Babysitting the Garbage at 4 a.m.

Dark Night Crescent Moon

We bought a delicious whole salmon two nights ago. Wild caught. Super fresh. Almost unheard of, from Lucky, at $3 a pound! We feasted on it with friends and family. It’s summer now; all the kids are home from school and we are spending a lot more time at home. We produce a lot of garbage.

This morning was garbage pick-up. I had called yesterday to have them take an extra bag. They charge extra for each bag that doesn’t fit into their standard gray plastic “toter.” They always come early in the morning. Last night at around 6:00, following urgent proddings from my husband, I put the overflow from our curbside can into a big black plastic bag on the sidewalk. I went out to my exercise class, and when I came back, there was a gray cat poking his paw through the bottom of the bag, pulling out food and eating it. When I came over for a look, I could see he had found the salmon remnants. I could picture where this was going: a ripped open trash bag with the contents strewn out all over the street, and the scavenger company leaving it there for me to clean up. Oh, no you don’t, my little feline friend.

It was a contest between me and the gray cat.
Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

He was not about to leave. I made a big gesture and he darted under the parked car near the trash cans and then became invisible. I went in to tell my husband. After some back and forth, he found another large black trash bag and we put the ripped one into it. He then brought it inside the kitchen, where it would stay until “later.”

It was a contest between me and the gray cat. Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

At this point, I had to make a choice. Did I want to go through all of the messy, ant-ridden trash and separate out the non-food items so that the “outside” bag would be unattractive to cats? Definitely not. Did I want to get up at 5 a.m. to put out the fishy garbage bag right before pick-up? Not really. But unless I wanted to pay the extra six dollars for nothing and still have extra garbage waiting around all week until the next pickup, the latter seemed the only reasonable option. I figured I’d go right back to sleep after depositing the bag.

It was one of those “on-call” nights—you know, when you don’t really let yourself sleep soundly because you know you have to get up at an ungodly hour and you don’t want to miss it. The alarm was already set for 6:45 for my husband. The garbage truck would be long gone by then. But I didn’t want to change the alarm time and then forget to re-set it.

At 4 a.m. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Dare I let myself go back to sleep? I was not ready to get up. Still, I needed to make sure to get the bag out to the corner by 5:00, as instructed by the Scavenger company. I lay back down on my pillow, not daring to lapse back into dreamland, but resolving to maintain a “conscious” rest. I looked again. It was 4:40. OK, I said to myself, it’s probably safe to put out the bag now. The cat has wandered off to molest someone else’s garbage, or gone to sleep by now. As I left the bedroom, I pulled up on the door so it wouldn’t stick on the frame, and latched it slowly and noiselessly. It was very dark in the living room. I turned the switch in the kitchen to shed indirect light on the front door. I did not turn on the front porch light. Carefully grasping the bag of fish-laced refuse, I silently opened the front door. A neighbor’s porch light faintly illuminated the parked cars across the street. Just above the black rooftops, a large, waning crescent of a moon lounged, a lone morning star floating two inches diagonally above. The world was still asleep. I would stealthily pose the bag against the garbage can and all would be well.

Dawn With Cresecent Moon

Had he been there all night, or did he psychically know my plan?

And then I looked toward the garbage can. Not ten feet away, the gray silhouette of the cat stared at me, motionless in the grayer night. “Wow.” I said it to myself, but he heard me. Salmon worth waiting for. Had he been there all night, or did he psychically know my plan? Not a chance, buddy. I retreated back into the house with the bag.

It was too early to make coffee, but I couldn’t allow myself to go back to sleep. I went back into the bedroom and lay down, knowing my body needed more rest. I propped the window open. The labored wheeze and squeal of the overweight trucks and the beeping that accompanied their toter-lifting mechanism would alarm me out of slumber. You could always hear them coming at least half a block down, making their slow, deliberate stops at every house.

At 5:00 I got up again. Still no truck in sight, and I didn’t want to risk Mr. Cat coming back. I’ll wait until I hear the truck, I said to myself. Timing is everything. I set about straightening things in the kitchen. At about 5:20 a pale yellow undergirded the brightening blue sky above the rooftops. Venus and the crescent had risen three more inches. I heard a lone garbage truck chugging and braking. Out the front window, I glimpsed its pale amber blinker and ponderous mechanical arm one block down, on the back side of the facing block. The cat had taken a hike. I decided it was time to put out the bag.

He stared back with wide, innocent eyes. “Go AWAY,” I said.

What time does the truck come, anyway, I wondered. Usually, on work days, it came before I left the house. It wouldn’t be long now. Five thirty. Bright enough to see everything now. The flowers in the planter boxes looked a bit droopy–they hadn’t been watered in several days. My car in the driveway looked grimy. As I approached the hose reel, I took one last look at the garbage. There he was AGAIN! Same place, new hole. I walked over to him. He stared back with wide, innocent eyes. “Go AWAY,” I said. He scooted under the parked car. I followed him and stomped, and he retreated. Back inside the house, I found two old pillows that had outlived their usefulness. I brought them out and stuffed them into the bottom of the extra garbage bag, behind the holes. They would block the scent and make access to the salmon much more difficult.

I watered the flower bushes. I made sure they drank well. I noticed some dandelions that had taken root in the planters, and pulled out their flowering stalks. Then I turned the hose onto my car, knocking off the bird droppings that besmirched the windows. I rinsed the road grime off the entire body, roof, and wheels. I kept glancing over for signs of the cat.

It was after 6:00 when the truck finally came. Merciful heavens! My vigil was over, my garbage hauled away.

As a mother, wife, and teacher of many years, children and adults of all ages, circumstances, and conditions have been entrusted into my care and vigilance. But nothing in my experience had prepared me for the solemn diligence, determination, and sleep deprivation attendant on babysitting my own garbage!


Author: Writewireless

I am a thinker, educator, and writer, who teaches English, French, design, and career skills. My articles and posts about being human, teaching, careers, parenting, travel, and world affairs have been published in various newsletters, websites, and blogs. I currently teach and inspire young people to write and to explore the world.

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