A Series of Mysterious Events

Thursday evenings are trash night for me, meaning that I have to gather up trash from around the house and put the trash dumpster out on the curb. Trash is picked up on Friday mornings, and they claim the right to pickup starting at seven a.m., and you don’t want to miss it.

In the past, these evenings–“trash night” as I call it–has been a moment of contemplative solitude for me. I am alone and performing an ordinary, rudimentary task, allowing my mind to wander a bit. It is not a form of meditation, but it is calming for me, marking the end of a week. I handle our trash with my hands, and I have a sense of the proportion of our activity. If we have had a party or friends staying for the weekend, there will be more trash than usual. If I have been in the mood to dispose of things (and there is much need for that mood) there will be large bags stuffed with now useless toys or household goods. It helps record in my mind what things have been like for me during the week.

On occasion, I’ve realized that there was not much in the dumpster, and so I’ve questioned myself what has happened that the amount of trash is down. I worry that I left the laundry room trash can unchecked, or that maybe there are things lingering in the corner of the garage that perhaps could be discarded.

The most interesting dumpster story happened many years ago, back when my Poobrador, Blue, was still alive (a Poobrador is a Poodle-Labrador mix–my own invented name). I was taking him for a walk late one trash night. I carried two bags of kitchen trash out to the dumpster and then continued on into the night with Blue on a leash.

When we returned, Blue began barking at the dumpster. He would not quiet down, and would not relent. He focused on the dumpster as if he were a drug-sniffing canine, and Scarface himself was in the dumpster.

I began to suspect there might be a rat inside. It was garbage, after all, and rats have to eat something and somewhere. I gathered my courage and flipped open the lid of the dumpster. A raccoon was inside the dumpster, and raised his head and stared at us. Sometime during our walk, he must have gotten inside, drawn by one of the bags. Blue, of course, went berserk.

This week, early in the evening of Trash Night, I noticed that one of our trash bags had been left out next to the garage, and the bag was shredded and our kitchen refuse, egg shells, wrappers, and spoiled food, was now scattered across our lawn. Whoever the culprit, they must have taken the bag with the intention of dropping it in the dumpster, but failed to complete the final three feet of the journey.

I did not rush to clean the mess; instead, I treated it as a crime scene.

My wife had no memory of carrying out a trash bag and leaving it short of its destination. But neither could she account for her whereabouts on Sunday evening which, by my examination of the refuse is when that bag made its way outside (there was a blueberry yogurt container amongst the mess, and I recalled eating blueberry yogurt Sunday morning). The easiest thing would have been for her to blame our son, but she didn’t recall asking him to take out the trash.

I next interrogated my son. He claimed to have not taken any trash outside at all in several weeks. I believed him. For him to do anything resembling work, it requires an amount of nagging that makes it impossible to forget, and it is extremely unlikely that he would remove the trash from the kitchen and take it outside without being asked to do so.

Our daughter does not even know where the dumpster sits, such is her lot in life that she does not deal with garbage.

I was suspicious once again of my wife. Is it possible that she took the trash out with good intention, but was distracted in her task and left it in harm’s way? I brought her to the scene of the crime, and pointed out in particular the yogurt container that suggested to me that this was trash brought out no earlier than Sunday, and likely no later than Monday (we generate about one bag each day). There was a wrapper from a Nestle Crunch bar, an empty cream cheese container, coffee grounds, apple cores, banana peels, school papers, plastic ware, and scraps of food, all of which scattered in the section of yard next to our garage. Our dogs had had a field day with this, I assumed, but there was the possibility of a raccoon making the mess during the night.

My wife clung to her story of not remembering having taken out the trash and leaving it in the yard. I was forced to let her go. As often happens on Law and Order, I did not have sufficient evidence to press charges. I put on work gloves and picked up the trash, bagging it in a new, fresh pull string bag.

There is, of course, the slim possibility that I left it there, but it is my habit to take trash directly to the dumpster, and not linger or explore. I hate to think I could do such a thing to myself, creating, indirectly a mess that I would have to clean. Truth be told, however, I couldn’t account for my whereabouts on Sunday evening either.