Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chapter 2, Cellar Stairs

Chapter 1 appears earlier in the blog.

The next morning, Patrick opened the cellar door and better understood the lack of evidence of the tenants’ departure. The bottom of the stairs was under an avalanche of black plastic bags. The adventurers discovered one of the island realities left out of waiting room magazine pieces: there’s no place to get rid of anything. Properly, at least.

There are, however, plenty of woods and ocean bottom. Combustion gets rid of a lot. Refrigerators shoved down one of the steep bluffs often beached themselves in storms the following winter.

Patrick’s own early visits in the summer mingled the sea fog and beach roses with smoldering plastic and damp paper fires. Some times it was just a few things burned in a fifty gallon metal drum with air holes punched in it. Sometimes it was a massive upside down dumping into the sky of a black oily column of former rope, styrofoam, vinyl siding scraps, insulation and anything else inconvenient and combustible.

When he was sterning for Ray Moody, one trap came up full of jelly jars, catfood or tuna cans and a plastic Bart Simpson head. When he first had his own boat, one of the playful and properly pedigreed fishermen left him ice teas and beers, nicely chilled from the ocean bottom and giving refreshment along with the little chill that goes with being reminded who’s in charge out there.

Trash was a different matter here. You learned how much stuff you create just by living in the 21st century and adjacent to the United States of America. You learned that washing out meat trays with hot soapy water because the recycle program will take them was a lot easier than not doing it and having the smell and mess and attractiveness to pests. You get good at punching down cardboard boxes, nesting cans and doing every other trick to work the volume numbers more in your favor and have a little more living space for yourself. It is a part time job that on the mainland Patrick and family, along with most of the republic usually delegated to holes in the earth and waste trucking companies.

There were only actually 8 bags trailing up from the bottom of the cellar stairs. Pat would huck them up into the kitchen, sort through, wash what needed to be washed, haul it to recycle and compost, toss the animal products- if there were any- on the rocks for the gulls, burn a little, bag a little to haul back to a proper garbage receptical on the mainland.

He’d done it before. His own. Summer renters’. Dumpers’. Sorting through, trying to clean up and organize, trying to help things find their way along. When Patrick was practicing street law- criminal defense, child protective and divorces for poor people with no stocks to fight over- a crusty old DA, constantly in the news for blunt and intemperate remarks had told him “I’m really just a gahbij collecta. A human garbage collector. That’s what I do.”

Patrick on the other side of the courtroom aisle, and with 20 years’ hindsight hoped that when he did that work, he was more of a recycler, helping along those mixed up souls at the bottom of the cellar stairs of society.


Conversation deep underground. Rock. Aquifers. Magma. Motion. Rolling old green mountains with thick coats of dirt and trees. Inland to ocean waterways. Large lakes. Drier. Unclothed rocks. Brown corduroy rolling hills. Prairies with barbwire fences poked into the frozen ground. All talking around their table, passing the ancient message. It vibrates up through the soles of human feet separated by thousands of miles. In a courtroom in Montana.

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