A Writer goes to the Dump

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I’m a proponent of the belief that every experience contributes priceless raw material to a writer’s treasure chest. I’m a hoarder, cramming the niches of my brain with sensory inputs, emotional extremes, and reams of interesting and often useless information. No detail is too small, especially if it is painful or gross.

My husband’s back is on the fritz, so this morning I made my first solo trek to the town dump. Not a chore I anticipated with delight, I adjusted my mindset and used it as an experience-gathering expedition, adding several disgusting sensory inputs to my writing stockpile.

There are a few things you should know in order to fully appreciate this literary endeavor:

  1. It’s January in Oregon. That means it’s raining.
  2. Due to a series of unplanned mix-ups and timing obstacles, my husband hasn’t been to the dump in six months.
  3. Our trashcans are missing lids, having blown away during his previous dump trips (no comment).
  4. The back of our pick-up truck is full of logs.

After two cups of coffee, I don my wool hat, an old pair of mittens, a ratty coat, and my sneakers (a mistake). I clamber into the back of the pick-up, and start pitching logs over the side. My mittens are soaked within thirty seconds, and though I try to lift with my legs, my back is now whining like a teenager. Despite my freezing fingers, I’ve worked up a sweat and my wool hat is itchy on my forehead. As I kick a forty-pound log off the tailgate, I contemplate all the miserable discomfort I’ll subject my characters to and conjure up a few choice words for husbands that I stash away for future literary reference.

With the truck empty, I skirt the log pile and slog over to the trashcans. They’re lined up against a tall retaining wall with a mountain of trash bags piled on top of them. This was hubby’s solution to critters, which was not entirely effective, I might add. The top bags aren’t overly nasty, and half of them are bulging with stuff for recycling. I sling the lighter recycling into the truck bed and then lug the rest like a yoked peasant with no hope for a better life. Such is the back-breaking toil my villagers will endure for their cruel masters.  The conditions will be dismal—wet, filthy, and cold.

Now, I’ve unearthed the cans and, of course, the bags of rotted garbage are submerged (no lids, remember). They’ve been stewing in a fetid swill for months. I tip the cans over and the brown water pours out with a ripe stench that makes my head spin. It’s swamp water with half-decomposed bodies, the reek of a medieval midden heap. Thank goodness, it’s not summer or everything would be crawling with maggots and swarming with flies. I gag and breathe through my mouth.

The water-logged bags are bloated pigs and weigh a ton. I stab them with a pointed stick. Putrid water bursts out, drenching my sneakers. Lacking a choice, I heave them up with my soaked mittens.  They leak and dribble on my jeans. Not caring anymore, my brain numb to the horror, I grunt as I heft them to the tailgate. I’m a slave in the dank sewers outside the castle walls. I reek of death and drowning. Foul water splatters and pools in the truck bed. My poor characters are going to despise me.

The F350 is our chore truck, driven far less than our cars. I climb in and the distinctive odor of mouse shit assaults my nose.  Somewhere—in the seat cushion probably—a comfy little mouse family is waiting out the winter. To my core, I know the turds are lethal, but I make the ultimate sacrifice for the king of the castle and head to the dump. The truck smells so gross I roll down the windows for the ten-mile ride to town. Rain blows in with a stinging wind, but I bravely endure it over the stink. And I’ll remember this for when my protagonists hunker down in an old lean-to, thankful to suffer the icy drafts over the reek of vermin as they labor to rid the realm of evil.

Then, I arrive at the dump…

109 thoughts on “A Writer goes to the Dump

  1. Bernadette says:

    Oh my, I hope for the sake of your characters, and you my friend, that you get to sit in front of a nice warm fire with a beverage of your choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lifelessons says:

    I’m wondering why, if it had waited this long, this job couldn’t have waited a bit longer–for a non-rainy day or better yet, until your husband’s back was better. Wouldn’t have made half so good a story, though. I was actually sorry we didn’t get to share the dump experience!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The hubby’s back was in bad shape and he ended up being out of work for about 10 months. So no waiting. Otherwise, believe me, I would have! The dump experience had a few funny moments too, but not nearly as gross. 😀 Thanks so much for the visit!

