The One Thing You Need To Be Happy
by Tony Noland
"Only one thing? It'd take more than one to make me happy." With a flick of his wrist, the empty bottle flipped end over end, smashing against the concrete wall in a disintegration of green glass. Shards flew outward in a parabolic shell, rebounding off the wall, raining down into the pit. He took another empty bottle from the case, drew back for another throw. "A miserable son of a bitch like me? More than one thing, that's for damn sure." His tattooed arm winged forward and another perfect shower of broken glass erupted and fell.
"There's gotta be something, Stick. How about a winning lottery ticket?" Manny leaned against the steel fence, watching the bottles explode. Stick drank Rolling Rock, not because he particularly liked the taste, but because the labels were printed on the glass. He said it made the bottles break better than most brands, with their glued-on paper labels. Having lobbed many kinds of bottles into the recycling pits, Manny had to agree. Once you'd gotten the hang of smashing empty Rolling Rocks, nothing else came close in terms of destructive satisfaction.
"Nah, I don't want no lottery ticket. If I won a hundred million dollars, I'd just quit working and drink myself to death." One foot canted outward, Stick whipped an empty sidearm. It curled in the air before shattering against the left sidewall of the green glass pit, just ahead of the corner. The fragments smashed off the sidewall, pounded into the back wall and arced upwards in a flat spray, a plane of glinting green light that sliced downward in a line. "As it is, job gives me somethin' to do. I gotta get up every morning to go to work. Beer money don't grow on trees."
"How about a woman? A good woman, not like you-know-who."
Stick's hand paused over his case for a moment, then pulled another empty. "Nope," he said, "a woman ain't a thing. She's a lotta different things, a buncha things that change from one day to the next. We're talking about one thing, just one thing you need to be happy." He considered his throw carefully. With a soft, spinning lob, Stick made the bottle pop against the back wall, mouth end first. The lip and neck cracked off, leaving the intact bottom to drop downward. It impacted into a big, unbroken wine bottle, a thick-walled gallon jug. The beer bottle bounced upward in five big pieces, the chunks arcing outward in a star shape. Stick laughed. "You see that? Did you see that? God bless Earnest and Julio Gallo, huh? That was beautiful!"
Manny clapped his hands softly. "You've got the touch, man. You shoulda been a pitcher."
Stick grunted and spit into the pit. "Pitcher? Like as in a baseball pitcher? Bullshit. A newspaper delivery guy, maybe, throwing papers onto porches out in the suburbs, but a baseball pitcher? Bullshit." He waved his hand dismissively, but smiled as he did so. He looked down into the box at the last empty bottle. This was the last case, too. Once that bottle was gone, it would be another month, maybe two before he came back to the municipal recycling center.
"I always hate to throw the last bottle," Stick said. "Pathetic, huh? How frickin' sad is that, a dumb bastard so far gone that smashing beer bottles is the high point of his life?" He held the bottle for a moment, then threw it backhand against the wall. It shattered as beautifully as all the others had, a perfect starburst of fragments flying upwards, shining in the sunlight before falling into the pit, there to be lost amid all the other bottles and jugs, broken and unbroken.
They stood for a while, listening to the near-silence of distant seagulls on the landfill. Without the sound of their own bottles drowning it out, it was just possible to hear the soft, grinding groan of the glass, shifting as it settled down in the pit. Green glass, brown glass, clear glass... they all shivered and settled in their respective beds, coming to a deeper resting place, rocked by the subterranean vibrations of the shredders in the metal shed.
"Come on," said Stick. "Let's get out of here." They picked up the empty cardboard cases and tossed them in the back of Manny's truck. All the newspaper and cardboard would go into the bins by the exit. Manny started the truck, but didn't put it in gear right away.
"OK, how about this. How about if it's not, y'know, globally happy, not perfectly happy in every way, forever and ever, amen. Instead, let's say... kinda happy." Manny waggled his hand. "Or maybe perfectly happy, but just for a little while. How about that?"
Stick considered this. "For like, what, a day?"
"A day, an hour, whatever." Manny put the truck in drive and drove toward the exit. "It's gotta be one thing, though, just one thing."
With the radio playing and the trash-scented breeze moving through the open windows, Stick considered what the one thing might be that could make a man happy, even for an hour.
===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.