In the middle of the night, when he’s trying to sleep, he hears the binners in the alley below the bedroom window of his townhouse. They’re yelling and laughing. They’re sorting their bottles and cans, spreading them out on the ground in a corner of the gravel lane just beyond the security fence.
When he was a child, and the spooks and goblins would scratch their fingernails up and down the glass of his nursery window, he would lay awake and think about all the terrors wandering around outside. Forty years later, he lays there in bed unable to go back to sleep. He thinks about work, about how badly he screwed up the Anderson account. He thinks about his back-biting co-workers, the upcoming audit by head office, and about all the credit card bills that keep showing up on the mat beneath his mailbox, washing up like dead fish beneath his feet. He thinks about his ex-wife, the way she peeled an apple and tied back her hair. He considers the poor choices he’s made in his life. He gets up out of bed and pours himself a stiff drink.
In the morning he drinks three cups of coffee. He drives to work, occasionally checking out his bloodshot eyes in the rearview mirror.
When he reads his e-mails, he sees that the new v.p. of operations – smug little prick – has contracted a so-called efficiency expert to “find new ways to outperform the competition,” which translates – absofuckinglutely no doubt about it – as a witch hunt in the making. After lunch (side salad and a double vodka soda) he comes back to his desk and finds a note that his manager wants to talk to him about last month’s expense account.
After work, he goes to collect his car from the parking lot. Somebody has keyed it, a three foot scratch along the driver’s side doors. He gets into the car and sits in the dark for a long time. He thinks about the teenage son he hasn’t seen for two years. He thinks about his last visit to the doctor, about the blood pressure cuff tightening on his arm.
In the rearview, he can see some more binners gathered together at the end of the parking lot. They’ve got their shopping carts circled like pioneer wagons. They’re drinking from bottles hidden inside paper bags. They’re dark and scrawny as urban coyotes. They throw back their heads and howl at the moon. They’re filthy, he thinks. They’re repulsive and diseased, he thinks. They’re bodies are crawling with lice, he thinks. They laugh with the kind of reckless abandon he hasn’t felt since he was a little child. He thinks.