The Garbage Man

by Sue Parman


I’m a garbage man. You know my name, Wilcox — Gregory Wilcox of Wilcox Garbage Converter, Inc. I’m the one who thought up a way not only to dispose of garbage but to transform it into our nation’s most valuable product, and I have a Presidential Medal of Freedom to prove it.

It’s a simple technique: a machine that generates an energy pulse that reduces garbage to elemental atoms and reconfigures the atoms to various specifications. It revolutionized the garbage industry. A lot of garbage companies attacked my invention as un-American until they figured out how to copy it.

Garbage became a scarce resource, and when it was gone, people started putting non-essential items into the machine (to produce other non-essential items, of course), and quite a bit of transformation occurred. Very good for the economy. Nothing really changes, of course, but for a while there was a strong illusion of change.

My patent made me a millionaire until the rip-offs got going. Once the secret was out, it was like a genie in a bottle, impossible to imprison. Garbage machines were used to make other garbage machines, and you know what happened. Try to transform transformation and you get meltdown, a kind of transubstantiation of garbage.

Cadillac bits began to show up in stuffed animals, like the man and the fly that got into the same machine and got their parts mixed. The elemental stuff, those quarks or Higgs Bosons or whatever they’re called, started to vibrate, and it’s true what they say: everything seems to be connected to everything else. It’s as though atoms got dancing fever and kept popping out of whatever shape they were configured into, reverting to their elemental joy.

I’ve been standing at the roof of my factory tinkering with a new prototype. I don’t know if I can prevent the annihilation process. I’m looking out at a shimmering horizon of dancing atoms. The plants have disappeared; the animals are gone. As far as I know, I’m the last man on earth. The foundation of my small factory has been rattled with earthquakes and appears to be dissolving in the chaos of churning waters as morning, noon, and night blur. A darkness has come upon the face of the earth, which is without form and void.

I am alone. Nothing moves over the face of the waters.


Copyright © 2009 by Sue Parman

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