American Waste Story


The weekend was full of plans and I thought about them at the bar, while the Girl Scouts met back at our house. I timed it so I’d get home just as they were leaving and as I pulled into our street I saw them there, a group of 8 year-olds skipping along with Dawn.

I pulled over and told them to pile into the van, and once the doors were shut the smell rose up: the unmistakable, putrid stench of fresh shit.

I stopped the car and said someone’s stepped in shit, then realized I swore and said I’m sorry, and the girl who did it felt bad but I said it’s OK, and then another girl, with hairy legs, puked in the driveway because she’s smell-sensitive, and then we had to say it’s alright, we’ll get it later — and then the entourage of other vans began in our driveway with the mothers and their cell phones and purses hurrying, and we had to tell the mom with the girl and the dog poop what happened, and the shoes were in a plastic bag by the door. But the mom said she got them at Payless and just throw them out, she’ll get another pair, and so we did, even though we knew it was wrong. We just don’t have the time; she works at Microsoft. We made small talk in the doorway and then said have a nice weekend, bye.

Lily got sick and started to sneeze, but we realized that gave us an out for all our weekend plans, and then they started to fall like dominoes: the soccer game, the sleepover, the Sunday afternoon at the Fair, in the rain.


Time slowed so much, I walked to the store Saturday morning with my backpack and made eye contact with people, almost got hit by an Acura in the cross-walk because she was on the phone, didn’t see me, her eyes were somewhere else and she was laughing.

I took my time at the store and scanned the ethnic section, took a picture of a can of something called Spotted Dick, and hovered by the butcher counter as The Cure played overhead and no one noticed, no one said anything: that’s the sign you’ve made it, pop music.

I’m making my favorite dish of the fall, from a cookbook called Cuisine Economique, and I keep a piece of paper on the page that lists notes from past times I’ve made it, dating back three years to 2010.

And just for kicks, I looked in the pantry for unused Kidney beans and sure enough, there were three bags there with a rubber band around them, each from the last three times I’ve made it.

The recipe calls for one and a half bags of beans and so I have three halves left, now well past their Best Buy, which will go into the compost, maybe grow something magical somewhere, some day.

The plastic bag is in the trash with the shoes now, Sunday morning. Dawn and I talked about all the waste in the supply chain, starting with the factory where they were assembled overseas, then packed, shipped, put on display, and just thrown back into the unseen hole of the ground, because we couldn’t make five minutes to clean them up.

Writing this has changed my mind, and those shoes are going to have a happy ending, after they put more miles on the ground on some kid’s feet.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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11 Responses to American Waste Story

  1. Truly enjoyed this post. And I think you just might enjoy my old blog “$4.99 Radio” based on the Golden Arrow of Consumption and Annie Lennox’s video, The Story of Stuff.

    Can’t wait to catch up in person in the next couple weeks.


  2. My apology. I meant Annie Leonard; not Lennox…as the author… Sorry about that.


  3. rossmurray1 says:

    My weekend has been bookended by starting and finishing Slaughterhouse Five — my tattered, broken copy with page 97-98 missing. This morning, we travelled to the university town a half hour away, and while my daughter had her swimming lessons, my wife and I sat at a cafe and had a small date. We purposely avoided the Tim Horton’s coffee chain because we like supporting local. Walking around, we twice had to move out of the way for college girls, heads down, mesmerized by their phones. Later we picked up pumpkins; my wife likes pumpkins on the porch, even if it’s still September. We bought from a roadside stand rather than out of the box at the grocery store, where the pumpkins are shipped in from Ontario. On the way home, our daughter was thirsty so we stopped at a convenience store where she purchased a Polar Pop — a fountain drink in a styrofoam cup with the approximate circumference of her thigh. The styrofoam cup will last for a hundred years, long after we are all dead. So it goes.


    • pinklightsabre says:

      I am sick with the chills, under a blanket, but my phone buzzed and I was delighted to read your story — I like it better than mine, because it’s not mine. Thanks for taking the time to leave it here for usit will last longer than the styrofoam cup.


  4. rossmurray1 says:

    Hope it’s nothing you caught from the shoes. The flu out of virtue would truly be unfortunate. Be well.


  5. Elyse says:

    I think I am only starting to appreciate the joy of having a college age kid as I relax and read blogs in the yard with a nice cup of tea. I’m still recovering from my son’s middle school years.


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