Losing it

July 24, 2008

As I pedaled south on the bike trail, I heard him behind me, louder than the bleat of children at a nearby amusement park. His shouted curses, accompanied by the occasional clanking of cans, nearly made me swerve off the blacktop.

The shirtless, skinny teenager passed Suzame, towing our little boy in a bike trailer, and took no notice of me. He kept muttering to the plastic bag slung over his handlebars. The bag, bulging with cans and plastic bottles, scraped against his front wheel and leaked cans, inciting more bursts of disjointed expletives. Yet the kid pedaled on through the Sunday evening light, as if racing to cash in his haul before it all spilled.

A slight tear became a gaping wound, hemorrhaging a gusher of not just cans but plastic bottles that bounced along Southeast Portland’s Springwater Corridor Trail. Weaving around the cans and bottles, I caught up to the guy and shouted at him to clean up his mess.

“It’s not my fault,” he yelled, tossing the empty bag to the side and accelerating away, toward the Sellwood Bridge.

On our trip home, after a picnic along the Willamette River, fluff from cottonwood trees skittered across the trail. The cans and bottles were gone.