compassion, emotion, fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, short stories, Uncategorized, women, writing

Freegan

Paige fought the shivering that coursed through her, jamming her hands deep into her pockets, wishing that she could wear something more substantial on her hands than the disposable latex gloves that Anders insisted on them wearing when they were filming.

He hefted the camera up to his shoulder, made some small adjustments and gave her a firm nod.  She forced a smile onto her face and looked boldly into the camera.

‘So, we wanted to show you how much food gets thrown away that could be distributed.’

She freezes, trying to remember the next line, and Anders pauses the camera with a grimace and a grunt of irritation.

‘It’s forty percent, baby, come on.’

She grinned and rolled her eyes, playing the fool to hide her exhaustion and irritation with him.  He lifted the camera into position and she took a deep breath.

‘According to the World Resources Institute, we waste forty percent of our food. Globally, that’s a trillion dollars every year.’

She paused for a beat, then gestured to the large yellow dumpster behind her.

‘Here, behind a restaurant, is the proof that we have a real problem with what we discard.’

Anders grunted, it was not the line that he had written but she delivered it well and he followed her as she walked to the big yellow dumpster.

They would blur out the logo later. Franchise restaurants had good lawyers.

Paige lifted the top of it, inhaled the warm, damp smell of grease, garbage and fried cheese. She reached in and lifted a heavy loose slice of pizza up in front of her.

‘Sure, it’s not good food, but when so many people go hungry, this could mean the difference between life and death.’

Anders went to correct her. Paige could tell by the lines in his forehead, three horizontal slashes that resembled lipless slashes in his smooth forehead.

Then she heard the cry. Soft, as though something were testing the air.

‘Holy shit, did you hear that?’

Anders shook his head but Paige was already digging into the moist hillocks of waste. She lifted the crumbling remains of a double bacon and jalapeno burger and saw the pink, slick stomach, the crusted remains of the umbilical cord. She gave a sob and angled her hands, cautious in a way that she thought alien to her.

It was a girl. Fragile and squalling, screaming her newborn lungs out in that rasping, looping wail that all babies had. The shock and terror at being cast into the world outside the womb, unable to bear the terrible beauty of it all.

‘Anders, what the fuck do we do?’

He came over.

‘Jesus, we take her to a hospital. It’s not our problem.’

She turned and hissed at him.

‘It’s not a problem, it’s a fucking baby.’

He barked out a laugh and it stung her, worse than any slap could have. She was opening her coat, uncaring of how the baby was still sticky with the mucus and fluid as she wrapped her coat around her.

She looked at him, shaking her head and began to walk away. He called after her, but it was faint, and grew fainter with each step. Against her t shirt, the infant stirred and she cooed to it.  She did not know what to do, but she was doing something.

That, in the end, was enough. It always was.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Freegan

  1. There was a story h in the mid nineties of a women in New York who spent her days and nights searching dumpsters for babies. I don’t know how many babies she saved, but it was too many.

    I’d love to know the story from the other side, too. I cannot imagine throwing away a life. But you’ve made me think about it. Great writing Matt. The harsh reality of the world is disgusting, isn’t it?

    Like

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