As we wait at the gate, an angel stands off to our right – welcoming us. She is flanked by two frogs. A light beckons us forward past a tin man and a cowboy as we enter. We are stopped and asked one question before being told which direction to go.
This isn’t St. Peter, these aren’t the pearly gates, and this is not an account of an acid trip. We’re at the dump. Thankfully, we aren’t banned from this place – yet.
The frogs are ceramic and came from the home of the cashier. The angel appears to be cement. She’s missing her hands but who needs those when you have wings? The other two figures are fashioned out of tin cans. Everything but the frogs came from the trash.
Together, they are an unlikely accent to the nondescript building with the drive-on scale in front. Here, incoming customers weigh their vehicles with their trash before discarding it then pay for the difference on their way out.
We make the pilgrimage when our truck’s bed reaches overflowing and if it’s winter – when we can get her down the driveway. Neither of us like to drive Bridgette through the snow but my husband takes garbage duty seriously.
Like a commercial farmer, he’ll scour The Farmer’s Almanac, monitor the weather reports and eyeball the shrinking drifts until he’s satisfied with the amount of bare ground peeking through. Then it’s time.
I woke up this morning to the announcement that this is garbage day. I put my boots on while my husband stomps the trash flat then help him secure the load with a spider net. During the drive, I make sure the wind doesn’t cause us a yard sale going 55mph.
Once at the dump and after having been told where to go, I spot while my husband backs the truck up to the pit.
The pit is a long, rectangular cement trench where people discard their broken tables, bulging garbage bags, plastic plants, shoes, clothes, small appliances, and paintings. If you can walk out of the front doors of Walmart with it – you can find it here.
While the old farmer’s dump we discovered on our hillside was comprised of made-to-last objects mixed with later-era disposable items, the artifacts lying in this enclosure are all throwaway. Human behavior, however, remains constant. We once saw the remains of a huge rear projection TV with the words “This is for your boyfriend!” spray painted across the shattered face.
While my husband hefts the bags into the chasm, I see bald eagles hovering over a hill of old tires. Their presence here seems incongruent with the air of brokenness and waste.
There are drop-off spots for used oil and scrap metal. Recycling is downtown. I wonder to myself, where does all of this stuff go, then we’re done and back in the truck.
Feeling like new, we roll up to the cashier’s window, now going out rather than in. We pay as the Tin Man and The Cowboy smile blankly at us and we pull out.
As we round a corner, I look into the rear-view mirror and swear I see the angel wave goodbye. Then I remember that she doesn’t have any hands.