Sometimes I think I attract oddities.   It’s something that’s happened for years.  My mom says it gives me something to write about, but I don’t know if that really explains why.   While they always seem to want to tell me their life stories, they only get worse when I’m with Tiffany.  I think it probably started first when we were in high school. 

I remember once we were meeting on the drag, across from the University of Texas, at a tiny place called Metro.  Metro was a coffee house, known for it’s chain smoking UT gradstudents, garage sale couches, and it’s Iced Vanilla-Hazelnut coffee.  In fact, that’s why we’d come there, it was far enough from home, and close enough to college.  We were almost there.

So I was waiting for Tiffany outside, just along the street, when she arrived with a new friend.  His name was Neal, and Neal was a bum.  More specifically, Neal was a self-proclaimed “Austin-Wino,” which his t-shirt clearly dictated.  Turns out, Neal had manufactured the shirt himself.  It was a multi-colored tie dyed piece of work.  As he continued to follow us inside to Metro, Neal explained that today was our lucky day, because this morning he’d had a shower.

Unfortunately, the night before, Neal had fallen asleep in the trash bin behind the McDonald’s off of MLK.  He said he’d gotten real hungry, because he’d finished drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey earlier that evening.  It was a celebration of sorts, a celebration justified and made possible by his paycheck earned from a couples days worth of roofing earlier that week.  Anyway, Neal explained that his buddy, Senor Tooth, had taught him how to McDumptser dive; this was an easy way to gain access to a number of free BigMacs and McTastys every night after 2:00am, when the McDonald’s employees dumped the remains of the day out back.

Neal had passed out beneath the cardboard and styrofoam containers after eating his fill of burgers and fries, only to wake up to his being compacted in the morning.  He said he’d woken up just like that, to his being smashed in the dark, and attacked by a cherry pie, its pink plastic ooze running from his beard to his navel. 

And so that’s why we were lucky today, Neal explained.  That after climbing up to the top of the truck, and pounding his fists on the roof, hanging his head over along the driver’s side, he’d been able to ask the driver why he was being compacted.  The startled trash collector stopped immediately, forcing Neal down, out along Southbound I-35, to make the long trek back into town. 

It was hot that day, a sticky heat that had made the Cherry pie solidify into a pattern that resembled the head of Jesus.  Of course, Neal had taken a shower, which explained why we couldn’t really see what he was talking about now, but he assured us to take his word for it – the pie had formed the face of Jesus.  So that’s why he’d survived, how Neal had made it through trash collector, so that he could tell us his story now.