YOU’D THINK THE stench of household garbage would override all else.
Clinging to the bin lorry handle I loved the rush of morning air, beating the sun to the punch, breakfast digesting before it even had the decency to shed flecks of muted orange above the rooftops of houses.
Cars slept, curtains were drawn, only the occasional light suggested these streets were not those of a ghost town.
As the truck stopped, I hopped off racing to the black wheelie bin, twisting it around and trundling it to the back of the lorry lifting the lip onto the mechanism before pressing a green button. Hauling the bin off the ground the frame elevated beyond horizontal, rising upwards before stopping as the contents poured out to be compacted by the powerful pneumatic pistons. Once back down, new boy Mick hauled it away onto the pavement. Every few houses we’d swap over.
On to the next one.
Running ahead of the lorry I grabbed the handle of the black bin, worn leather glove wrapping around. I noticed a hand sticking out, on the stem of a forearm like a fleshy wilted flower. Pastel white, no sign of veins, it could have been a manikin’s, but they don’t have burnt finger tips, or a stained metallic band of skin on the wedding finger.
When I came peeling around the back of the lorry I motioned Mick over, relishing the look I’d see.
As eager as any new recruit he hopped off the rubbish truck. He was about to grab the handles when he jumped back as if it were electrified. “What the fook is that?”
I walked over and placed the bin on the mechanism then pressed the button. Rubbish poured out, but mostly a body. A red-head, she faced into the rubbish, a small stroke of luck. Seeing the faces always sent shivers through me. Her limbs were at angles to make a contortionist green, poking out of a black skirt and cream blouse; no obvious clues as to how she died.
“Mick! Say a few prayers. This is her funeral!”
Still in shock, tentative, he came closer, eyes locked on the corpse in the dark of the trucks belly, flitting to me wondering if it was all a joke, looking for that tell-tale curl of a smile.
“Think! What time of year is it?” I asked lowering the mechanism.
“What?!” He was still observing the innards.
“Election year!” I said, as if the answer were obvious. “Every election year, same thing happens. She won’t be your first.”
Every four years people went missing, the numbers spiked, people wanted to bury their secrets. But then, we were no ordinary bin-men.