Tag Archives: short story

Retro Writing: It’s Garbage Day Again

Dear Readers,

I wrote the short story below when I was a college student of nearly twenty.  Back then I was waffling, trying to figure out if I should major in art or creative writing.  I ultimately majored in art, but I’m still drawn to both.  Here I am, years later, writing a blog about art and writing – among other things.

I hope to post some new fiction here on my blog at some point, and thought I’d start by sharing this retro fiction.  Those of you who read my Drawing a Blank?  Prompts for Writers & Artists post might recognize this story as the result of the tabloid prompt. Armed with a copy of the Weekly World News, I was inspired to write this story.  The prompt worked like a charm!

I hope you enjoy reading It’s Garbage Day Again.

Warm Regards,
Melody

_______

It’s Garbage Day Again

 

As the metal box was lowered into the earth I tried to deny the fact that my father was being buried in a dumpster.  I guess I’d always tried to deny the truth about Daddy.  I loved him dearly, but part of me could never get past the fact that one of the joys of his life was trash and its disposal.  It was something he lived for and he ended up dying for it as well.

Growing up wasn’t easy for my two brothers and me. Sure, we had a good home, enough food, loving parents, and all that good stuff, but we also had some things to deal with that most kids are lucky enough to miss.  Instead of nicknames like Tiger, Pal, or Bunny, we were called Stinky, Smelly, and (a more effeminate name) Pungent.  Daddy called us those names with nothing but love in his heart, but Pungent, Smelly and Stinky aren’t the best names to carry around.  Daddy could never remember to call us by our regular names around our friends.  You can imagine how quickly our classmates at school knew our “names”.  I was called Pungent by kids, and even some teachers, until high school.  But it wasn’t just the names.

Our family vacations were also affected by Daddy’s great love of trash.  Every summer the five of us would pack into the car and drive to some state we’d not yet visited.  We’d then proceed to tour the largest and most noteworthy landfills in that state. Of course the size or noteworthiness of these places mattered only to Daddy. Us kids spent the vacation dreaming of going to Disneyland or the beach and having vacation snapshots of something other than trash, trash, and more trash.  But it wasn’t just the vacations.

My brothers dreamed of having a dad that would sign them up for sports, go to all their games, and maybe even coach their team every few seasons or so.  Daddy never cared about sports.  Instead of rattling off statistic about homeruns and R.B.I.s, Daddy’s head was filled with every kind of information that related to his job – his life and his love.  The only uniform he was interested in was his uniform from the disposal company.  He’d often give vivid descriptions of the trash he’d collected that day during dinner.  My family grew used to it, but Daddy always forgot the meaning of the phrase “dining room conversation” and company never knew quite how to react.

Daddy was full of these quirks.  I always knew him as “Daddy the trash man” since his identity as my father and as a trash collector were inseparable.  He was a kind, gentle, and loving man and he always seemed happy.  Maybe if you work with trash the only way to go is up, I don’t know.  I know my father loved me, he was quick to tell me so, but I always felt I played second fiddle to something that most people try to get rid of and ignore.  My brothers and I shared our feelings of loss and tried to make light of our feelings by making up trash jokes.  Sometimes they included Daddy, sometimes they didn’t.  Around Father’s Day one year we debated about what to get him. We couldn’t decide between cologne and a tie.  We realized it didn’t really matter what we got since he’d probably like the box, or wrappings – the trash – from the present the best anyway.  Gift giving for Daddy was not fun.

While mother, brothers and I walked away from the gravesite, I realized Daddy had probably been given his best gift on the day of his funeral.  He’d gotten a hernia from lifting too much weight on his route, and died from complications from what was supposed to be a simple operation.  His wish was to be buried in a large trash dumpster.  Family, friends, and the cemetery questioned the sanity behind this request, but they should’ve guessed that Daddy wasn’t sane when it came to trash.  Despite the insanity of it Mom, the boys and I decided to go through with it.  It was quite a spectacle to have a garbage truck cart a dumpster into the lush, flowery cemetery, but since we’d always been a trash-related spectacle before it seemed like just another day.

As I stood by the grave I said my goodbyes to the years of trash jokes, trashy vacations, and being called white trash by those with a poor sense of humor.  Part of me wanted to forget the first part of my “trashy” life and the man I associated with it.  But walking away with Stinky and Smelly, I realized that here are some things you should never throw out.

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Still Drawing a Blank? More Prompts for Writers & Artists

dad

Back in September I published a post of prompts for writers and artists.  The post was popular among my readers, so here we go again!  Here are some more prompts that may help get your creative juices flowing again when they’ve turned to sludge.

For writers:

Grab a dictionary, and flip through the pages.  Stop in a random spot, close your eyes, and point to a word on one of the pages.  Jot that word down, then repeat this nine more times.  Write a short story of at least five hundred words that incorporates all ten of the words you randomly selected.  Alternately, you could play a game of Scrabble with a friend or family member and use ten of those words instead.

Write a scene from the perspective of a couple’s pet after they’ve quarreled.  Does this pet take sides and express a clear bias, or remain neutral?  Does he/she know a secret that one person in the couple is hiding and the other person is oblivious to?  How has the fight and/or the secret impacted the “silent” member of the family?

For visual artists:

Take a trip to your local hardware store and browse the aisles, keeping an eye out for an inexpensive item that interests you.  Washers? Sand paper? Wire mesh?  Make a piece of art incorporating this item, something that would pleasantly surprise the unsuspecting manufacturer of the item.  Variation: visit your local thrift store and find something junky that can be used artistically in a new way.

Visit your family’s photographic archives, and select an old photo.  Make a copy (color or black and white), and incorporate it into your artwork somehow, whether you work in watercolor, fabric, collage, or something else entirely.  I used this prompt to create the collage above, which is a housewarming gift for my father, and it features a photo of him as a little boy.

I hope you find these prompts inspiring and fun.  Enjoy!

Warm regards,
Melody

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