by Cheryl Anne Gardner
I like to go sit on the broken toilets near the drainage ditch and play the bongos — for the rats — in my underpants, while tapeworms turn filigree twists against the lining of my esophagus. I’d run out of toothpaste and soap ages ago, and once, I thought I saw Jesus in an old discarded power meter.
People like to throw things away: coffee pots, tomato soup cans, porno mags, and used asphalt stuck together with blonde hair, concrete, and ash. The blonde hair was attached to a gold pendant. It shimmered in the winter sunshine and caught my eye. It polished up real nice. Said Faith in thick fancy letters. I never wondered what it meant cuz people do that: they lose things, they find things, and they throw things away. The skulls get bleached out in the sun, and flies swarm out of the eye sockets, but after you boil them down a bit, clean them up a bit, they look kinda jazzy with some Christmas lights stuffed inside. I do that every once and a while, when I have gas for the generator.
The men who push the pipeline often ask me, why? Like there’s some other place I should be. Maybe they were talking about the Christmas lights, I don’t know. They come visit me, bring me beers sometimes. We sit around my little campfire until the vultures stop circling, and they tell me stories about gridlock and free upgrades and women with fake titties. They all worry about the cancer, and I look around me. In this place, the cancer eats through metal.
They call this place a dump. A place where the discarded come to die. I don’t get insulted, last I checked, I was still breathing and taking pretty regular shits. “A man ain’t a man without a good morning shit,” I say, and they laugh and hand me another beer. Ask me if I’m afraid, their eyes rolling back over their shoulders as the darkness sets in.
Afraid of what? I always think. The rats? The mangy cats? Maybe it’s the silence, but I don’t remember ever being afraid of that. “It’s just junk,” I tell them, “and junk don’t speak;” then I smile at them, suck the air through the holes in my teeth, and hit on my bongos with a couple of shiny shinbones I found last week.