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Garbage Child

by Ronald E. Heinrich

“Don’t worry, someone will be here soon.”

Those are the first words I can remember, and my mother spoke them. If I try hard enough I can still picture her face: round, young, innocent, a child herself, with large almond-shaped hazel colored eyes, a small pug nose, and full pink lips that puckered slightly as she spoke.

As she stared down at me, speaking in a soft, loving voice, her long chestnut hair framed that angelic face. “Oh God, I’m so sorry,” she continued with tears in her eyes and a shaking voice, “Please, know that I’m doing this because I love you. Good-bye...”

With that final statement, she kissed the top of my head and pulled the lime green wool blanket that covered my naked body over my face, and ever so gently set me in my new home.

* * *

Quietly, I lay wrapped in my cocoon and listened to her retreating footsteps. They started hesitantly: step, stop, and then the sound of weeping; step, step, stop, a sniffle. But the further she moved away, the quicker the steps became until I could not hear them anymore.

Something isn’t right, my newborn brain surmised.

I began to struggle. My little hands pushed and pulled at the blanket, trying desperately to uncover my face. When this accomplished nothing, I threw my whole eight and a half pound body into it. Kicking my plump legs, twisting my body — I had to escape the confines of that blanket.

Instinctively, I knew something was wrong. My mother, the woman who gave me life, would never leave me! I had to see what was happening. Fear coursed through me. I cried out, knowing that my mother would answer... But nothing. All I heard were the sounds of nearby traffic and the beautiful song of crickets.

My fingers gripped the blanket. With all my might, I pulled at the cloth until it fell away from my face.

The night sky confronted me. I gasped in amazement. Stars twinkled like millions of precious jewels, and a crescent shaped moon smiled down upon me.

It was then that I realized the truth: I was nothing more than a very small being in a very big world, and I was alone.

I turned to my left and found myself staring at the remains of a half-eaten green apple resting on what looked like several pieces of rotting meat loaf balanced on the side of an empty dog food can that was nestled between a dented milk carton and several small boxes I could not identify. I turned to the right and saw more garbage. Trash, discarded items of every shape and size were everywhere.

A short distance from me I could see a blackened metal wall. My eyes followed this wall until it stopped at a corner, turned right, and continued around me. It did not end. No matter in which direction I looked, this nasty barrier prevented me from seeing anything else but the garbage that surrounded me.

Panicked, I screamed.

“What the hell is going on out there?” The question came from a male voice to the left of me. I turned and saw a plump off-white maggot inching his way out of the milk carton. He rose on his tail and glared at me with a frown. He seemed confused, not understanding what he was looking at.

I screamed louder this time.

“Do you have to do that?” he asked in a stern tone. “You’re getting on the old ladies’ nerves, you know. If I’d known that this beautiful condominium was going to have such annoying neighbors, I’d never have rented here. What’s your problem anyway?”

I babbled a wordless reply, telling him that I was only looking for my mother and that I was sorry if I was disturbing his family. Perhaps he had seen her. She was a beautiful woman who had the loveliest brown hair that-

“Hold on there, sonny, I don’t have all night to listen to your jabbering. You’re the first and only one of your kind I’ve ever seen, so let’s end this. If you would kindly shut your mouth and let me get back to my family.”

When I started to reply, he cut me off sharply. “Listen, are you hard-of-hearing or what? I told you that I DON’T CARE. As far as I’m concerned, you’re nothing more than a throwaway like the rest of the trash here. Now, stop causing problems and accept what you are.”

With that, he turned and inched back into his home.

I was about to protest, beg for more information, but I closed my mouth. It would have been useless. Instead, I turned away and focused my attention back on the sky above me. It was there that I found comfort and security. I began to think, trying to work out what I needed to do to bring my mother back. There had to be something.

After a few minutes, I fell asleep.

* * *

Mother, I promise to be the best son this world has ever seen. I will not cry or cause a disturbance in any way. I will be perfect. People will look at us and say what a wonderful couple we are. I will never leave you. No matter what happens in our life, I will always be there for you, loving you.

Please come back to me.

* * *

When I woke, I found myself looking at the dawn. The darkness had turned into colors, colors of every shade imaginable. Light filled my eyes. As the stars and moon vanished, white billowy clouds took their place in a blue sky. Birds flew above me, singing their tranquil morning songs.

It was a scene too beautiful to believe. I smiled. Even though I felt hunger and missed my mother, I did not want to cry out and shatter this moment of magic I was witnessing.

Without warning, a loud buzzing interfered with the songs of the birds.

A cloud of unwelcomed guests descended from the sky. Hundreds of flies swooped down from nowhere and swarmed the trash. I cried out, protesting their invasion. I wanted to hear the birds but these annoying creatures only cared about themselves. They swooped and bounced from rotting item to rotting item, taking a bite here, a bite there, enjoying the smorgasbord laid out before them. They were ravenous and nothing I did was going to ruin their morning feast.

“Morning, brothers,” the father maggot said as he and his family slinked out of their home.

The flies yelled greetings to the youngest members of their family.

“Oh my,” the mother maggot exclaimed in surprise. “What is that thing?”

One of the flies landed inches from my face and examined me for several moments with his multifaceted eyes. “That, my dear,” he said with a fiendish grin, “is going to be the social event of the season.”

With a small yelp, I ordered them to shut up.

Of course, being the rude intruders they were, they ignored me. They were there to eat and they cared nothing about what I had to say.

