The crash of aluminum trash cans stirred Chuck Garrett from his sleep, sending him scurrying into his slippers and toward the corner of his room for his loaded shot gun.
“Rabble-rousers,” he muttered under his breath as he made his way downstairs and toward his back door.
He was tired of those wiley raccoons digging through his garbage, leaving egg shells and newspaper strewn throughout his back yard and all over the alley. The young couple next door had looked at the mess and suggested he start recycling and–what was that other thing called–composting. They’d even defended the creatures as homeless victims. Chuck had laughed. There thoughts weren’t preposterous, but he’d been raised poor–the youngest of eight kids–and learned how to turn all of his trash into someone else’s treasure. No, he wasn’t about to go back to that life.
To his neighbors Chuck was the crotchety old guy, and he played the role well. The surly look he adopted long ago fit his sour demeanor, leaving the lifelong bachelor free of annoying relationships. It was bad enough Chuck had to sidestep the eager young widows in their 60s, but the young couples that came with his neighborhood’s gentrification were just as annoying, but harder to outrun. Except for the frequent visits by raccoons, life remained fairly quiet.
With one hand on the door knob and the other on his gun, Chuck swung the door opened and aimed the barrel at his fallen trash cans. Relying on his hunting instincts, he squeezed the trigger just a hair, knowing he was about the give the entire neighborhood an early wake up call.
Chuck’s muscles tensed as his eyes landed on two little children, one was bigger than the other, but they were both small with curly hair, big frightened eyes and dirty clothing.
“We, we just wanted some food, mister,” the older kid stammered. “I didn’t mean to make noise. My sister’s hungry.”
The girl whimpered.
“Get off my property,” Chuck growled.
“Yes, yes sir,” the boy stammered, grabbing his sister’s hand. The little girl started to cry and for the first time in a long time Chuck remembered the old days of being hungry as more than just memories, but as the ongoing nightmare of uncertainty that they were.
“Wait,” he said, lowering the gun slightly, “I can at least send you off with some sandwiches. Stay right there.”
Inside, Chuck grabbed bread and meat and looked for mayo. He pulled out two apples. Fruit would be good for them.
He worked quickly on the sandwiches, knowing how five minutes felt to a young, hungry stomach. But what he couldn’t know was that this would be the first of many sandwiches he’d make for John and Lil’ Sue and that the two people who’d disrupted his night would completely upend his life and do what no widow or neighbor had done before: They would love Chuck Garrett until his heart became soft.