Sunday 7 June 2020

GREEN STORIES: Trash Canned by Susan James

This piece is part of our Green Stories series, showcasing the winners of Green Stories' first flash fiction competition in which writers are challenged to envision what a sustainable future might look like. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series.

Second Place Winner, 2020 Green Stories Competition

Trash Canned
by Susan James

There was a time when guys like me were respected in this business. Mick Sloane? Yeah, I know the guy. Damn good PI. The best.

Guy comes up to me in a bar, says his name is Charles but wants me to call him Chuck. Guy says, Mick, I got to know what’s going on with this girl. I think she’s up to something and I need to know what. It’s his ex-girlfriend. They broke up but he’s got to thinking that she was screwing around back when they were together. Okay, no problem. He says she’s some kind of activist, real flowers-in-your-hair type. He shows me a picture. Good looking girl. He gives me an address. Nice part of town. We agree on a price. Chuck leaves the bar. I’ll be in touch.

I go to the address. Driveway is empty, lights off in the house except for maybe some kind of lamp at the back. Could be someone’s home or could be someone’s trying to make it look like they’re home. I check her out online. Some eco-guru cum zero-waste expert. I Google it. Sounds dumb. I recycle. I don’t go trying to make a buck out of it. 

Next day and no car on the driveway. House looks quiet. Nobody home. Tomorrow is trash day. Lot of truth in someone’s garbage. Two cans are under a porch. Open a lid. Empty. Open the other. Empty. Hard to see inside. No car means nowhere to put a tracker. Hey, she says, pushing a bike. No car. Great. I got my hands cupped to the window. She asks if I’m here about the coffee. Absolutely, I say. We go inside. Nice place. She says I can take the grass cuttings out the back, too. Turns out it’s for composting. The coffee grounds, too. She disappears into the yard. I take a look around. Place is pretty bare. Few paintings, some plants. Not a lot to go on. Lots of glass jars on shelves. I’m thinking, Mick, you got to find something on this girl. Bingo! Canvas bag in the corner. I’m thinking a man’s go-bag, dirty washing from a weekend away, something worth disposing of discreetly, but its female clothes folded and fresh. Pen across the side of the bag says ‘Good will’. Damn it.

 A voice behind me asks what I’m doing. Someone older, the mother. Arms across her chest. I never heard a thing. The front door is wide and there’s an electric car on the drive. Girl comes back in smelling of lawn. Gigs up. She asks if I’m here because of Chuck. I say yes. I feel buck naked. We chat. Guy sounds like a douche. Nice girl . She offers me a dandelion coffee. Not for me.

Later, I take Chuck out for a beer. Offer him professional opinion. Chuckie, I say, his back. You’re trash and she hates trash.

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