A Bubble Wrapped Dream World
"Damnum! That lil skinny one sure can fight. She kicking that big girl's ass."
"Sho is. It was that running start gave her the advantage. Caught that other un by surprise; if she had time to get ready, I spect we'd be watching a different fight."
"Maybe, that lil gal hits a lot harder though; you can hear her hitting her all the way over hear.'
My older brother Glen and I were standing outside the Reina Del Mar restaurant, our breakfast go-to, located right in the center of town. The two girls fighting were doing so right smack dab in the middle of the intersection of Rosewater and Main, the x-marks-the- spot middle of the dusty, little farm town of Concord, California. City leaders liked to claim that the town was the Tomato Sauce Capital of the world. They even said so on the sign they erected on the exit off highway 53. The sign had a big, old, smiling red tomato wearing a golden crown and and a purple robe. The city even had an annual Miss Tomato Sauce Queen contest which coincided with the Pizza Sauce Parade marking the end of the harvest season.
The two combatants were denizens of the homeless encampment currently located in the city park. The park, located about 100 yards south of where they were fighting, used to be called Rosewater Park in honor of one Millicent Rosewater the first mayor of the town when it incorporated back in 1923. Legend was that it was the Rosewater family that had donated the land for the park and had pushed through the beautification efforts that led to its creation. It had been a nice little oasis at one time with several tall trees and a large grassy expanse dotted with some picnic tables, a swing-set, merry-go-round, a couple of slides and a remodeled restroom. On the northeast corner sat the hacienda styled Veteran's building with its brick lined arches, whitewashed walls, and red-tiled roof. In the center of the tiled courtyard, there was fountain dedicated to the men who had gone overseas to fight in World War I. Nowadays, the people of the town just called the park Dreamworld because it was the hub of most drug activity in the community and far from being an oasis, the place now looked like what it was, a homeless encampment littered with shopping carts, tents, plastic shacks, copious amounts of trash and a small community of dispossessed souls, largely said to be have been pushed out of the larger cities to the south. There were many rumors floating around that the officials of those cities paid for the train tickets to Concord and the tents in San effort to thin down their own herds of meth addicted outcasts and fringe dwellers.
My brother and I ate breakfast at Reina's most every morning, and sitting inside the restaurant and watching the carrying-ons of the park people was better than most of the reality shows on TV, no, make that better than all them damn shows, if by better, you meant more interesting, or even, more simply just being real. Damn near all of the foot traffic across the street were the meanderings of the drug addicted and the dispossessed although I don't how we could refer to them any longer as being dispossessed as their possessions stacked up into ever larger piles of trash and it was obvious that most of them, along with their drug use, were being subsidized by the very people they looked upon with suspicion and disdain. There is even one lady who we referred to as the Walking Lady who slept on a little strip of grass between the restaurant's parking lot and the sidewalk. She walked back and forth relentlessly. Glen and I thought that surely that someone in authority would eventually realize that you couldn't have that lady sleeping out by a parking lot and relentlessly pacing back forth. She clearly had some severe emotional/mental issues and needed help. The City officials kept saying it was out of their hands because the State said so. She hovered over the area like a figure from a bad dream.
I walked over to where Glen was parked and only then noticed that his passenger side was caved in, and he had bubble wrapped and duct taped the space where his window used to be.
"What the hell happened here?"
He walked around to where I was. The women were still fighting in the background and the walking woman would pass in and out of the picture as she paced back and forth in front of the restaurant. A crowd of park dwellers had gathered and yelled out their support for one or the other of the combatants. Some even mimicked the fighter's efforts which, had they not been so real, loud, and in color, could have leaped right out of Keystone cop movie.
"Oh that. Someone backed into Vicky at the grocery store last week. I sent her up to get me a six-pack of Guinness and she come back with that."
"What the hell's with the bubble wrap. I seen plastic windows before. I don't recall ever seeing one bubble wrapped before, and damn, man, how many rolls of duct tape you use on that sumbitch?"
Glen's shoulders slumped a little as he explained, "When we moved the last time to where we live now, Vicky found a deal on bubble wrap. Let's just say she ordered a lot more than we needed. and as for the duct tape; you gotta use a lot of that shit to keep that plastic in there, road wind being what it is and all."
"Why don't you just buy a new door at a wrecking yard?"
He looked at me like I was dumb, "Intend to, asshole. Still looking for one. In the meantime, I gotta figure out what to do with all that bubble wrap. That shit's driving me crazy. Kids always popping them bubbles; then Vicky gets mad and starts screaming, at me and telling me to tell them to stop popping them bubbles."
"You do it?"
"Yeah, but you know, kids gonna be kids."
"Why don't you just throw that shit away?
He didn't answer right away. He tried, but the sound of the cop's siren and the ambulance arriving was so loud, I couldn't hear. So, he stopped and waited.
"You know Vicky. She's so tight that we're pumping shampoo and body wash out of a fifty gallon drum in my garage because she thought she could save five dollars by buying in bulk."
"Hell, dumbass, just leave it in the back of your pick-up over night, and them people over there in Dreamworld'll take care of the problem."
He thought about it for a while before answering, "You know that's the smartest thing you said in quite a long time. Look, one of them leaving in hand-cuffs, and the one that started it is leaving in an ambulance. Right there's proof that life ain't fair."
My car screeched a little as I opened it, and I turned back to answer, "I don't know how leaving in an ambulance is much better getting hauled off to jail. That one there will be out in an hour. The other one will have a headache and two black eyes for a week or better. Sides, who needs to see a couple crackheads fighting to figure out that life ain't fair."
Walking Lady eyed me suspiciously as I pulled out of the driveway.
The next morning as I drove by the park, I noticed one of the tents had a bubble wrapped door and there was more bubblewrap curled around a palm tree next to the tent and the trashcan chained to the palm tree was completely incased in bubble wrap. Glen bought breakfast that morning because how well my suggestion had worked. It was the next morning though that shook us out of our routine as when we both arrived at the restaurant at the same time and when we got out of our vehicles, it looked like the whole damn park was covered in bubble wrap.
"Don't look at me," Glen said as he exited his car. "We didn't have near that much. I don't know what the hell happened there."
Before I even answered, I pointed over to where the walking woman was still asleep in her sleeping bag on the grass strip by the side walk. Her head rested upon pillow made of bubble wrap.
"Apparently, that shit either breeds like one them deadly viruses, or else, what we have here is just a simple case of keeping up with the Joneses."