They started coming one summer night, after dinner.
I was taking out the trash when I saw something move in the dark, out of the corner of my eye. It was a blender I’d put on the curb a week ago. I knew the garbage had been by to pick it up, but there it was. I went back inside.
“I just saw something odd –” I started to say to my wife, but there was a knock at the door.
It was our quarelsome neighbor, Mr. Hink.
“I wish you people could keep your junk off my property. I just found this toaster in the middle of my driveway!” huffed Hink.
“Yeah… sorry about that.” I was puzzled. I presented a vague apology, and shut the door.
The next day at work, my wife called, wanting to know what color socks to buy.
“By the way, I thought you threw out that broken blender?”
I had, of course. But there was my wife, claiming I had left it in an awkward spot on the kitchen floor.
When I got home, the blender had been joined by the broken toaster, looking a bit worse for Mr. Hink’s abuse. My wife was exasperated.
“They’ve been here all afternoon. I don’t know how to get rid of them. Every time I move one, the the other comes back again! The best I’ve done is to get them to sit quietly in that corner,” she lamented.
There was a knock at the door.
It was a vacuum cleaner, but it was never ours. There must be some mistake, I thought to myself. Then I saw Mr. Hink’s silhouette shaking a crowbar in our direction.
“Go back where you belong, you piece of trash!” I could barely hear him yelling, but the vacuum didn’t want to be on the curb, I gathered. So here it was, looking pathetic and dejected. I had no choice but to let the poor thing in.
Work the next day was even worse. All day long, we were interrupted by carts full of plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups being unloaded from the elevators. Apparently, they just rolled in through the front doors and went into the elevators. Instinct, I suppose.
I came home to a real circus. A television set I’d thrown away when I was in college was on my lawn, along with our old dresser, and my old stereo system. All of these were adorned with a colorful assortment of plastic bits of trash.
My wife was in a frantic state. “The garbage people have been working all day,” she sighed. “They just can’t keep up. They’ll be working round-the-clock shifts soon.” She was kidding, of course.
As the days went by, and the trash kept coming, the Department of Sanitation was forced to recruit the police and fire departments to help keep the streets clear of trash. Soon, that wasn’t enough, and the government was forced to send in the military. The president declared a War on Trash.
It quickly became apparent, however, that the trash was impossible to stop. Any attempt to destroy it would simply result in many, smaller pieces of trash, and a bigger problem. That winter, the president declared the War to be over, and introduced us to his doctrine of peaceful coexistence.
Since then, the flow of trash has mostly stabilized. Most of the trash is in people’s homes and offices, or on their lawns, waiting to come inside. Our fridge stopped working last week, but we can’t buy a new one, since the broken one refuses to leave. Fortunately, a neighbor’s fridge wandered into our house by mistake, and it works perfectly. It seems happy to have found a home. Seems its former owners had thown it away to buy a bigger fridge.