George is a terrible name for a Scotty. That’s why the man named his Edinburgh. Eddie for short. Eddie’s favorite day is garbage day, and so, today is his favorite day.
They stroll along the wet, windswept sidewalk, over pastel leaves pasted to the cracked cement by last night’s rain. Eddie’s feet chug like the side rods on a steam locomotive, then halt. They have arrived at the next garbage can. Sniff, sniff. His head, down at first, slowly rises, black eyes to the side, his nostrils flaring and clenching, flaring and clenching. And then, just as quickly as they stopped, it’s time to move on.
He knows that Eddie knows what’s inside every can, but the tales those contents ignite are his and his alone. A storyteller’s brew of fact, fiction and speculation is mixed into every brown tub introduced to the curb on trash day. One can is open, its lid unable to close over a large cardboard box, warping in the damp. Someone got a promotion, and therefore, a new big-screen. Another can harbors bottles, clinking with every gust as they roll around the bottom of an otherwise empty tub, rocking with the sweet acid stench of rum and loneliness. Yet another is clearly oversized, not even a third full. There was a time when its weekly burden overflowed, but not since the week the widow lost her husband. And yet another holds reams and reams of manuscripts, ink running through the paper-clipped bundles, transforming the fonts into lightning strikes of failure. One page lifts in a gust and lands at Eddie’s feet. He sniffs briefly and then trots on, adding a muddy paw print to the only words on the page, the end.
They make it back to their driveway just in time to see the garbage truck’s mechanical yellow arm squeeze, lift and dump their own can. A week of their life, tumbling into the bed of the truck like a lost phone number. Eddie rolls on his side and starts chewing on a cherished stick he discovered weeks before.
The man watches his dog gnawing the twig’s end and decides, we are defined as much by the things we discard as we are by the things we keep.