The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

Writers' Showcase

Dumpster Diving With Edward Hopper
by Rose DeShaw

The coffee shop I am often at, used to have four fine Edward Hopper prints. His best known work is a man and woman, back in the thirties, sitting in a diner late at night, the streets dark and silent around them through big plate glass windows. But the shop redecorated, the large, framed works were now sitting beside the dumpster in the alley.

“Take them if you want,” the waitress said when I asked.

“Well, I DID want but I wasn’t sure my friend would agree and we were using her car.

Sitting at a table next to us was a panhandler and small time thief whom I knew from the many times he’d solicited money from my easy-going husband till I realized he’d been using us as a daily payroll. “You’re subsidizing him to the tune of 65 bucks a month,” I said.

My husband looked horrified.”I hadn’t been keeping track,” he said. “Just a bit here and there.”

“Every day,” I nodded my head. So next time he turned up, my husband said I had pointed out we couldn’t afford to do this anymore. The guy gave me a dark look and went off.

I knew him better than my husband did. He was always swiping backpacks from unlocked student doors and once kidnapped a puppy and sold it to someone else.

I ignored his glare when he spotted me, telling my friend about the Hopper prints in the alley without bothering to keep my voice down. Her car was immaculate and I knew it’d take a bit of persuading to get her to take them home with us.

“I suppose we can pick them up,” she said, unhappily. “Tell me about Hopper again?”

“He was a realist painter in the depression. Did a lot of dark urban stuff. Makes the city come alive. He always said he most liked painting the way sunlight falls on a wall.”

“Okay,” she said. “But let’s leave them by the dumpster till we’re done here.”

I didn’t realize the reason I felt uneasy about her decision was because the panhandler had pricked up his ears as I spoke, set down his coffee and quickly vanished into the alley.

When we finished our coffee, the prints were gone.

Perhaps he’d been too intent on the easy pickings among the students to remember the benefits of a regular dumpster check but now I’d helped him focus on the delights of discards. I hoped the Hoppers on which he’d gotten his hands, would go to a good home.

I saw him about a month later, early one morning. He didn’t have the Hoppers but he was making a rapid exit from the dumpster behind the downtown Macdonald’s, looking somewhat unnerved as he headed in the direction of the park.

Behind him a lumpy, disgruntled raccoon was climbing out of the opposite end and stomping grumpily away home. The levels of annoyance in both cases were startlingly similar. While this was all far away from art connoisseurship, it made me feel just a little bit better about missing out on the Hoppers.