It’s hard to live in, or at least close to, a very small town and not begin to see some of the people in context to where they live or work. It’s like the white wading bird who lives near the pond. I would know this bird anywhere, even though they all mostly look like white wading birds. This one has a crooked neck, so I know it’s the same one.
There’s a house in town I’ve fell to calling the Trash House, even though I know that it’s judgmental and mean to do so. Long ago, fifty years or so, it was likely a very nice house with a large front yard, a very spacious back yard, and someone inside to take good care of it. It’s not a very old house, but it still has remnants of a wraparound porch, but somewhere down the timeline someone remuddled the thing, and turned part of the porch into another bedroom. Worse, the porch on the east side was remuddled, and it has failed, and now they’re tearing down that part of the house, leaving an open wound for all the world to see.
The back yard is strewn with debris. There are a couple of cars, the hoods off, and covered with tarps, a jumble of motorcycles piled together, and a brace of rusted and dilapidated sheds line the back of the property. What once was a carport now doubles as a workshop of sorts, and this is where the people meet. Okay, it’s going to be hard to describe these people without falling into the judgmental and mean mode. Perhaps they are all really nice folk. Perhaps they collect junk simply because it’s the only way they can make a living. But the problem is you always see two or three of them sitting under the carport, amidst the ruin, and they are always drinking beer and playing cards. Sometimes there are eight, maybe ten people sitting around, thumping their cigarette butts towards the road, and on the weekends there always seems to be one or two of them either heading towards the nearest convenience store at a stagger, or returning from the half mile trek, both hands weighted down from carrying a twelve pack in those cheap plastic bags. There’s one guy, a skinny man with a moustache and a camouflage hat, who seems to be the house Pack Mule. More often than not, he’s the one stumbling back from the store, loaded down with beer and seemingly counting the steps back home. I’ve seen him carrying four bags of beer at once, trying to stumble as fast as he could, trying to shift the weight around, and all the while his equilibrium wrecked by the last trip in. Like a derelict freighter puffing smoke and losing speed, the man seems at the verge of sinking into the earth.
A few years ago, along with the litter of the internal combustion engines, there were also the corpses of children’s toys. Remember the Inch Worm, that green worm that moved forward as the child bounced up and down on it? And also there was the obligatory Big Wheel in the yard when it wasn’t parked nearly in the street. I haven’t seen the kids nor their belongings in a while, and I wonder what happened to them. There was a very young dark haired woman I saw there on occasion and she is no longer there either. The dark haired woman never smiled, and she looked to have some Native blood in her, and I wonder if she was the mother to the children.
The Matriarch of this clan seems to be a giant blonde woman who has looked eleven months pregnant now for the better part of a decade. I’ve seen this woman in the grocery store and she seems to be as grim as she is large. This isn’t simply a large boned woman carrying some extra weight, this is a true giant, and she is a presence to be reckoned with wherever she might go. I’m serious about her looking pregnant, and I wonder if she is carrying some sort of tumor. Her belly pokes out in front of her like a fresh grave, or a warning. She was one of the last people in town they convinced to stop smoking in the store, and only in the last couple of years has it been smoke free.
One day I was driving by the Trash House and they had left their cards out, and a storm had blown them hither and yon. I wondered why no one had thought to out the cards up, or if they had all been too drunk, or maybe they just didn’t care. How many card games can you play with half a deck? Yet the next day they were all sitting there playing, drinking, smoking, and the old deck was still scattered about by the wind.
I was thinking about writing this at there in the morning, when I found half of a playing card on the road. The eight of clubs, now the four of clubs, kinda, and the first thought I had was this was one of the cards from the Trash House. I imagined it had migrated for years, been blown around, run over, picked up by a homeless man, then dropped again for me to find it here, twenty-five miles away. Like some sort of focus point, from that half of a card, this essay came to be, formed in the blackness of night, the early morning cold wind, and from a deck of cards, blown by the elements from an organized deck into nothing more than trash.