So I had this pile of rubble on my back patio where I tore down an ancient cinderblock BBQ pit last weekend. I knew it was too much for me to cart off to the dump, so I called a guy on Craigslist to come pick it all up and take it away. When he and his help arrived, I looked out the window to see what I’d be dealing with. A beat up pickup truck, stuffed with three men and a fourth faceless person rolled into my driveway.
The door opened, and out rolled a man of great girth with tattoos up and down his forearms and a shirt decorated with snakes draped around his large belly. His white beard and long gray hair were twisted into dreads, and his left hand had so many gold and diamond rings stacked on every finger that he could scarcely make a fist. Picture a Mexican druglord’s henchman, and that’s exactly the man who strolled onto my back patio. He had brought his son with him, a strapping guy of about 25 with a slight beer belly himself, and a scrawny shirtless man of indeterminate age due to a leathery pallor brought on by a long romance with cheap bourbon. It might sound strange, but I immediately liked these guys.
After haggling a bit over the price, the two younger men then went to work. The henchman eased himself into a patio chair across from me and raised his ring-covered hand to light a cigarette. As he did this, it struck me how closely he resembled a Chinese “Chan Chu”, also called a “golden money toad”. You’ll see money toads on counters of Asian restaurants by the front door or cash register, as a chan chu will bring in luck, good fortune, and protect wealth. It’s a large fat toad with coins stuck all over it’s body, and is always found sitting on a stack of gold, jewels, and cash. So here I was sitting with my money toad (who would soon be sitting on my money). Money Toad was full of all kinds of questions about my age, my house and more pointedly, my husband or lack thereof. I changed the subject but Money Toad persisted. “I was married once” he said. “She’s in the truck over there as a matter of fact”. He pointed an armored finger towards the driveway. “Your ex wife is sitting in your truck?” I asked. “Yeah. I know it’s crazy, but I can’t stand to be alone ya know? I get lonely”. I sighed and told him I’d rather be lonely than miserable. And that he must be either a glutton for punishment or the lonliest person on earth to feel the need to hang with the ex.
Money Toad and I talked for a while as the two men heaved cinderblock after cinderblock over the fence. He then told me of the worst house he had encountered on junk removal from a home. It was cold at the time, and the house they had been called to, had been abandoned for almost eight months. The owner had passed away, though her family had left everything as it was inside without touching a thing. Right down to all of the food in the kitchen and what looked like a breakfast plate and morning newspaper. The mice from a nearby field had taken up residence in the house for the winter, and had bred rapidly. When they opened the door thousands of mice had scattered in every direction into the sofa, bookshelves, even the mattresses. “After seven hours of hauling mouse-shit covered clothes, furniture and everything else I got to wheezing real bad” he said. “I was gasping for air, and finally I got Steve to take me to the ER” he said, pointing to his son. “I got the mutherfuckin Rotovirus from that nasty house”. Money Toad looked disgusted and swore he would never do a job like that again without a respirator. “It damn near killed my ass”.
So after a few hours and two trips to the dump, contrary to a true Chan Chu, Money Toad left my home with a large wad of twenties I had slapped into his hand . I said goodbye. Money Toad walked towards the truck calling over his shoulder; “Thanks Elizabeth, you’re beautiful”. “Thanks John” I said, and closed the door behind me.