      Liked by 2 people

      • lifelessons says:

        My husband was an artist who loved to go to the dump to scavenge. One day we saw our neighbors as we were heading out of our mountain lane and they were driving in. We stopped to chat for a minute and asked them where they were coming from. They said they were on their way back from the dump. Bob said, “Oh! What did you go to get?” They looked puzzled and said, “We went to dump off our garbage!!!” Ha. Different folks…….

        Liked by 2 people

      • While I am *truly* sorry to read about your husbands misfortune, I am thinking much more kindly of him as I do so. I broke off an engagement with a man who could have been the inspiration for the story above, after realizing that it was a symptom of a MUCH larger problem.

        It is beautifully written, which I always expect from your posts – but my stomach clinched as I moved along. I am probably one of your few readers who has actually “been there, done that.”

        I clicked over from the Senior Salon, btw, and am sending healing thoughts — to both of you!
        xx,
        mgh
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
        ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
        “It takes a village to transform a world!”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A magnificent story that made me chuckle as it stirred such a large number of recollections of comparative encounters. Yes, magnificent pictures to mesh into your future works.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If I’d had to do this it would have constituted two year’s worth of favours. I hope you got your reward. On the plus side, it’s a lot better than some of the dystopian trash I’ve read before.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sargondorsai says:

    Quite the epic adventure you embarked upon…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sacha Black says:

    I’ve had to deal with a festering bin before but that was only festering for a week or so. I literally gagged along with this post. I hope you burnt the trainers!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha! That is so gross. I’m sorry. 😀 (Don’t I look sorry?) But this: “every experience contributes priceless raw material to a writer’s treasure chest.” Yes, that. It’s SO true.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. UGH. You are a much braver woman than I. My choice is none of my characters will ever go to the dump. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Steven Baird says:

    LOL… though an unpleasant experience, it certainly is a dumping ground (sorry) for ideas. It’s always amazing to me how we can cull creativity from everyday (hope not!) events. Well done, Diana… I felt your pain. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. inesephoto says:

    Diana, I know it doesn’t sound too compassionate, but I enjoyed your writing. All the details, emotion… When a writer is taking trash to the dump, it can become a beginning of a great novel 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  11. reocochran says:

    Oh my goodness, and your horrible gross experience, Diana! It was so detailed, full of book “fodder.” You did have me chuckling as I pictured the oozing drips onto your clothes! I echo the suggestions Debby gave you (for future dump trips) but I am sure this trip will be far too memorable! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad I got a chuckle out of you 🙂 Yes, it was horribly gross and that icky water all over me was the worst, other than the smell. Yuck. It is funny to look back on, but I don’t want to do it again! Have a great weekend, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. balroop2013 says:

    Initially I thought this is one of your flash fictions! Then I had to read once again to let the details sink in!! You have marvellously kept it lighter despite the harrowing nature of the preparations to visit the dump! Your brilliance shines through this story Diana. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. dgkaye says:

    You da man Diana! I’m sorry for that god awful experience, but holy crap it made for a most entertaining read! Sooooooooooo gross nonetheless! You’re one tough chic my friend. I hope you never have to endure that again, but if so: go more often before everything id putrified, wear rubber gloves and rubber boots! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Nurse Kelly says:

    If you haul more ‘fetid swill’ to the dump this summer, you better tell us about it! That was an absolute blast to read, D!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. While you’re there don’t forget to cruise the dead animal pit…:0( If my husband stops going to the dump I’ll pay someone A LOT before I take that journey! When it comes to the dump and husbands well, I was really glad when they stopped letting him bring stuff home!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I was a kid, my parents used to get beautiful things at the old landfill – an oak dining room set that they had for 50 years and my brother inherited. We compost and recycle and donate, so the stuff I bring to the dump nobody would go near. Yuck. Thanks for the visit and adding to the smiles 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. A wonderful story that made me laugh as it awakened so many memories of similar experiences. Yes, wonderful images to weave into your future works. Diana. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha. I actually like physical work, Carol, but this was truly horrifying. 🙂 I’m glad it made you laugh. It is pretty funny in hindsight, though I don’t want to do it again. Thanks for the visit, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Diana. I still do unpleasant work, too – but I have old holey rubber boots rather than tennis shoes, and work clothes from good will. Most of my work, backbreaking though is might be, doesn’t involve the odors and textures you described which such clarity that I felt present with you in the moment. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Ugh! Odors, to me, are the most powerful, unforgettable of memories. “No detail is too small, especially if it is painful or gross.” I got a kick out of that. Huge hugs. And virtual aroma therapy… geranium. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great tie-in. Back-breaking work–can’t say I’ve experienced much of that in my lifetime. Mind-breaking maybe. I can see that physical would be valuable–and then there’s the yucky smell of garbage. And then when something unknown drips onto you–oh deliver me!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Widdershins says:

