She told me the garbage men would take it away.
“They take everything,” she said, confidently.
“They can’t take everything,” I said, disbelievingly.
“Yeah, yeah, you just leave it at the curb,” she said, ignoring my protests.
“There’s no way they take everything. They can’t possibly take furniture or appliances.”
“Yeah, All year long, just leave it at the curb.”
I still didn’t believe it, but that Sunday night she dragged out enough garbage to fill the driveway. She was outside nearly 20 minutes, dragging those giant black lawn bags to the curb, along with boxes, and miscellaneous broken possessions that did not survive our recent move.
That morning when I awoke, I looked outside my window and was surprised to discover that indeed the garbage men took everything. All the black bags stuffed with broken flower pots and small kitchen appliances were gone.
Week after week we purged our lives of all the excess, and the garbage men in their big garbage truck took it away. Occasionally they would leave an open box at the curb for us. That evening I could see a shadow from my window placing pieces of glass into a big plastic bag.
“What were you doing out there?” I’d ask.
“I guess they don’t take glass,” she said, referring to the garbage men.
Undeterred, she just put the large pieces of glass into a black plastic garbage bag.
Our garbage cans were in a perennial state of full. Once full we would stack the remaining garbage in bags alongside the cans. Most weeks there were at least half a dozen bags in addition to the 20 or so in the four giant garbage cans. There were weeks when despite her best efforts the garbage men refused to take certain things. If the item was in a box, she simply put the box in a bag for the following week. If they still refused to take it, she would double bag the item and hide it in one of the trash cans.
It became a wordless transaction. The garbage men took or left the trash. We met their weekly challenge by fitting our garbage into flexible GLAD garbage bags. Some weeks they would win, some weeks we would win. Our losses were measured by the trash still left Monday nights at the end of the driveway.
Then we dragged our old couch out to the curb. It was April.
“They’ll take it, don’t worry,” she said as we tossed the pillows across the lawn like Frisbees.
“How does it fit in the truck,” I asked with the wonder of a three-year-old.
“It fits,” she said, with the certainly of a hunter killing his prey.
After 2 weeks of rain the couch looked like a bloated whale washed upon the beach.
“I guess they won’t take the couch,” she finally conceded. “You’ll have to cut it up into small pieces.”
I stared at the three seat sofa with its stuffing popping out and the water logged arms and wondered how I was going to cut it into little pieces.
April turned into May and May gave way to June.
Our home looked like an episode of Sanford and Son. Atop the couch sat a 12 foot drainage pipe, several pieces or discarded house shingles and several remaining pieces of our old garage door. They had taken some pieces but, for reasons unknown to us, had left others.
“How am I supposed to cut it up? I don’t have that big a saw.” I told her
“I’ll get a pass to the dump,” she said. "We just have to find someone with a truck to bring it over.”
I called "Man with Truck," "We Hall Anything," and "Dump Man." All gave a lengthy explanation of the complexities of hauling trash - thus reflected in the cost.
"Well we're not paying 100 dollars to bring that to the dump." she said when I told her the news.
It was now, clearly, my problem. Every once in a while she would say out loud (to no one in particular), that she hoped the Millbrook Association didn’t leave us a letter. We didn’t know who exactly the Millbrook Association was but they were known for leaving conspicuous letters in the neighborhood, complaining about the condition of people’s property. We were well over due for a Millbrook correspondence.
Every time I pulled out of our driveway and passed the sofa carcass with its fake suede cover, its garage door end tables, I would tell myself that we were in the middle of a major home renovation. I imagined myself giving the speech for the still-silent Millbrook Association.
“Just cut it up small enough to fit in garbage bags,” she said, driving off to work.
Borrowing some of her confidence, I endeavored to do the impossible.
"Come on guys,” I called to my 12 and 15 year old sons. I need help out there.
"What are we doing?" asked the 12 year old.
I walked him out to the curb and pointed to the couch. "We are putting that in these garbage bags."
“How are we going to put that into this?”
“The garbage men won’t take it unless it is in garbage bags.” I told him, as if it all made sense.
“Yes but HOW are we going to fit it into a garbage bag?” he asked again.
“We’re going to cut it up.” I revealed my shiny new electric chainsaw. "Start ripping the cover off." I handed him a tool no sharper than a plastic knife. He worked carefully at first but the suede wouldn't rip, so he tugged and tugged until the seams began to separate and the filling spilled out into the street.
By the time the 15 year old came outside, we had cut through half of the armrest and had removed the entire back covering.
“What are you doing to the couch?”
"We’re cutting it up to fit into these plastic bags," I said, catching my breath.
“Well, good luck with that.” He laughed. He kicked the couch as couple of times and stared. “This is never going to work.”
“No, no look here,” I said, as I pulled him toward the couch.
I showed him where I had sawed the frame of the couch and kicked it until the wood broke. Then he kicked it, and then I did again, until we broke through several boards.
The 12 year old was eager to join in. He put down his butter knife and started banging on the base of the couch.
By the second hour we removed most of the innards and were down to the springs.
The chainsaw gave way before the couch did. It fell apart into such small pieces that the garbage man would gladly have taken it away.
By the end of the second hour my 15 year old started hacking away at what was left of the couch with a shovel. Not the kind you take to the beach, more like the kind you use to dig a grave.
He looked like a crazed golfer. With each swing he would grunt and hack away at the half dead couch.
The couch was nearly in the middle of the road when we noticed the neighbors watching from down the street. We dragged what was left of the couch over to the side of the house and my 12 year old took his turn with the shovel. He just raised it over his head and smashed it straight down, screaming the name of his 5th grade teacher, over and over again.
We were down to one long board another son got home from school. He asked if he could have a turn at the couch. He took the shovel and just shouted bitch.
And then there was nothing left but the entrails. We put all the pieces into the garbage bags and piled them next to the cans for the garbage men.
This past Sunday night we started cleaning up all the other debris on the property. As I wiggled and rolled a heavy clay fireplace from its lonely home next to the garage, she looked and me asked if I needed any help.
"I want to take it to the curb."
She looks up at me over the 500-pound clay chimney and asks, "Do you think they'll take it?"
About the author:
Robyn Segal is an artist, writer and mother. She has a B.A in Mass Communications and a Master’s of Science in Bureaucracy and Red Tape.
Her short stories and essays have been previously published in The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, Equally Wed Magazine, Literary Yard,Connotation Press and Workzine. She lives in North Haven Connecticut with her four children and wife.