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February 1, 2017 in Trinidad, CO
You only think you know what raccoons are capable of.
"Goddamn trash pandas were at it again last night!"
Stephen knew he sounded manic, ranting at his friend, Greg, in the breakroom, but sleep deprivation combined with impotent anger at the furry bandits made him not really give a shit. As he continued to bluster, he couldn't help replaying the earlier events in his mind.
He'd been woken this time by a grocery bag. It was hooked in the tree outside his bedroom window, flapping incessantly in the pre-dawn breeze until he'd thrown off the covers in a fury and run out of the house hoping to catch the culprits in the act. All he'd found, though, as he'd stood, bathrobe gaping over hastily donned pajama pants, was a lawn strewn with all the garbage he'd picked up every morning for the last four days… and now he'd have to do it again.
The relative chill of the night was already burning off as he contemplated the job at hand. Gonna be another hot one, he'd remarked into the dry empty air. Then, cursing maybe a little louder than was prudent, he'd bent to the task, gathering an armful and thinking to himself that he was beginning to form a relationship with this plastic drinks-cup, the last dribbles of his wife's iced latte dried in a, pale brown track along the transparent inside. He was coming to know intimately the pint container from his bachelor-night microwaveable ramen, and the pizza box with its pepperoni remains shriveled on the cardboard like some mummy's abandoned ears, and the motor oil bottle, it's crooked neck sticky with smelly dinosaur juice.
Last night, he'd piled up rounded landscaping stones onto the dumpster's lid, certain that it would put a stop to the vandalism but this morning, the rocks lay on the ground blocking the dumpster's little wheels, the lid flipped over and dangling ineffectively, trash covering his perfectly manicured lawn.
When he'd looked up and down his street, from one end of the block to the other, at each of the identical squares of yard, the story was much the same; his neighbors standing in rumpled sleepwear shaking their heads, grumbling as they too collected their refuse one more time. Goddamn trash pandas!
"I'm not sure it's racoons, man," mused Greg, eyeing him warily. It was almost like his friend was commenting directly to his memories, bringing Stephen back into the bright lights and Formica tables of the little room. "My house was hit too but none of the food was gone. We had take-out a couple of days ago, you know, barbeque, man, and you'd think that racoons would lick the boxes clean but all the sauce splatters were still there. My boy hadn't finished his sloppy-joe and it was still there, man, still in the Styrofoam. I'm thinkin' it's kids, you know, knockin' over trash cans for fun."
"Don't you guys live on the NorthEnd?" It was Dave from across the hall, coming into the conversation late.
"Yeah," Stephen answered sullenly as Dave's coins clattered into the machine and a white paper cup dropped onto the little grate.
"Well," continued Dave as he watched the automated nozzle pour out dark brown liquid, "I got hit too and I live down in the southeast, on the other side of the SuperMarts down there. Can't be the same gang covering that much territory. Unless there's a city-wide teenager conspiracy, it's gotta be somethin' else."
"Something else like what?!" Stephen challenged.
"Dunno," Dave replied with a noncommittal shrug. He then turned away from the other men, retrieved his coffee, and left without another word, a brightly decorated danish wrapper clinging to his scuffed loafer. Stephen didn't like Dave, the man had never been the picture of grooming and decorum. Of course dude's walking around with trash stuck to his shoe.
"Well," said Stephen, turning back to the conversation, "at least today is trash pick-up. Little bastards won't have anything to throw around tonight..."
© Annette Meserve
An evening of Myth and Poetry