"A Visit to the Diner's Dumpster"
January 24, 2013 Writing Prompt:
"Look what I found in the dumpster!"
"Look what I found in the dumpster!"
Today’s prompt flows so perfectly from what I had in mind for the January 15 prompt that I am going to write them consecutively.
The town of Towson didn’t have a homeless “problem,” but like most communities, it did have a few alcoholics and a family of low IQ individuals who lived off the father’s SSI and rifled dumpsters for tasty leftovers. The Brunage family lived in an old 50’s era Airstream, the curved kind, out on an inherited plot of ground about three miles to the South of the abandoned knitting mill, on land that had once been logged by Caleb Henry’s crews and then later was an attempted hardscrabble farm by the Brunage ancestors. Nowadays it was just ragged third-growth scrub, weeds, plus a lovely crop of abandoned motor vehicles scattered over a full couple of acres. Jacob Brunage could have opened a scrap yard, if he had the impetus and drive to do so, but getting to town to cash his disability check was pretty much the limit of his energy.
His sons, Taylor and Cameron, went into town a couple times a week to scavenge the dumpster behind the Burger Barn and the three dumpsters at the Super-Saver Grocery on Walton Street. Every two weeks, Father Pride at St.Joseph’s Catholic Church opened the food pantry and let the boys get cheese, powdered and evaporated milk, and canned goods. Once a month he bought them a gift certificate to the Super-Saver which had to be used to buy meat products. In return, Taylor and Cameron showed up at Mass one Sunday a month, sitting at the back because their presence (and fragrance) tended to offend the upscale congregation.
Even though the Church provided most of their needs, the Brunage boys just enjoyed dumpster-diving. Once Taylor had found a fishing pole thrown into the dumpster behind the Sporting Goods store; and after that old Jacob, their dad, claimed he had seen a rifle in there a long time back-but had no explanation as to why he hadn’t brought the rifle home, or if he had, where it had gotten off to. The Library dumpster was good for an occasional stash of paperbacks with no covers, or hardcover discards with loose spines—the boys could read, and enjoyed Tarzan and pulp adventure.
But even though other stores and establishments provided merchandise, the Burger Barn and Sally’s Diner (where a lot of food went to waste) were the Brunage choices for first stop, every trip. Today, a Thursday, they hit Sally’s first, because Wednesday was always Meatloaf and Country Fried Steak Special—and Sally’s customers were either not big eaters, or didn’t like the food, because every week more meat was tossed than the Brunage family of 3 could consume in a day or two. Cameron pulled the 72 Ford pickup into the alley next to the diner’s dumpster, and both boys jumped out and dug in. Sure enough, layers of meat loaf and country fried, piles of mashed potatoes, lay on top, and they filled up the cardboard box brought along for this purpose. As Cameron was setting it in the truck bed, Taylor decided to lift the second, closed lid, and exclaimed, “Cam! Hey! Look what I just found!”
Cameron rushed over, and both boys (actually, in their 20’s, chronologically they were grown-ups, but their minds were at the level of age 12 or so) gazed with delight. On the closed side of the dumpster rested 3 or 4 layers of meat wrapped in butcher paper and tied up with twine: roasts and ribs and pigs’ feet, it appeared, all just as neatly prepared and conveniently placed as they could have dreamed. So they quickly loaded it all into the truck and raced away toward their countryside home. Before Cameron could park the pickup in the weedy front yard, Taylor jumped out and ran toward the Airstream, hollering, “Daddy, come look! We got real food!”
Jacob Brunage, in addition to being a disabled no-account, had been a veteran of Vietnam, and his time in-country had left him with dark knowledge he might have preferred not to ever learn. By the time he rolled out of bed in the Airstream’s back room, and shuffled toward the kitchenette, his sons had unloaded and brought in almost all of the new-found discovery meat. “Look, Dad!” Taylor shouted. “Beef roast! Ribs! Pork chops! Brisket! Pig’s feet!” Cameron had begun to unwrap a couple of the packages and paused to grab a soiled dish towel to mop up the blood leaking onto the dinette table. As Jacob stumbled closer and glanced down at the butcher-paper parcels, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped, and the breath hissed out of him like a deflating snake.
“Oh my sons, what have you done?” the old man whispered. “That isn’t beef. Nor pork. That’s Long Pig.”