The Endless Bucketful of Peanuts

Homeless Tales Part 2

The Santa Cruz library is a haven for the homeless. Sure, most folks look at the homeless as dirty and lazy, but if they would slow down and forget their “rush rush” life, they might just see amazing stories such as the endless bucketful of peanuts.

I witnessed this scene while waiting for the library to open. Rose and I had shown up a little early it turned out, although we didn’t know what time the library opened or for that matter, what time it was in the first place. Just then this scraggly guy in his 30’s, wearing dirty army clothes and looking like he just climbed out of some bushes, came strolling up carrying a 5 gallon white bucket. He sat down on the bucket, waiting for the grand opening too. Nothing out of the ordinary it would seem. But then he got up and peeled off the lid that was sealed tight and started to take out his wadded up army clothes that he either had from serving or from the surplus store. He pulled out each balled up wrinkled shirt or pants one by one, giving it a little shake and looking it over before throwing on the cement. Then he found what he was looking for – out came his fingers gripping a lone shelled peanut. I guess it was lodged in the folds of his wear. He scrutinized it, blew on it and ate it with slow deliberation. He dug out some more wadded up shirts and pants, and another peanut fell on the ground. Maybe it fell out of a pocket, I wasn’t sure. Again he eyed it critically, blew it clean and ate it. He then proceeded to wad up his clothes one by one and stuff them back into the bucket, sealing it with the plastic lid.

I was amazed how many clothes he could get into the bucket. At first, I guessed that he had a spilled bag of Planters Peanuts like the kind you buy from a vending machine. I thought about buying a bag myself. I found myself watching him as I’m prone to do, trying to surmise his persona. He was sort of furtive, legs crossed while back on the bucket, shaking his foot. Well, he jumped up, ripped that lid off again and started digging out his wrinkled apparel. He found another peanut and went through the ritual again before consumption. He reached in again, scraped around the bottom and came up with another Planter’s, again blowing on it, tossing it into his mouth and chewing it down. I was like, “Wow! This guy must be hungry!” He proceeded to haphazardly repack the clothes, pushing down hard to get that lid on.

At this point I was looking around trying not to stare, because the anticipation was killing me wondering if he was going to dig into the bucket again. Plus my mouth was really watering for the taste of salty crunchy, well I hoped they were crunchy, peanuts. Sure enough, he got up and ripped off the lid again. Those lids are not easy to get off because they seal up tight and he was really pulling and gripping that bucket to rid it of the lid. I looked around and saw a nearby lady watching with consternation. She couldn’t take her eyes off this man and his ritual. I think she was appalled at his actions. Who could blame her, she had a normal life and this just didn’t fit into her reality. This time he was digging deep, as if the bottom had a hole in it, reaching for that elusive golden nugget. I was wondering if he was going to fall in, but then up he popped with another peanut, blowing the dirt off before devouring the tasty morsel. I began to wonder about the origin of this charade: whether he had inadvertently packed away a shirt with a pocket full of peanuts, or whether “empty the bag and recover the peanuts” was a game he played to pass the time, or better yet, was it a method of rationing his scanty snack supply. Your guess is as good as mine.

Everyone was watching now as the clothes got jammed and crammed in again, fighting to get out, hoping to stave off the next round of inspections and interrogations of digging deep in those pockets that would be pulled out to make sure they were not hiding anything. Lint covered peanuts, mmmmm. I just couldn’t get over how many peanuts were in there and why he didn’t find them all in the first place. His clothes always ended up everywhere as he searched intensively for more. Yes, he found another of course, unbelievable. I was hoping it would be the last because I couldn’t go through the agony of him prying that lid off again and digging through those clothes. As he got the lid on again, the doors opened, to which I said, Thank God!

***

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