She ran back to her car, a cherry red Dodge Viper that she loved, and just for good measure, when she started the engine, she revved it up a few times before putting it in reverse. The car shot backward and with an almighty clang collided with her garbage can. There was another clang as the can rolled into her next-door neighbor's can and knocked it over, sending the lid rolling down the street.
Jaine closed her eyes and tapped her head on the steering wheel -- gently; she didn't want a concussion. Though maybe she should give herself a concussion; at least then she wouldn't have to worry about getting to work on time, which was now a physical impossibility. She didn't swear, though; the only words that came to mind were words she really didn't want to use.
She put the car in park and got out. What was needed now was control, not a temper tantrum. She righted her dented can and placed the spilled bags back inside it, then jammed the warped lid back on top. Next she returned her neighbor's can to its full and upright position, gathered the trash -- he wasn't nearly as neat with his trash collection as she was, but what did you expect from a drunk -- then walked down the street to collect the lid.
It lay tilted against the curb in front of the next house down. As she bent to pick it up, she heard a screen door slam behind her.
Well, she had gotten her wish: the inconsiderate jerk was awake.
"What in hell are you doing?" he barked. He looked scary, in his sweatpants and torn, dirty T-shirt, a black scowl on his unshaven face.
She turned and marched back to the worse-for-wear pair of cans and slammed the lid down on top of his can. "Picking up your garbage," she snapped.
His eyes were shooting fire. Actually they were just bloodshot, as usual, but the effect was the same. "Just what is it you have against letting me get some sleep? You're the noisiest damn woman I've ever seen -- "
The injustice of that made her forget she was a little afraid of him. Jaine stalked up to him, glad she was wearing shoes with two-inch heels that lifted her up so she was level with his...chin. Almost.
So what if he was big? She was mad, and mad beat big any day of the week.
"I'm noisy?" she said through gritted teeth. It was tough to get much volume when her jaw was locked, but she tried. "I'm noisy?" She jabbed her finger at him. She didn't want to actually touch him, because his T-shirt was torn and stained with...something. "I'm not the one who woke the whole neighborhood at three o'clock this morning with that piece of junk you call a car. Buy a muffler, for God's sake! I'm not the one who slammed his car door once, the screen door three times -- what, did you forget your bottle and have to go back for it? -- and left his porch light on so it shone into my bedroom and kept me from sleeping."
He opened his mouth to blast her in return, but Jaine wasn't finished. "Furthermore, it's a hell of a lot more reasonable to expect people to be sleeping at three o'clock in the morning than it is at two in the afternoon, or" -- she checked her watch -- "seven-twenty-three in the morning." God, she was so late. "So back off, buddy! Go crawl back into your bottle. If you drink enough, you'll sleep through anything."
He opened his mouth again. Jaine forgot herself and actually poked him. Oh, yuk. Now she'd have to boil her finger. "I'll buy you a new can tomorrow, so just shut up. And if you do anything to hurt my mom's cat, I'll take you apart cell by cell. I'll mutilate your DNA so it can never reproduce, which would probably be a good thing for the world." She swept him with a blistering look that took in his ragged, dirty clothes and unshaven jaw. "Do you understand me?"
She took a deep breath, reaching for the rein on her temper. "Okay. All right, then. Damn it, you made me cuss; and I'm trying not to do that."
Copyright © 2000 by Linda Howington.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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