Walking the dog was never so harrowing before. An unseasonably cold chill in the air that morning sent my hands directly into my coat pockets for warmth. Finding no comfortable gloves there meant my hands stayed put and my canine companion ran off-leash. His sharp Setter nose zoned in on a smell that led us into a landfill and on an adventure like no other we’d had or hope to experience again.
Max barked to signal he’d found his prize. It was one for which there was no requital. Only the dog’s olfactories had paid off, but the much-sought-after scent offered little reward. Except perhaps to friends of the person discovered there if he’d been missing. A middle-aged homeless man’s remains lay amidst the rubbish. He met his final demise in a mound of debris, and his perfectly still body was unmistakably that of someone long-perished from this life. Maybe his family hadn’t known where he was and longed to see his face again, its features weathered and worn since the last time they’d visited each other.
An immediate call to the authorities didn’t erase the image from my mind or lift the weight off my heart. Their investigation revealed he was apparently crushed in a garbage truck before being dumped at the trash transfer station. No detail of the circumstances could possibly bring closure to the guy’s family.
I wonder where he was resting to preserve body heat. It bothers me to imagine having nowhere else to go under those unbearable conditions. The bitter, miserable cold that could cause someone to sleep in a dumpster for warmth or what other dire conditions might have driven him there. Such utter desperation.
My hands didn’t feel so cold after all.
Odd, how all of humankind’s refuse ends up in a landfill somewhere. A person isn’t trash, though. I can think of no one who deserves such a place as their burial plot.
Everything seems so disposable. Except people. We pollute the planet with both the items we discard and the beings we ignore. So much is discarded that it may build up enough one day to ultimately destroy this place, our home.
Earth is an interesting place. I’ll hate to leave it one day.
–for Steven, a man I didn’t know, who lived but 44 years on this planet
*This fictional post is based on a true story in the newspaper. writing prompt: planet