Garbage Town, PT. 1 (Absurdist Short)
In the early morning, the sun crests the wall and glints off a statue made of garbage in the town square. For just a few moments, every bit of aluminum, glass, and bit of chromed metal sparkles like a thousand trapped stars and light gets cast like a broken mirror on the flat dirt.
The statue marks the center of Garbage Town. No one really knows what the statue represents, or who built it for that matter. At some angles, it seems to be a figure, holding something and reaching upwards… others claim to see a tree, or a horse rearing on two legs. Some claim it represents nothing but garbage falling in slow motion. Whatever it does (or does not) represent, anyone can agree it is quite tall. It is, besides the walls, the tallest structure in Garbage Town.
AluminumCan Toiletseat likes to admire the statue on his way back from the river each morning. When he wakes it is still dark… the only indication of coming morning are the paling edges of the sky… but by the time he returns the sun is often just reaching the wall’s edge, and he stops to watch it hit the statue. There are very few others out and about at this early hour, but one of them is BrokenSpoke Ashtray, and she has taken notice of AluminumCan’s morning ritual. Without him knowing, she watches him set his load down and walk slowly round the statue. She wants to say something to him, but doesn’t want to interrupt his solemn procession.
Once he has circuited the statue, watching the light, he picks up his load to move on. BrokenSpoke always moves as if to stop him, but before she can, he’s gone, off down the side street to his hut. With a sigh, she takes her washing inside to hang. While manipulating the various jutting rods for drying, she relives the scene. Him, walking round the statue, looking up. Light on the flat dirt like shards of a broken mirror. Each facet burning with dawn as he walks round it once, twice, then looks up. AluminumCan will be 15 soon, and he has a wisp of a mustache showing under his nose. His skin is the color of coffeefilter and his hair is a wild nest of twigs. His limbs are gangled and boney, with knobby elbows and knees, but his chest is broad enough that he doesn’t appear sickly or underfed. He wears the same pair of stained purple shorts every day, she notes. The nape of his neck is her favorite: a perfect ‘v’ where the sinews connect the skull. It looks somehow inviting… she would like to run her hands along it. Such are the daydreams of BrokenSpoke while she hangs her washing.
But AluminumCan (Al, as his family calls him) has not noticed her, not yet. Back at his hut, boiling water in the old hubcap, he pictures the statue in his mind. In his mind he spins round it, watches the light break and burn from little bits inside it. Like light shining behind a curtain full of holes. "Like stars poke through the night sky..." he thinks. He thinks in little poems sometimes, though he would never admit it to anyone.
Without thinking he adjusts the flame with his foot on the bellows and readies breakfast for Father and Uncle SoggyMattress. Once they rise, Father musses his hair and says good morning. Uncle speaks mostly in grunts until he’s fully awake... second cup of coffee. Father is off the yard before then, usually. Uncle Soggy is always a bit slower to get to work. He massages his knees and complains. Eventually, however, he shuffles off to the far end of the village to dig.
When they're finally gone it's a small bit of rest for Al. He lays beneath the rusted tin awning out back on the rotting bench seat of an old bus and watches flies in their dizzying orbits, squinting. He's too much a dreamer, Al is. He is often called lazy for this. He doesn't think of himself as lazy, but is often called out of deep, detached reverie. He slips into his mind without knowing, and is often lost there. Today it is almost noon when he rises to make lunch. He's still picking egg shells out of the noodles when Father and Soggy return. They are disappointed and cross that lunch is not ready. Uncle Soggy threatens to whip him and Father must stop him. Father grabs his arm, hard, and looks into his eyes.
"You mustn't daydream all morning, Al. Your Uncle and I are tired and hungry. You must have lunch ready."
Al pulls away, tears in the corner of his eyes, chin defiantly forward, ready to fight. Instead he dumps the remaining noodles into the pot and stirs the make-shift sauce into them. Dumping them unceremoniously on the plates, he crushes up stale tortilla chips and sprinkles them on top with a particular malice. He shoves the plates forward, sullenly, and walks outside. On the bench he can hear them talk.
"You are too soft on him, Hubcap! The boy needs discipline."
Al hears the words choked out between bites of spaghetti.
"Do not tell me how to raise him Sog... he's my boy."
"Dammit, if your wife could see she'd say the same thing."
"Don't you dare. Ollie got none to do with it. The boy is mine and I'll deal with him as I please."
"As you like, fool. Don't heed your brother, do as you please."
"I shall, and you'll not raise a finger, heard?"
"aaa heard.... y'smmmvjdaje..." Soggy's voice trails off in mumbling and chewing.
Al gets up and runs down the street toward the statue. He's worried Father may decide to hit him later. Or Soggy will. Someone will. He still has tears in the corners of his eyes. That's probably why he didn't see BrokenSpoke. He crashed directly into her as she turned the corner near her hut with the latest bundle of wet rags. Going fast as he was, the basket hit him right in the chin and knocked him flat. His cheek struck the ground hard, and he tasted dirt and grit.
Now the tears flowed freely down his cheeks, and he flushed hot with shame as BrokenSpoke hovered over him, fussing and unsure of what to do or why he was quite so upset.