Bob stepped out the back door of the mom and pop grocery store he managed in Lincoln, Nebraska, with an armful of flattened produce boxes. He crossed the parking lot and opened the lid on the big green dumpster and tossed the cardboard in amongst the other random trash as the garbage truck rounded the corner.

Pulling his collar high against the winter chill Bob waved to the driver as he for the truck came to a stop. He then began helping the kid who jumped off the back to empty the bins.

"Hey, Charlie," Bob said by way of greeting, "How's it going today?"

Charlie, a 19-year-old kid who looked remarkably like the late James Dean, nodded his head at the store manager and grunted unintelligibly. The men worked side-by-side for a couple of minutes before Bob walked back to the building and pulled out two small paper bags that were sitting just inside the door, one of which he waved quietly toward Charlie.

"Here kid," Bob said, "I know you've been having a rough time of it lately. This isn't much, but it might help you get through the day."

As Bob walked toward the front of the garbage truck with the other bag, the young man peered inside his own package. In it he found a couple of pieces of fruit, a candy bar, small package of peanuts, can of soda and a neatly wrapped obviously homemade brownie smeared with a think layer of chocolate fudge frosting.

"My wife made those," Bob, who had walked back to Charlie, nodded toward the brownie.

Charlie stood silent for a moment locking eyes with the kindly man standing before him.

"Thanks," he muttered and hopped on the back of the truck clutching the bag in one hand and gripping the handle on the moving vehicle with the other. The kid took one last look over his shoulder at the smiling man with the receding hairline and then mentally crossed the store off an imaginary list he'd been carrying around in his head for the past week.

Bob waved at the disappearing truck before heading back into the store. He knew he was in for a long couple of months as the store building was slated for massive renovations after a recent buy out by a new grocery chain. Despite the looming pressure of the daunting project, he had felt an uncontrollable urge to extend a hand of friendship that morning to the seemingly troubled young garbage man. Bob didn't see the kid after that and just figured he'd quit the labor intensive job. He didn't think about him again until after the holiday season and simultaneous renovation project was over.

At the end of January 1958, Bob finally had a spare moment to put his feet up in the office, drink a cup of coffee and read the stack of local papers that had piled up on his desk. He opened the paper on the top and read, "Kill-Crazed Youth and Girlfriend Taken in Wyoming" followed by "Mass-Murderer Captured."

Underneath the screaming headlines was a picture of Charles Starkweather, otherwise known as Charlie the trash guy. Hot coffee shot up the side of the desk and all over Bob's pant legs when the cup hit the floor.  


Charles Starkweather at Wiki

[Author's note: Bob in this story is my late ex-father-in-law, Robert Fitz. Charles Starkweather really was his trash guy when he managed a small grocery store in Lincoln. The rest of the story is from my own imagination.]


KatieC   KatieC wrote
on 4/27/2008 11:10:39 AM
How very true, seeker. ~k

seeker561   seeker561 wrote
on 4/27/2008 11:09:14 AM
One may never know the full impact of a simple act of kindness.

Mike Firesmith   Mike Firesmith wrote
on 4/26/2008 10:54:44 AM

KatieC   KatieC wrote
on 4/26/2008 7:17:51 AM
Yep. The whole thing is really creepy. Check out the clips for Badlands on Youtube. The movie is based on Starkweather. ~k

Mike Firesmith   Mike Firesmith wrote
on 4/26/2008 7:15:27 AM
That girl we was with is still alive. That's.....spooky.

Special Interest
writing KatieC
The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. ~~ Robert Cormier
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Loosely based on true events.