The garbage truck came today. Like it does every Tuesday.

A black man in a white truck pulled in front of our house, reached out with a mechanical claw, grabbed our bin, lifted it high into the air, and dumped its remains into bucket on the back. He then placed the bin down, retracted the claw, and drove forty feet to our neighbor’s house. Where the process was repeated.

Gone forever, the remains of the week. To a place where waste disappears.

Then I remembered how it was when I was a boy. We had garbage men. Rugged, thick men with tattered clothes and rubber bands in their hair. Men who weren’t always black.

These garbage men would stand on the back of the truck next to the open bucket of trash and hang on as they drove from street to street through our neighborhood – jumping off to grab a can, toss the lid into its yard, and throw the remains of the can into the bucket next to where they stood. Then they’d place the empty can back in its designated spot on the grass. Next to the lid.

The guy driving the garbage truck always smoked a cigar. Sometimes he’d yell commands to the two men in the back. And maybe they’d laugh or yell back at him.

I always thought it looked fun to be a garbage man. In spite of the smell. But somehow I’ve evolved into a man who sits on his ass and stares into a computer screen for a living. A member of the ‘creative’ class, they say. Even though I have a hard time with that designation.

My job is to press my face against the glass to see what’s happening on the inside – where the rest of the world lives.

There used to be three garbage men to a truck when I was a boy. They weren’t always black. And they didn’t always come on Tuesday.


Jim Mitchem


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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.