Knowing there was nothing I could do to stop them, I settled back and listened to the many conversations swirling around me.

“Did you hear about that war going on over in the Middle East? Bet our brothers are eating well...
This is sure a nice tenement. Please find out if there are any other apartments for rent...
Would you look at all this food... Feel free to take some home with you. The little lady says we have enough to last us until...
I have a dream... caught that new superhero movie the other day... Which one? You can’t go near a theater nowadays without seeing one...
When do we get to have the main course? All these appetizers are filling me... shhhh, later. It might hear you...”

On hearing this, I turned to face the speaker.

To my horror, several rows of flies were lined up only inches from me. Their hungry grins stretched from eye to eye. A chill swept down my spine. This was not a good or comforting sign. There was definitely something wrong in wonderland.

One bold fly took to the air and dive-bombed me. It landed on my cheek, bit down hard and flew off laughing hysterically.

It was then that the reality of the situation dawned on me.

I was to be the main course.

* * *

I won’t do drugs, I won’t steal, I’ll never lie, never leave you. I will always love you, no matter what happens between us.

Please, mother, please come back and save me.

* * *

As the sun grew brighter, more flies joined the party. The boldest were the big, black, hairy ones. These were the ones that could not or would not wait for the “the main course” to die before munching on it. They desired a hot meal and did not care how they got it.

Many bit at my face with such hunger that I thought they were attempting to eat me whole. Pain clouded my brain with each bite. Every time one of them took a chunk out of me, I screamed as loudly as my lungs would allow.

At one point, I was crying so determinedly that someone in the apartment building next to the dumpster finally noticed. I heard a window open and a man with a deep gruff voice yelled: “Shut the hell up!”

Hope filled me. I cried harder and louder, hoping to draw further attention to myself.

“Goddamn cat,” he snapped. Without warning, a shoe bounced off the side of the dumpster. It came to rest only inches from my body. This angered the flies. They rose like a dark cloud and swarmed around my face and began to attack, helping the stranger shut me up. “I said get away! You either shut up or I’ll come down there and shut you up.”

* * *

Come down! Help me. Stop these creatures from eating me. I’ll be your perfect child. I’ll be anything you want me to be. Save me, that’s all I ask.

* * *

My head twisted back and forth as I tried to keep the flies away. My thrashing became so violent that part of the blanket ended up covering most of my face. All I could see was green at that point, but I did not care. The blanket provided protection against the flies.

To protect myself even further, I went quiet. I laid in the trash and quietly wept for my mother. My body was becoming weak from exhaustion and lack of food. I closed my eyes and imagined the night sky again. Comfort overcame me. As long as I could remember the sky, I knew I would be fine. Nothing could take that away from me.

I lost all hope. My faith in everything was gone. How could I believe in the love of a mother who could abandon someone so helpless, so small? The beauty of the sky was unobtainable, no matter how hard I tried to will it back. The only truth I could believe in at that point was the pain of the insects eating me alive. No one cared. The solitude scarred me in ways that I will never forget.

When I finally slept, I only dreamed of death...

* * *

No one cares. There’s no reason to try any longer. I hate her. I hate them all. If only my heart would stop; if only sweet death would claim me. Yes, death is the answer. That is the only answer. Take me away from such an uncaring and horrid world. Take me away from all of this pain...

* * *

I do not know how long I slept. I only know that when I woke I did not move or call out. There was no reason to. I accepted my fate. The sun was directly above me and the heat caused sweat to cover my body. I could still hear the sounds of daily life moving around me, but I no longer cared. The only thing that mattered was the sound of my heart beating more slowly.

My mother’s last words echoed through my mind: “Please, know that I am doing this because I love you. Good-bye...”

Love? She did this out of love. Is this how mothers treated their children? A hooked coat hanger thrust through my heart would have been quicker then the hell I endured in the trash. I groaned, learning a new emotion: pure, unmitigated hate.

* * *

I give up.

* * *

“Isn’t it a beautiful morning,” a woman’s voice said from the other side of the container. She sounded happy, content.

“Told you this walk would do us both good,” a man replied.

They laughed together.

I turned my head in their direction. There was something about those voices that made me notice, made me care again. I could hear the love they shared - the love they shared for life.

I decided to try one last time for life. I opened my mouth and tried to call out... but nothing came. My throat hurt and no matter how hard I tried, I could not make any noise. The couple moved away. Their voices started to fade.

Summoning every ounce of energy I could, I let out a scream that ripped past my sore throat so loud that I even startled myself. My entire body shook as I welled and pleaded and begged for someone, anyone, to notice my existence.

“My God,” the man said in a panic. “Did you hear that?”

“It sounds like a baby,” the woman said, just as concerned. “It is a baby. Oh my God, there’s a baby in that trash bin there.”

The talking stopped and I heard someone climb into the garbage bin with me. Several tense seconds passed before I felt a pair of warm hands wrap around my aching body. I continued to cry, pleading for survival.

Someone’s warm, strong hands gripped my body ever so gently and lifted me from the trash. The stranger pulled back the blanket and I saw the face of a young man staring in horror at my insect-abused face. Tears welled in his eyes and he clutched me to his chest.

Our hearts beat in rhythm together. He rocked me in his arms, saying repeatedly: “It’s okay, everything’s going to be fine. Calm down, I have you now. Nothing’s ever going to hurt you again. Don’t worry... we’re here now.”

Copyright © 2009 by Ronald E. Heinrich

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