    Ahh, the smell of rotting corpses … erm … garbage! 🙂 … we too have to schlepp our garbage to the dump every couple of months. Thankfully our bins have lids and a nice comfy shed to keep them dry. Perhaps such things might be gently suggested to hubs, for future reference? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Oh my, this brings back my own memories of completing unpleasant tasks. As you said, you do end up with experiences that can be craftily revamped and used in a story. That’s the only way to look at a task like that. I love the subtle humor, no comment on husband and missing lids, the few choice words stashed away for husbands :-D. Glad you got that chore over, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. mistermuse says:

    Well, that’s what you get for living in the “lush, wet, green wilderness!”

    Just kidding — there are tradeoffs involved in lifestyle choices, and I have no doubt that you wouldn’t trade your choice for all the trash pickup convenience you could get. But enough trash talk — I wouldn’t dump on you for the world! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  22. It all sounds horrendous! But such good fodder for writing.x

    Liked by 1 person

  23. acflory says:

    Wonderful! I may have to bookmark this for future reference. :p
    But…don’t you get your rubbish collected? Sorry, no idea where you are or what the rules are.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Kev says:

    Lol… You can write about anything, Diana! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jennie says:

    Thank you for the best read I have had in ages. Really! I belly-laughed and had to wipe tears from my blurry eyes. Is there a Part II?

    Liked by 3 people

  26. A.P. says:

    You had me hooked from the very first sentence. What can I say? Great minds think alike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading. It was a completely gross way to collect future book material, but I also got a post out of it 🙂 Glad you enjoyed by misery! Ha ha.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A.P. says:

        Well – my enjoyment wasn’t exactly “schadenfreude.” It’s just that I do the same thing. In fact, it actually shields me from the pain of unfortunate experience when I turn my attention to how the experience might best be woven into some kind of work of fiction. I suppose the healthier approach might be to “walk through the pain directly” but hell – if Beethoven had taken that approach, the world might not have had the Ninth Symphony. (In my not-so-humble opinion.)

        Liked by 1 person

  27. What are you moaning about, this is the sort of adventure a man would revel in!
    I can say this because I’m out of your reach LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Annika Perry says:

    Eating lunch whilst reading this is perhaps not recommended😀😃!! Great writing and what research material – your poor characters are going to suffer. I hope your husband’s back is soon better and that he can do the dump runs again. Luckily we have collections of all household rubbish.

    When I came to empty the vacuum bag after our last arrival to the houses in Sweden I got a huge scare as a mouse leapt from the bag I was holding, ran up my arm before I shook it away screaming…that was bad enough!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Phil Ryan says:

    Very entertaining and funny, D. I’m selfishly hoping Mr. WP has prolonged back issues so these adventures run and run : )

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Priceless I could see you fighting the garbage. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Oh my God…what a perfect (and disgusting) description you have created here. I could almost smell it. I can see why it would inspire your characters. I control our waste management activities, and I’ve become pretty OCD about it all. Enjoyable read…but, yuck !! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Erika Beebe says:

    You are a brace soul! I would do the same thing though…and I love the line about how your back was whining like a teenager..lol!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. babbitman says:

    Grim. But hilarious!
    😉
    Makes me appreciate regular bin collections where all we have to do is sort out the recycling and then wheel the bins to the edge of our property (about 20 feet from the house). Aaah, civilisation, how I love thee…

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Ha! So funny. The Bone Wall is post-apocalyptic, as a matter of fact. But it’s not as funny as my miserable experience wresting with wet garbage, Yuck – the smell was the worst part.

    Like

  35. I’m looking forward to reading about the hero’s journey through a dump in your next book! A post-apocalyptic world, perhaps? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Dawn D says:

    This is lovely writing! I could picture you in medieval times and in modern ones both.
    Thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Ya got me. Never figured I would start my day laughing about garbage. Yuks over the yuk.

    Liked by 1 person

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