This writing idea was suggested to me by Bonnie Dewkett, The Joyful Organizer (http://www.facebook.com/TheJoyfulOrganizer) I have known her for a few years and she’s helped me with everything from organizing my own place to packing up another apartment. She’s a real friend and excellent at her craft. Her prompt was “Landfills are secret living societies.” Enjoy!
Sally took the chipped china bowl, scooped out a chunk of loamy soil and stuck her hand down into it. She dug around a bit until she felt a cool, slimy wiggling against her fingertips and pulled out a long brown nightcrawler earthworm. Her rusty gardening spade sat on the dark earth next to her so she took it and cut the worm in half.
“Here, Bella.” She smiled at the little girl. “It’s irresistible.”
The youngster took the bisected worm and held it close to her face. She inhaled the earthy scent coming from the still-writhing thing, watching it as she pierced it with the barbed end of the fishhook she picked up from tackle box. “Like this, Sally?”
“That’s right, baby. But you’ve got to tie a line to that hook. You should have done that before you baited it.”
“It’s mean, isn’t it? Killing the worm.”
“Do you like to eat, Bella? Fresh fried fish instead of scraps of meat?”
“I like vegetable.”
“Vegetables. The plural of vegetable is vegetables. You know that.”
“Yes. But I only like cabbage. It’s a vegetable. So I like vegetable.”
Sally took the hook from her daughter and knotted it to her own line. “Here now. Fish with my pole. It’s longer and you’ll be able to get further out. The good, big fish don’t swim near the shore.”
The girl took the rod and whipped the line as far out as she could. “I’ll get us a big fish, Bella. A really big fish. Then I’ll eat cabbage and you can eat the fish.”
They sat for hours on the bank of the broad river letting morning fade into late afternoon before Sally finally took her pole out.
Her mother looked at the hook. “They stole the bait. Those fishes are smarter than we give them credit for.”
“Sort of like what the Otherworlders think about us, right?”
“You know I don’t like you to use that term. They’re just people.”
“But aren’t we just people? And they call us Pickers, so why can’t we call them Otherworlders?”
“We all live in the same world, Sally, just in different parts. We’re all the same.”
“The other people don’t think so. They say we eat their trash and live in their junk. I’ve seen them looking at us when they come to dump. It’s stuff they don’t want any more so why should they care if we use it or not?”
“They think we’ve got no other choice, baby. They don’t know.”
Sally wiggled, rustling the garbage bag she sat on to protect her from the moisture of the clay around them. “Then why don’t we tell them?”
“I like living in the landfill. We don’t have to pay for a thing, and we don’t waste anything. Those other people, the ones who live in those fine houses and big apartments, they would never understand what it’s like to be this free. They throw things away before they’re broken. If a dress is stained or torn, they put it in the trash. If the label on food from the supermarket says ‘expired’ they refuse to even smell it and act like it’s not food. We take their waste and keep it useful. They can’t understand it, even when we explain things to them. It’s been tried before.”
“We could let them come to the ceremony. That would show them.”
Sally laughed. She knew if the Otherworlders saw the Pickers dressed in rags, hand in hand, encircling a recent load dumped from the city and singing praise for God and His bounty that it would not go over well. The people living in the city would chase them down, drag them back to their streets and buildings, away from the underground homes the Pickers had built. They’d be put into “homeless” shelters despite the fact that the Pickers weren’t homeless, but had made a choice. The Otherworlders would dress the Pickers in the same rags that were once thrown away, feed them the disdained and expired food in soup kitchens and food pantries made for the so-called poor. The Pickers weren’t poor and would not be made to feel that way. “Come on, baby. We’ll talk about this another time. Right now we have to get to the landfill and be underground before the trucks come so we can get ready for the ceremony tonight. They cannot know right now, but someday they will see how much they waste, and that we are not living in poverty but in harmony with our chosen surroundings.”
“You talk funny, Sally.”
“As long as you understand that we have to keep the ritual secret for now, that’s all that matters.”
“Okay. I understand.”
The mother and daughter crested the bank, looking ahead at the place the others called a dump, watching the sunlight change into golden red strands over their home, mountains of plenty, and lanes of abundance.