It’s hard to figure out what to say in this spot if I already know large chunks of the story and just want to get on with writing it so that I can do whatever it is I’m going to do with my day. Which is not to say that I know how the story ends, or that I’m just trying to “Get it over with” just that the story awaits, and is demanding more attention than an introduction this long would suggest.
The city’s alley-ways are filled with bounty. Rows of metal bins, filled with things its neighbors no longer wanted, needed, or which no longer served any purpose.
This bounty brings out treasure hunters of all sorts. Scavengers of the non-human sort find gourmet meals out of that which we consider refuse. Opportunists hunt for discarded or “mostly usable” furniture, and others hunt for things that could turn a profit in recycling.
Amidst these hunters turning garbage to gold, is another breed of hungry scavenger searching the benefic alleys for useful materials, but this newcomer leaves the refuse where it lies, and takes naught but photos.
Photos of trash might not match your idea of a treasure, but, for these searchers it is wealth beyond recognition, the fuel of many a story and the source of renewable ideas.
Take, for humble example, the waste bin filled with leaf and grass clippings, the rotting produce of an over-abundant fruit tree, and a collection of mystery items from the depths of a newly reclaimed refrigerator. To its side, a large face-down television set, with a curiously crumpled plastic housing, and a cord barely attached.
Who has been trimming their trees, and why did they not bag them? What will the garbage man think when the dumpster is turned over to spill its contents into the truck? Will there be a wind blowing the grass around into his eyes, a tiny blizzard of grass swirling into hair and clothes?
The biggest prize for this hunter is the television. Could it have been smashed in a lover’s quarrel? If so, why is the back the smashed in part? Is the screen intact? Perhaps it got damaged in a police raid, where there was a struggle, and one of the combatants got pushed into the TV, and his or her weight pushed the TV from its cheap stand into the wall, resulting in the massive trauma to the back and no other obvious injury?
Better still, what if it had belonged to the strange, quiet man on the corner, who kept to himself, and had odd habits and schedule? His over-imaginative neighbor suspected he was a serial killer, and that one day it would be her, being interviewed on TV avoiding the cliched script of “He was such a quiet man” and instead pronouncing she knew there was something strange about him ever since the first time she laid eyes on him. No one spent that much time alone, in their garage, with their car parked on their lawn. No one did. No one but that weirdo guy.
What if she were correct, and the garage guy had taken another victim, and this one had tried to escape, and had pushed the TV toward the killer who was pursing her as she fled? Maybe she had attempted to use it as an obstacle to slow her determined killer as he crossed the living room behind her? Maybe this TV set was all the evidence that was left that the victim had ever existed, and had tried to protect her life before it was snuffed out forever.
The television sits there still.
I haven’t yet gone “hunting” in the alleys, but, I think about the contents of the dumpster I see daily as my garage backs into it. I probably think about it far more often than is healthy. There is a face-down TV sitting to the side of my dumpster as I type this, and I have wondered many times how it came to be broken.
benefic / be – NE – fik / having or exerting a favorable influence.