Each day, despite the weather or his ailments, he rooted through the hills and valleys of discarded boxes, dilapidated furniture, and broken equipment. He enjoyed the smells, especially latex paint when it spilled from its container to waft for a dominant moment over the pungent odors of rotting food. He was not overly fond of the swarming insects that buzzed in competition for their share of the spoils. But he tolerated them. They had a right, as did he, to search this wasteland for treasures no one else seemed to want. He had found a perfectly good table, the legs rusted and slightly twisted – adding character to an otherwise ordinary design – but more importantly, it was able to stand steady. And over time he had assembled an eclectic setting of six chairs. He accumulated toasters, lamps, blenders, and brought them back to life. The radios, record players, and televisions were more difficult to revive, but he managed to save a few of them. Computers were an intriguing item he also liked to tinker with at night, staring for hours at the intricate maze of their artificial brains. And from this diligent foraging he had amassed a cozy collection of furnishings for his home, an abandoned woodshed which the owners, whom he had never formerly met, kept threatening to tear down. He slept on a mattress with several broken springs, no complaints from him, the creaking somewhat pleasant. Also there to keep him company was a saxophone missing a few pieces, making music nonetheless, intriguing sounds he enjoyed, learning its quirks as he blew through its tarnished golden body. It was a good life, sorting through the trash for metal, glass, and plastics, along with the resurrected items he sold to repair shops, making enough money to keep him from going hungry. But what he cherished most, aside from his daily work, was the day he had heard the wailing. It was almost mystical – coming from off in the distance, across a desert of debris – a majestic cry for life rising with the sun. A baby, found buried beneath newspapers at the bottom of a cardboard box, placed beside a tangle of wires and piles of dried lawn cuttings. Not in his wildest dreams had he imagined being so near, and able to hold, something so beautiful and new. He could not understand what people were thinking anymore, to throw away a living creature. Soon afterwards all the commotion started, stirred up like a swarm of hornets seeking him out and surrounding him with cameras, glaring lights, microphones, and people telling him what a hero he was, which meant next to nothing since it was what any ordinary human being would have done. They even laughed at his answer when he was asked a question by a man in a suit and tie, a funny outfit for a person to be wearing in the summer heat while standing on a sweltering pile of rubbish. But why mention the obvious? Having forgotten the question he had to be reminded and was asked a second time what it was, exactly, he did for a living. He thought of the baby and pictured its cherubic face and smiled at the cameras, proud to tell them he worked in garbage.
Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)
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