Garbage, Day, Break
Howard picked up the last trash bag, grabbed his can of WD-40 and headed out the door. He'd discovered that spraying the bags kept them from getting stuck in the bottom of the can, which he knew was the result of overstuffing. But what could he do? They generated a great deal of trash. Perhaps, Howard thought, an inordinate amount. His neighbors never had bags poking out the tops of their cans. Raccoons never tore into their trash, strewing food wrappers, feminine hygiene products, and tissues across their lawns. Howard used to wonder how they did it, how they kept it all contained, but then he stopped.
At the curb, Howard set the black bag next to the others, retied his robe against the cool pre-dawn air, and surveyed his quiet street. The elms, not yet winter-thinned, seemed, he thought, to know what was coming. He watched his neighbor, Max, back out, hoping to beat the commute traffic. As the SUV's headlights illuminated Howard and his well-lubed bags, Max honked and gave Howard the thumbs up before speeding off. Howard watched the taillights recede. When the car reached the end of the block, Howard slowly raised his arm and gave Max the finger, holding his hand aloft until the vehicle turned out of sight.
The sound of impact was unmistakable, contact steel on steel. A few neighborhood dogs barked and then fell quiet leaving only the stillness that follows any violent event. It's there after the metallic twist of a car crash, but also, Howard knew, after smaller impacts—a dropped dinner plate, or knuckles against the bathroom stall door at work. Howard shoved the bags into the can and turned back toward his house. High above, much too high to hear, a jet heading east left a contrail, just visible in the brightening sky. Howard followed its path for a moment, considering destinations, arrivals, possibilities, and then he stopped.