Saturday, April 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #163: The Dump


He drove up the mountain of garbage, along the winding concourse of waste. The trailer load of scrap railway ties from his backyard added an additional pull to the steep ascent, but he finally made it to the pinnacle of the waste pile and slowly maneuvered his vehicle so that he could back the trailer up and unload the half rotted, creosote-laden trunks.

He reached his right hand over to the headrest of the passenger side seat and craned his neck as he slowly backed up to a pile of pines boughs that appeared to be woven through the remains of a handful of cracked white plastic shelving units. As his truck lurched to a halt, his breath caught in his throat.

In a nearby mound of waste, a virtual wall of plastic, wood and metal, he had caught a glimpse of something that dredged up a wash of painful emotions. He swallowed hard as he put the truck into park and slowly climbed out of the cab to get a better look. He took a few steps forward, the ground feeling almost spongy beneath his steel-toed work boots.

There it was, a small fragment of orange and black fabric flapping gently in the breeze. It looked just like the jacket his daughter used to always wear, the same jacket she had been wearing on the night she disappeared. He took a few more hesitant steps towards the pile and paused as tears welled up in his eyes, spilling down over his weathered cheeks. He could just make out the corner of a jack-o-lantern printed on the fabric. It wasn’t her coat at all.

He fell to one knee, the emotions too much for him to bare, an overwhelming tsunami of pain and sadness that was dampened only by an unfiltered sense of regret. It was a feeling unlike any he had ever known.

He slowly pulled himself back together and started unloading the trailer, hoping the monotony of the labour would keep his mind from wandering.

It had been three years, and there was still no sign of her. Three years since the night she had vanished. The thought of her body buried under these piles of castaway materials was unbearable. It was undignified.

He choked back his tears and forced the emotion and pain back down into the dark and secret place where it lived. He threw the heavy lengths of timber onto the springy pine boughs, shattering the remnants of the shelves with each new toss.

A cloud of raucous seagulls rose up from their feast as a huge lumbering machine approached, its giant studded wheels obliterating everything in its path. He threw the last log onto the pile, replaced the gate on the trailer, and slid into the cab of the truck.

She was not here. She was not buried under all these unwanted items. That was a reality he unwilling to accept.

He put the truck into drive and slowly made his way down the pile of garbage, out through the main gates of the landfill, and along the winding dirt road that lead to the highway. He would go home and wait. She would return eventually, and offer up a sheepish grin and a half-baked apology.

It was what she always did, and this time, it would be enough.

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