Ozzie was a smart man, even though he couldn’t read nor write too good. But he could count. Especially money. Ozzie had a good sense about money and business. So I didn’t think he was crazy when he said he might run for president one day. He was always up to something.
Every couple of days, Ozzie drove around the neighborhood in his old beat up pickup with wooden sideboards rattling at every bump, looking for any kind of work he could find. He usually stopped and sat a while with my grandpa on the front porch, and they would gab about one thing or another.
One afternoon, Ozzie and Grandpa were discussing some wood rot on the far end of the porch. I sat listening and whittling down the end of a sapling branch into a spear.
“Looks like termites to me, Mr. D. Maybe I can get underneath and take a better look.”
“Don’t know, Oz. I just had it sprayed last year. The bug man gave me a three-year guarantee.”
Ozzie cocked his baseball cap to one side and scratched his head. “Maybe you better call the bug man and get him back here. I think it’s termites.”
About that time, Grandma appeared from around back of the house with a full laundry basket.
“Well, hello Ozzie. Didn’t know you were here.”
Ozzie stood up. “Hi Miss D. Let me help you with that there load.”
“Thank you, Ozzie, but I believe this young man is plenty capable of carrying my laundry inside.” Grandma handed me the basket without a word.
“I was just telling Mr. D, I think you might have termites over in the corner there.”
“Didn’t we just have the bug man spray last year, George?”
“I’m gonna call him to come take a look. We have a three-year guarantee.”
“George, do you know what day this is?”
“Friday, I think. Why?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know. You know good and well Fridays is trash day. We got a heap of it you need to take to the dump.”
Back then, we didn’t have garbage collection service so people had to take their own garbage to the county dump. It was an unpleasant job that Grandpa hated.
“OK. Let me change my clothes first.”
Grandma smiled, wished Ozzie a good day, and went inside.
“I hate going to that dump. That place carries all kinds of diseases.”
Ozzie listened, thinking. “I got a idea, Mr. D. How about you giving me a little gas money and I’ll take your trash away for you?”
Grandpa’s face lit up. “How much we talking?
Ozzie wetted the point of his finger as though it was a pencil and began to calculate on an imaginary piece of paper.
“How about eight dollars? And I’ll load it up myself.”
That was the day that Ozzie, a smart man, began his run for the White House.
The idea was brilliant. Ozzie went from house to house and offered, for a small fee, to pick up and take people’s garbage away. It didn’t take long until everybody in the neighborhood was paying Ozzie to take their garbage away.
He did this for a couple of years, picked up more customers outside the neighborhood, then bought some more trucks and hired some kids to pick up the garbage. Ozzie had become our town’s first trash collector, and making more money than he could ever count.
I was out front tossing around a football when Ozzie pulled up in his brand new black Ford Ranger with his name and phone number printed in bold white letter on the side.
He went rushing to the front porch with a letter in his hand.
“Mr. D, take a look at this.” He handed Grandpa the letter.
“Well want you look at this,” Grandpa said. “It looks like the city council is giving you a contract to pick up all the town’s garbage, both private and municipal. You done went and got yourself an official government contract.”
“Something, ain’t it?”
“I’m proud for you, Oz. This is a big thing.”
“Mr. D., I been thinking. And I mean this serious, I might just run for president one of these days.”
“Shoot, Oz, you know no colored man can ever be president. It just wouldn’t be right. People won’t vote for a colored man. Same with a woman. You know that.”
“But you see, Mr. D, I have an angle. A little slogan Robbie worked up for me.”
Grandpa laughed. “OK, Oz, let me hear it.”
Ozzie grinned and cleared his throat. “Here it is—
“Let’s put a trash collector in the White House. There’s plenty of trash up there that needs dumping.”
Grandpa slapped his leg, reared forward almost falling from the steps and hooted like I’ve never heard. “That’s a good one, Oz. A real good one. You definitely got my vote.”
(This short story was inspired by true events.)