Friday, February 3, 2012

Short Story: "Dumpster Diver"

Okay, so this is a fragment of an idea. A short story in progress, if you will. I haven't come up with an ending for it yet, so it kind of leaves you hanging. Ideas, good or bad, just come to me sometimes, and I have to go with them as I get them. So don't shoot the messenger if you hate it, or if you're dying to know what happens next. I can't wait to find out what happens either, and I wrote it. So there!

Garry was looking for a bite to eat. It never ceased to amaze him how much good food people will throw away. What a waste! But it would not go to waste.

He was sure there was some validity to the common thinking, or science or what have you, that it was unhealthy or unsanitary to eat food that had been tossed away. That flies or other creatures would get to the food first and sully it, leave behind germs or even disease. It didn't matter to Garry. Eating food that could make him sick was much better than eating no food at all and eventually dying.

Thirst wasn't a problem. There were plenty of public restrooms and even the occasional water fountain (though those seemed to be harder to find these days) where he could get a free drink of water. As long as no one saw him doing it, he could even wash his face and arms in the restroom sinks. The rest of his body was not so fortunate as his face and arms, but that was the way it was.

Garry knew if he could maintain a modicum of cleanliness, at least the appearance of it, that he would be less likely to be thrown out of public establishments, unlike some brazen bums who walked in like they owned the place.

He could get away with walking around some places just as he was without looking over his shoulder every five seconds. Like Walmart, for instance. They'd let anybody in, and would only throw you out if they saw you stealing something. Even then, you might get lucky, as some of the employees understood what it was like to have nothing, and would look the other way if they pitied you enough.

But Garry never stole. He didn't have to. There were always things that people left behind, whether it be the remnants of a lunch or a ball point pen. He could find a use for it all, and he did.

He never begged for money, though every now and then a sympathetic soul would offer him a coin or two, or maybe even a dollar. He'd use it to buy himself an actual meal, if he ever scraped together enough to do so. Not that he needed to. There was always something to eat.

Dumpsters were an abundant source of edibles, especially the ones behind restaurants or grocery stores. Produce that had gone just beyond its out-date was an everyday delicacy for Garry. He actually ate a more balanced diet than most of the people who could afford to eat what they chose.

Garry's favorite place to check for food was the Burger King, just off the main drag. Customers often left their food half-eaten, and simply tossed it away. Burger King employees regularly took out the "garbage", but only haphazardly disposed of it. Often a bag would be peeking over the top of the Dumpster, and Garry needed only to reach up and grab it and abscond with it behind the Dumpster to see what treasures could be found.

It was a Thursday. He knew this because he had just passed the bank on Main with its digital scrolling message, which welcomed you to the bank and informed you of the day, time, and temperature (it was currently 87° F). Burger King had already weathered the lunch rush, and was languishing in the mid-afternoon drag before the after-work crowd arrived.

The young man named Marvin had just brought out three bags of garbage and tossed them in the Dumpster. (Garry had bumped into Marvin by mistake one time when he had gone inside to use the restroom, and had seen his name tag.) Marvin had done a better-than-usual job of getting the bags all the way inside the Dumpster, which would make Garry's job a little more difficult, but still doable.

Garry waited for Marvin to return to the restaurant, and for two cars in the drive-thru line to circle around to the other side of the building. He lifted himself up by his calloused hands, and peered inside the Dumpster. Garry spotted the recently added bags, but they were just out of reach. He leaned over just a bit farther, trying as best he could not to go too far.

He knew he was in trouble when he felt rough hands press against his lower back, pushing him forward faster than he was able to stop himself. Even as he tumbled into the Dumpster, Garry braced himself for what would surely be a hard fall. The many bags of garbage notwithstanding, he knew he far outweighed them and their cushioning power would be greatly diminished by his weight.

He was not mistaken. With a deafening thud, his head smashed into the side of the Dumpster even as his body careened downward. Garry hit the bottom with one leg bent beneath him, and an arm twisted backward in the wrong direction.
A series of sickening snaps confirmed what the simultaneous wave of pain was already telling him. His left leg and his right arm were badly fractured.

Garry could only cry out in pain, helpless to form words he knew would be of no use anyway. But his cries were short-lived. Gradually but definitively, the blackness engulfed him, and he lost consciousness.

P.S.  If you have any ideas of what should happen to Garry next (no, he's not dead, he's just unconscious), leave me a comment, or two, or twenty. You may just spur me to finish the story sooner than I might otherwise.

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