!”  Again, “Triple Damn!”  Then, on to, “Son of a Bitch!”  And on those days when the wind is blowing, she sometimes  finishes with a resounding, “Fuck!”

The locals know her.  Tourists don’t.  At 10:35,  a red BMW is the target.  The passenger is a boy. His father is driving.  Catherine aims and hits her mark.  The electric window slides down.  “Stop that,” the man says.

Catherine aims again, for points this time.  She throws and misses.  “Damn!” she says.

“Hey,” the man yells, “what’s wrong with you?”

She aims again, throws, no points. “Double Damn!” She says.

“Lady, shut up and stop it,” the man yells, his face turning red. “Can’t you see a kid’s in here?”

The wind picks up.  Catherine aims again, throws and misses.  “Triple Damn!” She says.

The man turns on his flashers, puts the car in park, and gets out.  He stomps to the sidewalk and yells, “You crazy old bat. What kind of example are you setting for  children? Don’t you have anything better to do?”  He picks up her bucket of popcorn and dumps it on the sidewalk, slamming the empty tub back into Catherine’s lap.

“Son of a Bitch!”  Catherine says, as the man stomps back to his car and peels off.

She turns her wheelchair around and pulls the hill to the movie theater.  It opens every day at 11:00.  She enters the door with the empty bucket, a full bladder and $4.00 in crumpled bills.

If she hurries, she can make it back down the hill before the lunchtime rush.