We thought of you today. I love you. I think of you everyday. Love, Mom
Charlie walked towards the rain streaked handmade sign. It was roughly taped to a traffic signal. Closely he peered at the words, tracing the familiar handwriting was a dirty finger. Charlie remembered grocery lists and birthday cards. Memories surged and crested over him. He leaned a hand against the pole to steady himself.
“You about to hurl?” Freddy shouted.
“Look, my boy, is hungover. How was the party, man?” Mick laughed
“I thought you were straight edge,” Vic said, joining in the laughter.
Charlie walked away from sign and climbed up into his rig.
Freddy tossed a stack of flattened boxes into the compactor. Vic and Mick held on to the truck’s rear. Charlie executed a tight reverse and headed out of the complex’s parking lot.
“I’m just sayin’. If you gonna hurl let a brotha know that’s all I’m sayin’,” Freddy said.
The cold front had moved out and morning was warming. The big green truck cruised around the complex’s curves. Charlie concentrated on the winding road looking for old ladies, clueless joggers, and tiny dog walkers. He could see his last Thanksgiving dinner at his Mom’s, watching football on the sofa, laughing with his cousins, helping Mom lift the turkey.
“Just let me know, man. That goes for gas, too. ‘Cause this one time Jack do you know Jack the driver not Jack the floor guy. He ate a bunch of tacos this one time—“
Mentally Charlie muted the conversation and pulled into the next parking lot. The crew hit the recycling bins. Mick was making up stories about all the things he did last Saturday while Vic and Freddy dumped bins and pretended to believe him.
“Hey there is another one of them signs,” Freddy called out.
The truck continued along its route. Charlie was back at school in the lunchroom reading a PostIt stuck to his juicebox: I love you, Mom.
“There’s another one.”
“ I wonder what it’s about,” asked Vic lifting a soggy loveseat
“It’s probably a viral ad like for a new app or a phone or something,” Mick explained.
“Nah, it’s a memorial for the living. Somebody is trying to call someone back into their life, man,” Freddy said carrying the other half of the furniture.
“Hey Rascal you want a mint?
“Mint? Dude where are you?”
Freddy ate his candy. Mick talked about all the girls dying to date him. Vic stretched his aching back. Charlie pulled out on the main road already back home.